Earlier this week I took another mini-vacation, this time to Geneva. As with Corsica, I had visited Geneva before, several years ago, since my ex-family-not-quite-in-law lived nearby in the Ain département. I didn’t remember much of it, however, and so thought it might be nice to take advantage of Nice-Geneva flights to spend two days in the city.
It turned out that the flight was gorgeous! We flew over the Alps, which shone in the early morning sun; I took nearly a dozen photos. I suspect I may have photographed Mont Blanc, since it looks familiar, we were pretty close to Geneva, and the mountains seem to fit satellite views of Chamonix. A few minutes later, the weather, time of day and the plane’s altitude all came together for this beautiful shot of sunlit clouds.
Apparently I took Nice’s weather with me to Geneva, since it was lovely that day. All my photos of Geneva are in this set. As usual I wandered around with just a map — no guide book. I’ve always enjoyed cities more with the thrill of discovery that comes when, for instance, you notice amazing lamps, approach the building to see just what it is, and it’s an incredible concert hall covered with the names of famous composers. (You can learn more about Victoria Hall here.)
My favorite “discovery”, however, was the towers in Cathédrale Saint Pierre, which was the church where John Calvin preached. (This year is Calvin’s 500th anniversary of birth — you can see banners on the cathedral announcing it.) For four Swiss francs, you can walk up a first steep, narrow spiral staircase that takes you to an ancient room midway up a first tower, then cross a cramped, dark passageway through to another room, with a door to yet another staircase, even steeper and narrower than the first. In that room I used my flash for the only time during my trip — you can see the ceramic roof tiles are laid directly on the roof frame. I was alone with the huge, cracked wooden beams and dark passageways during my visit, which made it very easy to imagine myself back in time 450 years ago, when the towers were built. In addition to bird’s-eye views of Geneva, you can see the roof tiles from above, and a nice information chart on the church’s bells (one weighs more than six metric tonnes!).
The second day was damp and overcast, so I spent it in two museums: the Natural History, and Art and History museums. The Natural History museum was filled with every sort of animal and mineral imaginable, which was great for learning the French names of birds and mammals I often see here but didn’t know in either English or French. The Art and History museum had an exhibition on Rembrandt, Rubens and Ruisdael, as well as another on 17th- and 18th-century Flemish and Dutch painters. It also had several rooms that were fully done — furniture, floors, ceilings and all — in the style of a Swiss castle.
All in all it was a great visit. These mini-vacations are a fun compromise: cheap, and the brief stays make it possible, paradoxically, to visit more places in a given city. You don’t need anything more than a single bag, so never have to worry about luggage, and since it’s so much cheaper, you worry less about spending money on food, museums, and souvenirs. Physical fatigue is also less of a concern since you know it’s only going to be a day or two, so might as well make the most of it! While you do miss out on getting a better feel for a place, and on visiting surrounding areas, you can identify what you’d like to see and plan to return another time. In the case of Geneva, two days seemed just right for the city itself.