Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Views of Rolle, Switzerland, 2013

A beautiful summer afternoon in a beautiful Swiss lakeside town


Rolle, the Perle du Léman, is a small city on Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), population about 6,000 (of whom 42% are foreign nationals), presently part of the district of Nyon between Lausanne and Geneva. Here's a walkabout with a balky Coolpix on 20 June 2013.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

The Château de Rolle and the local skateboard park. This isn't meant to be a photographic study of the whole village of Rolle -- it's just a bunch of snaps from a walk around the port area whilst we were waiting for an appointment for something or other.

Kristin and Lake Geneva, by the children's playground near the castle (by the Promenade des Amoureux, "promenade of lovers")

The Castle of Rolle. There are Bronze Age remains in the area, as well as signs of a villa and sizable estate from the Gallo-Roman period, 1st-3rd centuries A.D. The castle was first built in 1264 by the local barons in hopes of attracting a profitable trading city here; the overlord Counts of Savoie took it over in 1291 and finally created the city to support the castle in 1319.

The town itself is first attested in 1294, under the name Rotuli. Rolle long has been and still is a centre of the wine-growing region of La Côte, and is pretty much directly below us in our vineyards around Féchy-Dessus . . .

. . . there's the castle, and the Île de la Harpe.

A very peaceful sort of castle these days, but presently a castle in search of a purpose. The castle of Morges has a military museum; the castle of Nyon's got city administration and a wine museum. We've got mostly offices and storage, and no access for the public.

Wiser heads have prevailed, and in 2013 the civic authorities have invited the citizens' ideas for a conversion to future uses of the place, which cannot be a bad thing.

The main gate into the inner courtyard.
In 1425, the town was granted the right to hold a weekly market, which growth-wise was a big deal back then, and 60 years later the Savoie lords converted the place from a piece of personal property to a free city.

The inner courtyard.
During the Reformation-era wars, the Bernese wreaked havoc on the town and castle and owned them as an administrative centre, as part of the barony of Rolle encompassing most of the region nearby, from 1536 to the revolutionary era, in 1798.

Under the influence of the La Harpe cousins, Rolle was an important centre of revolutionary thought in the 1790s, and local boy F.-C. de la Harpe was instrumental in bringing Napoleon's French army in to establish the short-lived Helvetic Republic throughout the country (1798-1803).

Back to the lakeshore: Kristin's happily settled down with her book. According to the "Fair Play Please" rules for the lakeside esplanade, it's requested that bicycling be kept to the speed of walking.

The castle

The backs of houses on the high street, a long row of huge, narrow yards including nursery school playgrounds, tearoom terrasses, and some rich people's backyards.

Brilliant floral displays everywhere

This was formerly a main pier, protected by the artificial island, the Île de la Harpe -- the island, and the jetties now gone, were built in the 19th century to shelter the loading piers for the timber brought down from the Jura mountains and shipped by barge to Geneva and elsewhere.

The Île de la Harpe, built in the 1830s and named in honor of Frédéric-César de La Harpe, the Vaudois patriot (and tutor to the children of the Russian Tsar in St Petersburg) who helped to liberate the territory of Vaud from the feudal overlordship of Berne, with assistance from Napoleon and eventually a vote from the Tsar at the Congress of Vienna. It's a complicated story.

The artificial Île de la Harpe is the only island in Lake Geneva, except for Queen Victoria's tree at one end of it and the Île de Rousseau in the river Rhône in downtown Geneva.

The Château, as one ambles along the lakeside. After many years of taking one's lunch on working days on the quais of Nyon, when the parking problems grew oppressive there, one began to come here most days (benches in summer, car with the heater on in winter, with the International Herald Tribune in all seasons), with legendary sandwiches from the famous Boulangerie Shatri on the high street.

The casino and theatre, and in summer an outdoor restaurant, facing the débarcadère (behind us) for the steamships and commuter boats.

Approaching the main street from the lakeshore

The high street, or Grand-Rue. Like many medieval lakeside towns, the lakeside through-road ran straight along parallel to the coast, with, halfway through town, a perpendicular road running up into the hills (if any).

There in the centre is the best boulangerie, patisserie, and tea-room in the district, Boulangerie Shatri. (I may have been their most devoted daily customer before retirement intervened, but we still stop in.)

The Tête Noire (!)

Farther along the Grand-Rue. It's always been a bit crowded for traffic along the Route du Lac, but that's about to change. Last week (early October 2013), they blocked it down to one-way traffic and began construction on an elegant new design for it, whilst the Geneva-bound traffic is being re-routed all roundabout up the hill above the rail line and autoroute, and back down again farther west.

Street scenes

The local "pub", with an evocative if inauthentic pub name

Street scenes along the Grand-Rue

Darting back to the lake down the Ruelle des Prudhommes

Kristin's still at her book.

A children's playground in the midtown

The Green Bus of Rolle (i.e., natural gas), seeking prey below the rail station

The buffet de la gare across from the rail station

The château once again


More views of downtown Rolle, mid-November 2013

The buffet de la gare again, in late afternoon. Our VW's getting his or her annual physical in the AMAG service station behind me, and there's an hour to kill before he'll (or she'll) be let out.

The gare, or rail station

The snack wagon at the gare

A typical Rollois town house

Looking along the Rue du Temple ("Church Street") facing downhill towards the lakeside -- and the dêpot for schoolkids meeting the afternoon school buses. This part of the road is called the Street of the Four Communes.

The temple or Protestant church -- the belltower dates from 1520 (16 years before it became Protestant), and the present nave was built in 1789-90.

The temple

The Rue des Petites-Buttes, a street near the temple

The bottom of the Rue du Temple at the Grand-Rue, blocked by construction

The Rue du Nord ("North Street"), which runs parallel to the Grand-Rue

The sushi bar

A short-cut to the suburbs

The Café du Nord

A little place near the Chemin du Rosey

The Rue du Nord

The place near the Chemin du Rosey

The same

The intersection of the Chemin du Rosey and the Route de Genève, which here becomes the Grand-Rue (and is all generically known as the "Route du Lac", or Lake Road, and as the Route Suisse).

The Grand-Rue looking east, a chokepoint for traffic on the Route du Lac probably since the 18th century -- now well into a renovation project to rationalize and beautify the whole thing, with a lot of detours and workarounds for the foreseeable future.

The Place du Port, with the theatre/casino/restaurant on the right and a solitary yacht anchored offshore.

A line of kids and their patient parents waiting to get into the theatre (they were still there when I returned this way half an hour later).

The Île de la Harpe, at the end of the day

The town's débarcadère for the CGN steamers and commuter boats

A zoom of the Rolle castle, about 400 metres to the east

The western port, 150 metres in the other direction

"Le Courtil", a venue for professional meetings with catering and business facilities. We've had several 'team-building' meetings there; the meetings were crap, but the lunch was fabulous.

The château from near the port, right as dusk is making this all very difficult

The western port

An interesting boat

Less colorful than it was half an hour ago when the sun went down

The western port and (probably) Féchy-Dessus up on the hillside

Construction on the Grand-Rue


A few more snaps of mid-construction Rolle, late June 2014

The Grand-Rue in full revision mode, 25 June 2014

When it's finished, it will probably have been worth it.

A back way up to the rail station

Downtown Rolle amenities


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 13 October 2013, revised 22 July 2014.


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