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You can find the whole of Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva snowy mountains, bucolic wine-villages, city nightlife, the sound of cow-bells in rolling pastureland, castles, cathedrals and the dreamily beautiful, cerulean blue lake itself (Lac Léman in French, Genfersee in German). The southern shore of the lake is in France, taking in the mighty Savoy Alps as well as Mont-Blanc a little further south. The northern, Swiss, shore forms the economic and cultural focus of Suisse Romande, centred around Lausanne, an energetic, endearing city that’s too often skimmed over in favour of Geneva’s more limited pleasures.
Aside from Geneva in the southwest and a fragment of Canton Valais in the southeast, this is all Canton Vaud (pronounced voh). In 1536, Bern’s army swept down from the north, implanting the Reformation and placing the whole area under bailiffs; just over two centuries later, in a 1798 revolution backed by France, Vaudois freedom-fighters won control of the Bernese lakeside estates and agricultural heartland. Napoleon put his seal on the deed by formally creating a new canton out of the territory, which duly joined the Swiss Confederation in 1803 under a green-and-white flag which still flies in towns and villages to this day bearing the words “Liberté et Patrie”. The ambience of the region is thoroughly Gallic: historical animosity towards Catholic France has given way to a yearning on the part of most urban francophone Swiss to abandon their heel-dragging compatriots in the more stolid east and embrace the EU. The short train-ride from the Swiss-German cities of the Mittelland crosses more than just a linguistic boundary – it seems to span a whole continent of attitude.
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