© Clara Huyton

Dominique Ernst

and the legends of Monts de Genève

Meeting and listening to Dominique Ernst is like opening a book and treating yourself to a trip to explore Monts de Genève. The story of this lover of the region, his current life and his mind are closely linked to the area in which he has been living for 59 years and whose wildlife and legends he explores every day.

He was born in Geneva but it was in Monnetier-Mornex at the foot of Salève that his fascination with this region began, and he now recounts the region’s mysteries in his writing, articles and books. Todays his roots are in Vuache. Initially a town councillor in Vers in 2001, it was not long before he felt the urge to share news about the area, becoming a correspondent for local media and by extension an ambassador for this little-known Geneva area. Over the summer of 2004, he produced a series of articles on the legends of Salève and Vuache. This was the start of his voyage of discovery, and this ambassador has since authored 7 books* devoted to the region.

The legends of Monts de Genève 

“This is not a matter of casual anecdotes! Writing a book is not something to be taken lightly: it’s a real adventure, and I uncovered a hidden world of legends”, admits Dominique Ernst, who discovered his talents as a storyteller. Salève and Vuache, these two mountains so close and yet so different, are brimming with legends that locals have been passing down for centuries: unforgiving lands where people eked out a hardscrabble existence, mountains populated by bears and wolves, and tales of the Devil, witches and fairies. “Salève is a civilised mountain associated with Geneva and mountain climbing, and the saying goes that wolves used to eat the sheep there. Vuache is a wild, unspoilt mountain with a rich natural and architectural heritage; in times gone by, wolves used to eat children, according to accounts from 1750 that I uncovered by consulting parish registers.”

The author is an investigator. He calls on residents whose great-great-grandparents no doubt passed down the tales people told around the campfire, he rummages through lofts, he searches in books and the press and he cross-references his data with ethnological and “folklorist” archives. He strolls around, keeps his eyes peeled and pricks up his ears! Did you know that Henri IV was almost assassinated in Viry, that a bloody battle in 1814 between Napoleon’s soldiers and the Austrians on the outskirts of Saint-Julien cost 1,000 lives, or that Julius Caesar trod the roads of Vuache? Dominique Ernst now enjoys walking in his foosteps, and you are liable to bump into him in the broad mountain pastures with incomparable views over Geneva where you can really recharge your batteries:  the Tour des Pitons tower, Les Convers and La Thuile. He is an avid defender of the mountain of Vuache, carpeted with forests and devoid of roads, via the work of the Vuache Intercommunal Association, which he chairs: “Extraoardinary in springtime, teeming with an extensive biodiversity and a wide variety of both Mediterranean and Alpine vegetation, not to mention the orchards that we celebrate every autumn, the 170 km of marked hiking trails, Chaumont, a rare village that has preserved its mediaeval ambiance and its château perched on a rocky outcrop, the Vuache discovery trail and its signs, not to mention the chapel of Saint-Victoire on the other side, overlooking the Rhône and its legends!”.

 

2006 Publication of his first book: “Histoires et légendes au pays du Vuache”.

2015 Publication of “Le Salève, des histoires et des hommes”.