Celebrities in Switzerland: Léon Gambetta
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Gambetta, Léon (1838 - 1882) France / Politician / VD

Léon Gambetta was one of the founders of the French Third Republic. An eloquent lawyer, he became known for defending opponents of Napoleon III. In 1870, after the defeat of Sedan, the French Emperor was captured by the Prussians. Gambetta was then quickly appointed Minister of the Interior in Paris, where the resistance was being organized. But the Prussians laid siege to the city and Gambetta escaped in a hot air balloon above the enemy lines. He traveled the length and breadth of France in vain to mobilize an army.

In 1871, he left France after the government's surrender to find peace in Switzerland. He settled for a few months in Clarens, near Montreux, along the Vaud Riviera, where the father of modern geography, Elisée Reclus, also went into exile. The country's fresh air did a world of good for his ailing digestive system. The eminent Republican loved to stroll along the lake, on the road that runs from Territet to Clarens and then on to the Château des Crêtes. Numerous politicians and friends came to visit him in his healthy retreat at the the Pension Bon-Port, which is now the Hôtel Excelsior.

He kept up extensive correspondence with his Parisian friends. He wrote in a letter to his father: The air is sweet like Sorente in the springtime, and I have already tasted the grapes that are ripening on the vines. Gambetta spent happy times in Clarens. He even said that he no longer wore a watch, but used the Alps and the sun as his dial. In 1904, a hotel was dedicated to this distinguished politician of such formidable eloquence. You can see a bust of the French politician in a corner of the Hôtel Gambetta, in Clarens.

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