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The 1985 Revolution in Switzerland

1985 Tour to Switzerland with a group

The revolt began three or four days after the revolutionaries arrived in Montreux.  We don’t have a precise timeline.  Sue and I were on a bus full of Americans that was following the shore of Lake Geneva when we both decided that we had been pushed too far.  We both went to the front of the moving vehicle and politely asked to be let off.  Our guide, in a very polite Swiss way, said that he couldn’t do that.  It was against the rules.

We became more forceful.  “We want to walk”, we said, and asked that the door be opened.  Others on the bus, seeing what was happening, also joined the revolt, now demanding that the bus stop and release us from tour bondage.  Our guide was incredulous.  “Americans don’t walk”, he said in English.  We countered with, “These Americans do and we want to get off”.

We knew where we were, only about a mile from the hotel, and it was a beautiful, sunny and cool day in the Alps.  Why wouldn’t we want to walk?  The guide relented and instructed the driver to stop.  About eight of us were discharged onto the road, alone in the Swiss wilderness of cafes and chocolate shops.

Sue was working for a marketing research firm in Chicago at the time, and had been given the trip by the firm’s owner.  It was a radio station promotion that had a couple of extra slots to fill and Sue drew the short straw.  When we checked into the Montreux Palace Hotel, we were astounded.  Built in 1906 on the shore of Lake Geneva as a resort, luxury hotel, the building was being restored.  Our room had not yet been touched by the construction crews and looked much like it probably did when the hotel was built. 

The bathroom had original fixtures and was the size of a small apartment.  Double French doors with flowing curtains opened to a balcony overlooking Lake Geneva.  We would sit there sipping wine while watching the antique steamships cross the Lake.  Some of our fellow American tourists stopped by to see our room and were appalled that it hadn’t been renovated.  They noticed that we had old bathroom tile and old furnishings.  We couldn’t have been happier.

The next day we walked along the lake and discovering a casino, stepped inside.  They had a game called Boule, a low cost, simple version of Roulette.  We played for a while and later came back with a couple from the tour.  They asked about Boule, and I showed them how it is played, explaining the different combinations of bets.  You can bet this way, I explained.  The wheel spun and I won.  Or, you can bet this combination.  I won again.  This continued for quite a while.  I couldn’t lose and the couple decided that Boule was a great game.  I couldn’t have done that again in a million years.

Then, Sue and I continued the revolt begun on the bus.  We went down to breakfast and informed our guide that we would not be on the bus that day.  We rented bicycles instead and started riding around the lake on two lane roads, the lake below us and the Alps towering above.

Biking slowly up the side of a mountain, a car pulled up beside us.  The four occupants asked for directions in perfect American English, and we pulled out a map.  They were startled that they had asked two cyclists for directions in the Alps and the cyclists were from Illinois.  It would be interesting to know if they got to where they were going or became permanently lost and are still somewhere in the mountains.

Towards the trip’s end, I stopped in a hotel bar and began talking to the man next to me.  He was Swiss and worked for one of the big hotels.  He commented on the many different guests they had from all over world, and I asked which were the easiest to please.  His answer was the Chinese.  “You can give them a room the size of a closet under the stairs and they will thank you.”  Then I asked which were the most difficult.  He didn’t want to answer, knowing from my accent where I was from.  Finally, he admitted it was the Americans.  “They are never satisfied.”

The Swiss revolution of 1985 ended peacefully, and all of the chocolate, cheese, fondu, and cows are still intact so far as we know.  We returned to America happy and satisfied that the revolution was won.

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