This time our voyage takes us up one of the world’s great rivers—the Rhone—a waterway that spills from the roof of the European continent, bringing health, wealth, pleasure and inspiration. A vital source of life, it’s a river that lights cities, powers the world’s best rail systems, and slakes the thirst of millions.
In Quest for the Water Castle we explore the Geneva and Matterhorn Region of Switzerland to find out what bounty the Rhone has bestowed to the country and to the world. We seek to learn how the river has been harnessed, explored and celebrated. According to Bangs, water is over-tapped and under-tended in many places around the world but not in Switzerland. How has this alpine haven—Europe’s water castle—resisted temptation to bleed its most precious resource?
Six percent of the continent’s fresh reserves of water are found in the mountain refuges of Switzerland. We're off to find how the Swiss became such bold curators of water resources and to catch what lessons they’ve learned.
The mighty Rhone spills into Western Europe’s largest natural lake. Known as Lac Leman to the French and Lake Geneva to the English, good people have marveled at ‘a-sea-of-a-lake’ and its embrace of sky-scratching peaks since Roman times.
Water has the velocity and weight to influence the course of entire communities, societies, states. It has the power to move mountains. Richard calls it “a paean to peace, and a cause of war.” He observes that “everyone everywhere requires it.”
Virile and resolute, the Rhone takes a nap beneath the Alps in Lake Geneva before it fetches up the sea. We learn that the water of the lake provides endless recreation, nurtures the vineyards above its banks, and provisions the kitchens that line its shores.
Of the scenery at Lake Geneva, the poet Lord Byron penned “I saw their thousand years of snow/ On high-their wide long lake below/ And the blue Rhone in fullest flow.”
Our journey begins in multicultural, affluent and hardworking Geneva, a financial powerhouse and home to the UN European Headquarters, The Red Cross and the World Health Organization. The trip takes us along the shores of the lake to the towns of Nyon, Lausanne, and Vevey. After a stop at well-preserved Chateau Chillon, built in the 12th century near the end of the lake to control traffic along the Rhone, we climb through the great Rhone Valley high to the wellspring of the river in the pristine peaks of the Uri Alps. Our destinations include: the Valais—French for ‘the valley’; the spa town of Leukerbad and its towering peaks; Zermatt and the Matterhorn; Fiesch and nearby mountain villages; and finally to the Aletsch Glacier.
Erratum: Our thanks to a viewer who pointed out a mistake about Charlie Chaplin in the Geneva & the Matterhorn script. The script reads, “The town of Vevey is known as the birthplace of milk chocolate and for harboring Charlie Chaplin after he was accused of “un-American activities” during the McCarthy hearings. He was refused entry back into the United States and stayed in Vevey for 25 years.” It is more accurate to say “…during the McCarthy Era” rather than “…during the McCarthy Hearings.” We apologize for the error.