My recent outing to catch sight of the narcissi
Not only it was the perfect occasion (it was my birthday and my parents were with me), but it was also a beautiful day – the only one we have had so far this week. So for my birthday, we went to see my favourite flower, the narcissus, in a region I simply love: it is so beautiful because it is still relatively unspoilt by human intervention or ‘reconfiguration’. What makes the experience even stronger to savour now as a memory is that the last time I was there with my parents was several decades ago. What a shame given that this area is probably only an hour and a half by rail from Geneva (less by car). However, it was a great experience, one that I already cherish right now.
In less than a week, the city of Montreux will be holding a narcissus festival (28-30 May). The last such event was held in 1957 – these festivals involved the procession of dozens of elaborately decorated floral floats (the floats which won the first prizes have been recreated by the city and are now on display along Montreux’s beautiful lakeside – to see an example, click on this photo of a straw narcissus). In addition to creating an event that will go down well with everybody (locals and tourists alike), the objective is to get people to visit the mountains above Vevey and Montreux.
Given the herds of people who used to go to Les Avants to pick narcissi in the 1960s (watch this documentary from 1961), I wonder whether promoting ‘narcissus-watching’ might not have the same effect on the few areas where there are still some left – some have registered a dramatic decline over a period of only three years, so that some areas are now left with only a fourth of what they had in the sixties (see the third picture below for some explanations in French) – as it has had on the fields and meadows of Les Avants.
For my part, I hope that Montreux’s festival in honour of the narcissi (Latin plural) will be in keeping with the editions of 1899, 1907 and 1925-26, which seem to have had a more pagan spirit judging from the posters produced for those editions (see the fourth picture below). As we are now celebrating the 2000th anniversary of the Roman capital of Switzerland, Avenches, I find it befitting to point out that the ‘pagans’ (in this case, the Celts and their immediate descendants) had a far more respectful attitude towards nature than the Romans, who seem to me to have been bent on transforming and dominating it (a bit like Europe and the USA since the industrial revolution and Asia and elsewhere too since the 1960s).
Whatever the case, I can assure you that I am still under the spell of the narcissi. So much so that I have to go and admire these frail, but so beautiful flowers again before they are gone (by mid-June).
Click on any of the photos below to display a much bigger version.
40 years or more later, I got to experience the same experience for my birthday; PS my parents collected only the allowed handful each
Hoarding outside of Vevey railway station explaining why narcissi are close to extinction
Past editions of the narcissus festival at Montreux with an unmistakable ‘pagan’ touch
Desecrated piece of land close to home – itself close to Lausanne’s Celtic forest (Sylva Belena) – what a shock to see the construction site after our narcissi outing.
- http://www.narcisses.com/#histoire (in English despite the French word ‘histoire’)
- My Montreux: fête des narcisses
- ‘La grande cueillette des narcisses!’, Télévision Suisse Romande, 28 May1961, Carrefour (journalist: Georges Kleinmann)
Interesting: this video was shot and published on the same day as we went to see the narcissi (the caption reads ‘Published on 18 May 2015’)