Year Abroad: Neuchatel

Once upon a time I mentioned that I used to live in Switzerland and today, finally, I’m going to tell you about Neuchâtel, which is where I used to live.

Neuchâtel is in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, up in the north west, an hour or so north of Geneva. They’re very proud of themselves for speaking the purest French outside of France itself – I don’t know whether that’s true but I was told it at least every week at school and I think it’s also in my guidebook. Neuchâtel has a long and interesting history but my favourite thing is that Neuchâtel is the only canton to also be a Republic.

I lived there from October 2005 to July 2006, in an eight-storey tower block full of students of all nationalities. I lived on the seventh floor, overlooking Lake Neuchâtel, which is the largest navigable lake in Switzerland. Lac Leman and the Bodensee (Lakes Geneva and Constance) are both bigger but they’re not entirely in Switzerland. On a clear day I could see snow-capped mountains which I chose to believe were the Berner Oberland – I’m fairly sure they’re in the right direction but at something in the region of sixty miles away, a bit far to see with the naked eye. More importantly, I could see “the big red church” – more correctly, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption. The church bells woke me up every morning and I would sit there and stare at the church for hours. I also watched the construction of the stadium that now dominates the eastern end of town. I don’t actually have many photos of Neuchâtel – it was home, so it didn’t really occur to me to take photos of it very often. Here are a few that were relevant to my life at the time:

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My view over lake and Red Church
The snowy mountains and the stadium-in-progress
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My building
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The nearest bus stop with the Red Church and one of the butter-yellow university buildings.
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La Rotonde in the English Gardens, a landmark and the place where the foreign students had their welcoming party
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My school – the Institute of French Language & Culture, attached to the University of Neuchâtel