That One Time Switzerland Invaded France

One hour of determined hiking can get one to the top. The view is absolutely amazing. Makes you realize how small you are and how big the world is in comparison. It’s fun going with friends, but sometimes going alone is the best option. You can loose yourself from pretty much anything. All the troubles and stress … pretty much just let everything drain out.

That’s why I really love the Salève.

But do you see that tiny red dot near the top? What is that?

Climbing in a Dress (2) (1024x683)

Depending on who you ask, you might get a different story. Department flag, Swiss flag, street art… so many things it may or may not be.

Yesterday, we had some visitors from California, specifically from the same city where my parents live. They drove in an Italian car and brought us beans from the US! Oh, it was so, so exciting! This is probably the only time I’ll admit to missing home. Anyways, one of the men stated that his father was a student at our school… and may or may not be responsible for that red dot on top of the mountain.

According to the story told, in the 1960’s there was a group of people who were up to nothing but mischief. Most of them were American students but of of them was a professor at the school. One night, they hiked up the mountain and repelled themselves down on the face of the Salève. Armed with flash lights and cans of red paint, they set to work. Their plan? To paint the Swiss flag on the French mountain!

The next morning, as you can imagine, France was freaking out! The Swiss were invading, possibly planning to take over the mountain! The boarders were closed and both countries glared at each other, preparing for the worst. Meanwhile, an investigator set out to find the culprits of the offending vandalism. The professor’s French girlfriend alerted the authorities that American students were responsible.

When the investigator appeared at the school, the dean of boys could not believe that  he wanted to question them. Never the less, everyone was lined up. Since the Americans had made a pact: to tell the truth if they were caught but not to incriminate each other, the investigator caught all of them except the professor. They never even found out that he was involved.

The tension between France and Switzerland ceased as they charted the Americans up the mountain to clean up after their devious adventure. Strangely enough, no mater how hard they tried, the paint was permanently stained on the mountain. The boys were all expelled from France and sent back to the US. Sometime later, someone repainted the mountain with the regional Savoy flag. Only if you hike up to it can you see the original Swiss flag underneath.

“But wasn’t it worth it?” I asked our visitor. “Oh yes!” he said, and we all laughed in agreement.

Climbing in a Dress (3) (1024x683)Apologies that this is the only close up of the flag. Here I am after climbing the mountain in the rain with my dress and high heeled rain boots. Not smart, I tell you. Not smart. Within the image, you can see three layers of flag. The Swiss one in the deep red, the regional French flag and one 4th of that which was repainted the fall of 2013.

Climbing in a Dress (4) (1024x575)Here is the view as seen from the flag. Directly underneath is France. The village on the lower left of the screen is Collonges-sous-Saleve. Can you spot the freeway splitting  it in two? The Swiss boarder is is not too far from that.

Oh, that reminds me! As we were descending from this hiking trip, a series of bikers rode by. The first one greeted us in an American accent. We got so happy that we started singing out the National Anthem to cheer him on. Unfortunately, the annoyed face and flag on the second biker let us know that at least that one was  definitely Swiss! Oh, how embarrassing! Americans do have a reputation out here, for being loud and obnoxious >.<

* All images (except of mountain from afar) were taken by Grace who also made this video of our hike:

*This blog post was originally written in March.


7 thoughts on “That One Time Switzerland Invaded France

  1. Laughing here JQ. First at you climbing the mountain in your dress and high heeled rain boots. Lucky that unlike Jill, you didn’t come tumbling down and break your crown. Fun, fun story about the flag. And of course it was worth it– if for no other reason than the silliness of it creating an international incident between France and Switzerland over nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, this is all so beautiful! After living in Germany for 2 years, I have yet to visit Switzerland or France. Quite sad, right? Now I really think I must go. 🙂 Your photos are just lovely, thanks for sharing!


    1. You should definitively go for it.
      I recommend skiing down the alps in the winter. Especially after a night’s snow, all the little cottages look straight out of a Christmas card!
      Summer exploring the Cote Azure would be awesome too – especially since Monaco and Italy are a short drive away. You can visit all three countries at once!


  3. In an earlier inexperienced age while travelling cross-country, my wife and I parked our van and hiked down Meteor Crater. She wore high heels. And we didn’t bring water with us. On the ascent a guy with polio-type crutches passed us by, and said, “You’ll get used to it.” A very learning experience for our future years of hiking. Many thanx for the photos and info. Peace.


    1. Oh man! It seems like attempting to hike in heels always ends in a good story or two.

      Props to the man with crutches. Once while we were hiking up the same mountain, some guy on crutches hurried passed. We could not believe how much faster than us he was going!


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