It felt kinda strange…suddenly we were on our way! Through all the preparations we hadn’t thought much about actually leaving.
We were thankful the flight to Zürich was uneventful and we arrived with all our bags. No small miracle nowadays. We’re here for a couple of days to get adjusted and visit some friends. From here, we’ll take the train down to Geneva….and then a flight to Bordeaux.
Zürich is a real pleasure. Clean, historic, fashionable, and relaxed. It consistently ranks as one of the most livable cities in the world (not to mention one of the wealthiest). It is located on the downstream end of Lake Zürich, which spills into the Lammat River and flows through the middle of town. People speak German in this part of Switzerland, but with a strong “Swiss German” dialect. We speak some German and were able to get around well, although many people also speak English. Lynn spent time here in college and we were last here together on our honeymoon (about 20 years ago now!) It was fun to return and start our trip here.
The first night we had dinner with Pino and Suzanne, who we met in Argentina last February. He is a documentary producer and she is TV camera director. They are interesting folks and we had great conversation as we bounced around from a coffee shop, to a restaurant, and eventually a bar. Hopefully they can visit us in Bordeaux.
From Zürich we took a 3 hour train to Geneva. It is located at the very western edge of the country on the border with France. With wonderful Swiss precision, we were whisked gracefully over the mountains and through the vine covered slopes along the shores of Lake Geneva and right into town a couple blocks from our hotel. Voilá as they say in French. And yes, suddenly that’s all they’re speaking in this part of the country…and no, we haven’t a clue what their saying. Not sure if there’s a dialect either, let alone how to ask (politely) for a glass of wine. So begin our adventures with the French language.
The city is in a lovely setting along the lake, with outdoor cafes, parks, and museums. But unfortunately this was the Thursday before the second Sunday in September (duh, of course), and much of the town was closed for what’s called Jeûne Genevois. Thanks to Wikipedia we discovered that Geneva was a center for Protestantism and the Reformation in the 1500’s and this was a day of fasting and penance observing the St. Bartholomew Day massacre and persecution of Hugenots (French Protestants) during the religious wars waged by the French monarchy in the late 16th century. Whew! All very fascinating background, but we nearly ended up fasting ourselves, as probably 80% of the restaurants were closed.
And we were hungry after walking all over town. This included a stroll down the Lake Geneva waterfront and around the United Nations complex and the nearby botanical gardens. The UN Palais des Nations was constructed by the former League of Nations in the 1930’s …just in time for WWII. But there was something impressive about being near all that potential (if not reality) for world cooperation and peace.
And so we start with all the history of religions, kings, and wars! It’s everywhere in Europe. But it’s interesting and important to understand, as it’s such a huge context for everything around the continent. Something to ponder over a glass of wine in one of those lakeside cafés.
Now on to Bordeaux!