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SWITZERLAND : LAUSANNE

Lausanne is a city in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, situated roughly midway along the northern shore of Lac Léman, as Lake Geneva is known outside the canton of Genève. It is the capital of the canton of Vaud and of the district of Lausanne.. The elegant small resort cities of Montreux and Vevey are to the east, separated from Lausanne by the Lavaux Corniche coastal road with its vineyards and wine villages. France is just 35 minutes across the lake by boat, and the mountains of Haute Savoie are clearly visible on a sunny day. The headquarters of the International Olympic Committee and Philip Morris International are both located in Lausanne. 

Already in neolithic times there was a settlement in what is now the upper town of Geneva. Later, the Romans built a military camp, which they called Lousanna, at the site of a Celtic settlement, near the lake where currently are Vidy and Ouchy; on the hill above was a fort called 'Lausodunon' or 'Lousodunon'. After the fall of the Empire, insecurity forced the transfer of Lausanne to its current center, a hilly, easier to defend site. The first Christian bishop arrived here shortly before 700 AD. The first important  cathedral was built about 200 years later.The city which grew from the ancient Roman camp was ruled by the Dukes of Savoy and the Bishop of Lausanne, and then by Berne from 1536 to 1798. In 1803, it became the capital of a newly formed Swiss canton, Vaud. One of the most significant historical event in Lausanne was the Reformation, which arrived in 1529 with a sermon by Guillaume Farel. By 1536, Lausanne had largely swapped Catholicism for Calvinism, and both the city and its canton have been Protestant ever since. 

The most important geographical feature of the area surrounding Lausanne is Lake Geneva (Lac Léman in French). Lausanne is built on the southern slope of the Swiss plateau, with a difference in elevation of about 500 meters between the lakeshore at Ouchy and its northern edge bordering Le Mont sur Lausanne. Lausanne boasts a dramatic panorama over the lake. The city of Lausanne is built on three hills. Since the climb from the lakeside resort area of Ouchy to the Haute Ville, or Upper Town was quite steep, the original Métro connecting Ouchy to Lausanne's main railway station and the Flon nightlife district  had to be a funicular and, later, a cogwheel railroad. 

In addition to its generally southward-sloping layout, the center of the city is the site of an ancient river Flon, which had dried up in ancient times. The former river forms a gorge running through the middle of the city south of the old city centre, generally following the course of the present Rue Centrale, with several bridges crossing the depression to connect the adjacent neighborhoods.

Today's old town dates back to medieval times. The Château St-Maire, or Castle, was built from 1397 to 1426, and another prominent feature of the old town,  the St-François Church, is about the same age as  the Cathedral, which was consecrated in 1275. The Hôtel de Ville, or town hall, came later; the Renaissance building on the Place de la Palud was built in the 17th Century.  

Lausanne is located at the limit between the extensive wine-growing regions of Lavaux (to the east) and la Côte (to the west).


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