Genéve

Song of the Post

Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers

Genève, Switzerland

  • Driving tour of the city – Day 1
  • Fondue & walk-around – Day 2

Have you had 6 transfers in one trip? With the longest transfer time being 28 minutes? If you have, I applaud you. I have literally added a screenshot of my train schedule and you may have noticed, it is only 5. Yes, I can count (sort of, I was never great at math) but to get to Bruchsal, I had to transfer again in between.

IMG_4981Was it worth it? In the end, hell yes.

Was it anxiety-filled, I’m quietly panicking and tempted to just sit on my bag and cry in the middle of some German train station kind of stress? Yes.

Thankfully most trains’ platform were next to each other so 7 minute transfer times were plenty. But, as someone with diagnosed anxiety, my mind rushing and trying to convince me that I’m on the wrong train did not help.

However, the sites you see travelling on the train is another sight-seeing in itself. Even if my train from Zürich to Genéve just stopped in Bern and decided to cancel itself, what an incredible train ride it was into Switzerland.

So this city was done a bit differently than the rest. Because I had relatives living in Geneva, I had much more of a local, “tourist in your own city” experience.

Day 1

As soon as I arrived in Genéve, my first cousin, once removed (aka my ah-jeo-shi/father’s cousin) took me around most of Genéve in his car for a driving tour. I saw the clutter of the world organizations including the Red Cross headquarters, World Health Organization, and the United Nations which obviously sparked my interest as someone who is very intrigued by humanitarian work.

My ah-jeo-shi used to be a summer tour guide during his university student days so he knew the in’s and out’s of giving an efficient tour by seeing everything without sacrificing much. Having a car definitely helps because Genéve is has it’s elevated areas. This saved me from feeling my calves burning and the small self-induced whimpering.

After the tour, my relatives got together and we feasted on some homemade Korean food which was a really nice warm hug to my stomach after eating bread and cheese for 10 days.

Hearing my relatives be trilingual and mix French, English and Korean into one conversation or sentence was incredible to listen to. I’ve been so used to talking bilingually but now there’s a three-tiered cake of linguistic ability?? Amazing. It actually inspired me further to keep practicing French and learn Spanish. Obviously, being exposed and immersed in the culture where the language is used is the best teacher, but I’ll settle with what I can do.

Day 2

My only full day in Genéve started with a sleep in (after a 20 hour day from a 4 hour sleep, your body just refuses to wake up earlier than needed).  I took the train from Nyon (a suburban area just outside of Genéve) into Genéve and committed the day to walking around this city. I had a better sense of the roads because of the driving tour so I only used Google Maps to find my lunch spot.

Walking around mindlessly without a map is such a liberating experience. You have to completely trust your instincts but be in a mindset of letting things come as they are. And, that in the end, if you need help finding a place, help will be there and you will be OK. Sounds easy? Ha – if you knew me 2 years ago, this would not have been what I would be saying. Thank god for DBT (a topic I may write about later).

I walked from the main station to the Mont Blanc bridge and managed to find the pedestrian walkway that looped around the bridge itself. This allowed for a much better view of the bridge itself and the lake caressing it on both sides. The water of Lake Genève is so incredibly clean, I wondered if anyone has just drank the water from the lake or just jumped in it to swim? It looked like a part of the Caribbean ocean cut itself from the rest of the ocean and just somehow made it into the middle of Europe and decided to settle in Genéve (reverse colonialism?).

With food on my mind, I went up to the old-town part of Genéve and went to Restaurant Les Armures which was recommended to me by my relatives as one of the best places for fondue. It’s a restaurant that is part of Hôtel Les Armures which seemed like a lovely expensive boutique hotel. Lunch was seated outside, under a canvas lining and outlooking one of the smaller old-town roads. I used my broken French to order fondue with tomato alongside with potatoes. Wow, I can still taste it as I write this sentence. I’m not food expert or critic but the creaminess of the gruyère cheese blended so well with the tanginess of the tomato and wasn’t overwhelmingly rich. I sat for 1.5-hours eating this thing and if anyone has eaten with me on a regular day, I can be in and out of the restaurant in 30 minutes. So, committing my time to eating this gorgeous pot of warm melted cheese heaven, it was a completed feat that didn’t require much effort. I finished the meal with some espresso and melted a little cup-shaped chocolate in the coffee.

I ventured further up old-town and revisisted St. Pierre Cathedral and looked back to see Yoko Ono’s supposed Genéve apartment right across the street. I sat on a bench and let my thoughts run its course while looking at the stellar design of the cathedral. After much map-less and sense-filled wandering and meandering into random roads and alley ways, I made my way back to the water front and drank a sleeve of Heineken in front of the Jet d’Eau with the 32 degree setting-sun beating on my body.

That’s a wrap for Genéve. Early flight to Nice the next day, so that concluded my short love affair with this city.

Closing Thoughts

The people here are incredibly friendly. Maybe because Genéve is the capital of global organizations and is used to international diversity it regularly is exposed to. There is no definite one answer but I absolutely fell in love with this city. Head over heels, asking my ah-jeo-shi about working and living in Genéve, maybe I’ll just stay here, level of depth. There was something about the vibe of this city that just seemed to click with my senses and aura. And as spiritual as it sounds – my fellow travellers may be able to back me up on this; but, there can be unexplainable attachments that occur with a person, thing or place. It’s best to now investigate it but let it submerse you. So far, Geneva latched on to me and refused to let me see it anything less than the phenomenal city it is.

My passion for society, humanitarian work and people obviously fits within the city where the Geneva Conventions were created, is the land of neutrality and AMAZING social infrastructure including the education and health system. Obviously Genéve isn’t purely made up of well-educated, working, supposed happy individuals and there are social issues that come with any place in the world.

But maybe it was the clear, tropic-coloured lake with sail boats sprinkled here and there with Mont Blanc placed cinematically on one side looking upon the city. The cool lake breeze that weaves through the hot late-summer sun and the constant humming of traffic and vibrant buzz of stability between people. The soft, flexible, molasses like sound of Swiss French and accented with bike bells was the perfect soundtrack of walking around the stair-lined cobblestone streets. It was a moving, live realist painting that adapted the modern-age advancement and historical relevance so harmoniously. It’s one of the few cities where the sky, land, water, air and people all blend without harsh borders, lines and conflict.

Au revoir, je t’aime Genève.

x

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