Peacock and Roses on Mainau Island

Well, I don’t usually blog about cycling or holidays, but that’s possibly because I don’t do enough of either! A recent experience has renewed my desire to use muscles other than the grey one and to go to wonderful faraway places in the real world rather than just in Cyberspace! We recently returned from a lovely holiday that I would highly recommend to anyone.

First, I spent ten days with friends in the beautiful city of Lausanne on Lac Leman, Switzerland. They live in a large-windowed, spacious and gracious apartment where they made me very comfortable while I attended a French refresher course at the Institut Richelieu. More of that later.

Actually, we spent the first night at my friends’ wooden chalet apartment in the old village of Evolène. Within an hour or so of our arrival, during a walk around the village, I was privileged to see the fairly disturbing ritual of “Le Combat des Reines”, literally, “The Battle of the Queens”. This is an orchestrated contest between cows to establish leadership of the herd prior to the climb to summer pastures. I was told that it was developed by farmers who observed the natural instinct among this breed of cows to establish hierarchy with a show of force in spring every year. Although they don’t usually hurt each other too badly, on occasion the damage can be severe. Thus, it is thought better to get the battle over with in a controlled situation rather than when the cows are already up the mountain and further away from assistance. I was doubtful about this, until I saw that one of the cows that had recently been headbutting with the best of them actually had a stream of blood pumping from her nostril. Obviously, her opponent’s horn had more than just grazed her. It was rather weird to see blood spurting over the green field grass and to sense the aggro in the air amongst these large female bovine beasties. My comfy stereotype of plump and placid Daisy patiently chewing her way through a peaceful field of buttercups was challenged, to say the least. There’s more background at http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A9rens_(race_bovine) and http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combats_de_reines. Anyway, this was a very visceral reminder that I was in a different place and a great way to start a holiday full of things that I don’t usually do!

The following morning, we walked up to the Ferpècle Glacier. Well, we walked up to a point on the mountain where we could see where the glacier used to be. It was as far as the trail went and my friend told me that in her youth that was where the ice began. Now, one can see in the distance, higher up, the walls of the two separate glaciers that used to join at this point. Definitely a moment for some global warming pondering, amidst the beauty and the silence.

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