|A family dinner out on the lawn on arrival|
My eldest brother worked through the late 1970s to late 1990s for GATT (General Agreement for Trade & Tariff and now World Trade Organisation), an UN agency, as consultant to its Director General. He used to live in Versoix (pronounced Versoa) and go to work in Geneva. In 1987 he suggested to us to take a trip to Switzerland. Although those days were not so expensive as they are now – the
two way air
fare was around Rs. 7000/-, the Swiss Franc was worth Rs 8/- (currently Rs.
68/-) and a Dollar was worth little less than Rs. 14/- (now 64/-) – yet a trip to
Switzerland was not quite affordable for us as the salaries were low. However,
as my sister too was coming over from the US, she insisted we make the
mustered most of our savings and my brother and sister too chipped in with the
air fares and we headed for Switzerland – on a ‘shoe string’ that was rather
small. On one late June evening we took off on a Lufthansa flight for Geneva
via Frankfurt. At Frankfurt we had to change over to another Lufthansa flight.
|Versoix against noise pollution|
|Swiss National Day Parade in Versoix|
My brother had built a spacious house in Versoix, a place that was described to us as a village. It was, as we later found, pretty far
that we associate with our villages. It was a full-fledged modern town, though
small with a population of around 10000, with all the urban amenities. Perhaps,
former President APJ Abdul Kamal had such Western villages in mind when he spoke
of provision of urban amenities in rural areas (PURA). Versoix was a well
developed township with great shopping, restaurants and, at least one
manufacturing unit which we used to see every time we
went to the station to
catch a train and that was a chocolate factory. Switzerland, after all, is
known for its chocolates.
|A float in the parade|
|Horse-driven carriages in the parade|
Versoix, named after the eponymous river, is about 10 kilometres from Geneva and falls in the canton of the same name. The Versoix River originates in the neighbouring Jura Mountains and meandering through a few cantons it passes by Versoix to fall into Lake Leman, also known as Lake Geneva. Located by the side of
this Lake, Versoix has excellent connectivity with Geneva by railroads
and a highway that my brother used to take every time he went to Geneva. I
should think it was more like a satellite town of Geneva with, apparently. a
disproportionately high percentage of expatriates working in various
international organizations that were located in the latter. Likewise, some
expatriates, we were told, also used to live in a border town in France and
commute everyday to Geneva. People used to go for shopping across in a border
town the name of which eludes me now, though we too had gone there once.
|A participant playing on his brass|
From behind my brother’s garden a small stream with heavy vegetation on its two sides used to run for some miles with a
walking track along it. It was
a kind of a nature trail that we could use for long walks. It would eventually
open up at a place that was beautiful and was used as a picnic spot. Such a
trail in the midst of nature I haven’t seen anywhere else except years later in
Mombasa in Kenya
|A float passing by|
|Corn fields near Versoix|
The Swiss National Day was celebrated during our stay in Versoix. We saw the parade and the festivities in Versoix. There were colourful floats, marches and bands by the local fire fighting staff and others. Champagne was being carried in trucks and distributed free in plastic champagne-glasses to all and sundry. Each one of us had a couple of glasses. There was a magnificent fireworks display by the side of the Lake in Geneva after dark, a display like of which I had not
seen before. A large number of yachts had assembled on the Lake to watch the
event and their lights twinkled like stars in the darkened Lake.
|The family ready to take off on an outing|
While my brother showed us round a few places in the country, I did some others on my own. Making Versoix as the base we took a 14 day rail trip in Europe covering Munich, Vienna, Venice, Florence, Rome, Cannes, Nice and Paris. We had bought Eurail passes in India for these travels which allowed us passage in I Class.