Geneva: Home of the United Nations and lots and lots of fog!

November 24, 2009

This trip needs a bit of explaining. The weekend was originally supposed to be me and Colbert. Tickets were purchased, the hostel was booked, and then 4 days before the trip Colbert came down with the flu. Which meant there was no way he could make it to Switzerland for the weekend. He had a eurorail pass, so he didn’t have to worry about the tickets-but mine were non-refundable, non-exchangeable. Which meant that I was still going. I put out a desperate plea on facebook, and an acquaintance from my program, Lucy, offered to go with me.

Welcome to Geneva!

Geneva is adorable. It is small, quiet, Swiss, full of chocolate and watches, and very, very foggy. We arrived at the train station and soon learned that our online directions had lied. The train station was nowhere NEAR walking distance to our hostel. Though we arrived at 4:00 in the afternoon, it was dark, and foggy, and we ended up taking a taxi at the suggestion of a man who we accosted for directions on the street. We were thrilled with the hostel though! The room was big, we had a bed each, we had a television, leather couch, a full private kitchen (missing only a dishwasher) and a private bathroom with a tub!

Friday night fog downtown

We decided to be inexpensive and just cook dinner in the room, since we were exhausted from traveling We found a grocery store and while buying cereal for the next morning’s breakfast I recognized the tell-tale sign of being in Switzerland. Namely 6 different kinds of chocolate cereal!!!

Needless to say, we had to buy a box!

We woke up the next morning to discover that the internet had failed us yet again. Instead of the promised 60’s and sunny, we had cold and foggy. Again. Never-the-less we had a full day of sight-seeing! We attempted to see the Jet d’eau, Geneva’s famous jet of water, only to discover that it was closed for maintenance. (Though we did see swans and swimmers).

Swans on the lake

The lake-and more fog!

Cold weather swimmers!

The cold weather caught up with us so we explored the inside of Saint Peter’s Cathedral, where the Protestant leader (and founder of Calvinism) John Calvin used to preach. The building is beautiful, and inside the restored Chapel of the Maccabees (the first example of flamboyant Gothic style in Geneva according to the brochure) was breathtaking! (unfortunately the pictures did not turn out) The Cathedral in it’s current condition was interesting, though I would have liked to know more about the state of the church under Calvin’s leadership-all that I know for sure is that the organ was removed since music was not allowed in Calvin’s services. However, they have since added a new one, as fortunately music is okay again!

The interior of the Cathedral


After our tour of Saint-Peter’s we passed by and snapped photographs of various other monuments and sights around Geneva such as the Town Hall, the Old Arsenal, the Maison Taval (the oldest private house in Geneva) and the flower clock!

Mosiac from the outdoor area of the Old Arsenal

Exterior of the Maison Taval

Lucy in front of the flower clock

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Musée d’art et d’histoire, which was free to the public, but not photograph friendly. They had a wide variety of works in their permanent collection covering everything from Le Corbusier and Picasso to Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Rodin, and even Véronèse. They also had a temporary exhibition of Flemish and Dutch paintings from the XVII and XVIII centuries. I don’t think there is any better way to spend an afternoon!

Museum of art and history

That night we had an amazing dinner of fresh ricotta and basil ravioli, tomato butter sauce, and a tart for dessert! We bought the pasta and tomatoes from the market, and the dessert from a bake sale (students raising money to study abroad-how could we say no?) and the butter? We got that from a friendly man working at a hot dog stand, since the grocery store was closed! Sometimes dinners that are planned out last minute with minimal components and ingredients are definitely the best!

Sunday we were greeted by pouring rain, but we found a bus to take us to the International Red-Cross and Red-Crescent Museum. On the way we stopped in front of the United Nations office in Geneva, (the second largest after New York) which looked beautiful, even if the flags were drenched in rain. We were really happy to finally go inside when we got to the museum! It was really amazing to learn all about the history and role of the Red-Cross (in predominantly Muslim countries they are frequently the Red-Crescent). The organization was actually founded in Geneva!  They also had a beautiful exposition of photographs taken by a female journalist chronicling the lives of modern Muslim women in the Middle East. She strove to present women from these different countries not only as “Modestes” (or “modest ones”-the title of the exposition) because of their veils, but as women who are very much like women all over the world. Weddings, funerals, training for the female police force, voting, clearing rubble from their homes, shopping, fleeing the country, or even campaigning and running for office, it was in glimpse into their lives. The photographs from Iran, Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and even Israel were powerful, funny, beautiful, horrifying, and very provocative. Through her images and captions the journalist, Alexandra Boulat (1962-2006) communicated exactly the sentiment that she wished to express.

The UN!-It was raining too hard to even take off my hood for the picture

Banners for the Red-Cross and Red-Crescent

The rest of the afternoon was a lot more rain, and waiting in train stations, so I will leave you with my one picture featuring the Alps (or a part of them anyways). I am now off to bed, so a bientôt!


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