Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Life's a beach in Switzerland

Yes, Switzerland has beaches. Seems quite remarkable for a landlocked country where the nearest coastline is 250 kms away. But today I needed a beach to swim at. It's been pretty hot here the last few days, with today the hottest day of the year so far, reaching 35C (that's 95F for my Imperial system friends). As an Australian who's used to the odd 40C (104F) day during summer, 35C is hardly something for me to blink at - except this is Switzerland. Seems strange to be wanting to go to the beach given only a few months ago I was writing about snow - or Geneva's distinct lack of it. But ever since I moved here, I was fascinated by what it would be like to swim at a beach that is actually a lake; we just don't have anything like it where I'm from in Australia.

So today, given the hot weather, I decided to try swimming in Lac Leman. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, other than the water to be really cold. I remember dipping my hand in the water during winter and thinking it was so freezing cold that the water would never tempt me in. The water in Lac Leman, after all, is virtually melted snow from the Alps. Thankfully, the water has warmed up somewhat since then. While the water temperature induced a few 'oh my gosh, it's cold' gasps on first entering, it actually turned out to be fine and rather refreshing once I'd got out.

Not much to be said for the wide expanses
of white sand at Nyon Plage
But the 'beach' itself is something else. To me, a beach is made up of kilometres of wide, blindingly white sugar-fine sand, with deep blue water and crashing waves. It's what I've grown up with; I still remember my dad piling my mum, brothers, the dog and I into the car for the 15 minute trip to the beach as a kid. But the beach in Nyon is completely different. True, it has an amazing backdrop of the Alps - which actually seems rather surreal. It also has the most clear, blue, calm water that does look quite inviting on a day like today. But its beach is maybe 2 metres wide if it's lucky, a mix of river sand and pebbles.

But the backdrop more than makes up for it
- the Alps
It's quite strange that it's only taken us the first truly hot day to go to the beach here; back home, we actually very rarely went to the beach, even on the hottest days. My local beach, Scarborough, is pretty amazing for a suburban beach - it's pretty much as I described what my definition of a beach is above. But we never go, even though it's a 5 minute drive away. Mostly because my mother-in-law has a swimming pool, which is convenient. But also because we're not really beach people. Beaches at home tend to get very windy once our famous sea-breezes are in, plus the waves can be quite dangerous. Plus, having grown up aware of the need to be careful of the sun, it gets pretty intense out there, and you can get sunburnt very easily.
My local beach back home, Scarborough Beach

Despite the lack of waves or nice white sand, I think I could become a beach person pretty easily in Switzerland. Grass is much easier to get out of your swimming suit bottoms than sand, and there's something to be said for swimming in calm waters. Now all we need are more 35C days to tempt me in!

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