Thursday, December 13, 2007
Cathedral in Geneva
Carvings inside the church
This must be a fun place to live
Bridge across Lake Leman/Geneva
Scarily enough, I just turned my burning eyes away from the computer screen to dig out a form (blue in colour) for a colleague - "oh that's strange" said I "it's blank". Upon further examination, the form turned out to be blank by no stretch of the imagination, but in fact relatively covered with typing. So I can add screwed up eyes to my dodgy fingers that start paining me after several minutes of typing and have reduced me to holding down the shift key with the knuckle of my little finger - I've gotten quite good at this novel typing method, FYI... (So what do I do, turn to the computer to complain...)
Anyway, point being not to whine about work-related ailments, but to talk about my day off yesterday, when, as you clever cats may have guessed, I took a wee roadtrip (well, traintrip, the 'iron road' as we hipsters call it) to Geneva, and another new country, although disappointingly, no passport stamp - no passport check, in fact, so much for it not being part of the EU. The day began super early, I was awake by 4.30 - coincidentally - I didn't actually have to rise until 6.30, which is still pretty early for me.
Up and at em, then, on a freezing cold morning to catch the amusingly-named 'Mont Blanc Express' - a train so wee that when I first saw it chugging on its merry way through Chamonix, I mistook it for a tram. It's also virtually silent (at least from the outside) and ever so slow - less TGV than TPV. It also stopped at every tiny little 'station' possible - although station is a gross overstatement, since at least half of these just featured a sign with 'gare' written on it stuck into the ground next to the tracks. The old-stylez Swanson station (i.e. hut on side of road) would put these to shame - and remember, people are attending their trains at these lonely outposts in sub-zero snowy conditions. It also ran late, causing me to panic that I would miss my connection (a real train) but they must have held it or something, because despite turning up 25 mins late (15 mins after the connecting train was due to leave) I made it with minutes to spare.
At 10 am, when the train was due into Geneva, we pulled in to a station. My first thought was (since we were running late), "well, this can't be Geneva, far too shabby", so I was shocked to see that, in fact, yes it was Geneva. All my preconceptions about the Swiss nicely went out the window - the place wasn't a sparkling-clean hive of industry, but rather featured graffiti, chewing-gum on the floor, a distinct lack of christmassy-ness and, inexplicably, gangs of youth in fancy dress absolutely everywhere. Okay, none of these things are particularly out-of-the-ordinary for a city (bar the costumed youth, for which I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation), but they just ran counter to my most dearly-held preconceptions of what Switzerland would be like.
Things, then, began a little badly, and continued badly when I exited the station to find myself approximately in the middle of nowhere - well, Genevan suburbia at any rate - with absolutely no idea where to head to get to civilization. Some will say that's my fault for coming with absolutely no research and no idea of the city's layout, but there you go. After a brief abortive wander, I returned to the station, got told off for coming through the wrong door (by his "go round the other way" gesturing, I actually thought for a bit that he was going to make me go out and come back in again before deigning to talk to me, but thankfully not) and managed to acquire a map of Geneva - mad skills, as my (soon to be erstwhile) boss would say.
Equipped with this, I set out for the lake, with a brief but oh-so-productive stop-off at a supermarket for cheap Swiss chocolate. Mmmmm. Only fools go to proper chocolate shops in these places, just hit up the supey every time! On finally working out which way I was facing and thus where the lake was, I found my way down to the tune of more disappointment. At least from the direction I approached, they seem to have set out to make the lakefront as ugly and unprepossessing as humanly possible - a drab carpark leading to a row of nasty tin sheds in front of a quay absolutely choked with yachts and nowhere to walk where you can actually see the water. Not that the lake's even that pretty when you can see it, at least not on a grey, drab day. Walking along the lakefront, things improved somewhat, with a garden and the opportunity of walking directly next to the lake. Although the allegedly renowned 'floral clock' in the garden (a tribute to Swiss watchmaking!) was unremittedly ugly - yes, okay, it's winter in (almost) the Alps, but hey, no need to plant brown flowers even then.
Shaking off the excitement of seeing the sights (also viewed: the jet d'eau, hugely powerful fountain and symbol of Geneva, not working that day due to high winds - and on that note may I add that it was freezing, and this is coming from someone currently living 1000 m up a mountain, and the cathedral, which was huge but fairly drab and featureless as well, as you might expect from the home of Calvinism - it did, however, have a few stained glass windows - really going to town there) I made my way to the SHOPS!
Yes, Geneva's saving grace is that it boasts shops that aren't ridiculously priced or focussed exclusively on skiwear. And it has a FNAC - everyone's fav book/CD/DVD/electronic goods shop, with an extensive selection of English books that aren't about climbing mountains, hurrah! This excitement caused me to spend a bit much, but really not very much and everything was a bit of a bargain in Swiss francs, so why not? Talking of Swiss francs, they are the most garish currency (with the possible exception of the Aussie dollar) that you'd ever care to see. I think that, as they were hampered by having to translate everything into four languages (German, French, Italian and ?? mystery), they thought they might as well go over the top with everything else on the note as well, and just crammed whatever the hell they felt like on there.
Very tired by the time I wended my way home again, after a day that convinced me that Geneva's not up to much, but which was probably a more edifying way to spend my day off than lying in bed, which was Plan B, so worth the trip (especially since I got new clothes and a book, yes!)