One thing I love about Airbnb is that it gives you a chance to meet some locals and comprehend the city in more depth. It took me three months of living in Osaka to really understand the city as I do today, and that’s mainly due to all the interaction I had with the local people there. This hasn’t happened much so far with my trip; most of my observations are truly my own, and so forgive me if I’m wrong.
I had a great chat with our Airbnb host, and he told me a lot about this city. First of all, Geneva speaks French, but they have great rivalry with the French people. Genevans are very proud of their morals and honesty, and they find French people to be opposite, so Genevans will be offended if you call them French.
Geneva and Zurich are rivals as well, but there is no animosity between them; just a matter of pride. Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, Geneva is the second largest. Zurich speaks German, Geneva speaks French. Their styles are completely different. Zurich is a lot more conservative and full of nationalistic Swiss pride, and their ethnic composition is almost completely white, while Geneva is more open-minded, accepting and multi-cultural. Our host was telling me how he had a meeting in Zurich just yesterday, and when he told them he had to leave early to meet us and give us keys, his colleges in Zurich exclaimed “what, how can you meet with a completely random stranger?!”.
This fact, maybe a lot of you will know. Geneva, or more accurately, Switzerland, is the most expensive place in the world. I’ve heard about this before I arrived in this country, but after going to Paris and Belgium, I was thinking, how can anything be even more expensive? Well, to give you an idea:
- the cost of mailing a postcard to Canada is 1.9 CHF
- a Venti Starbucks Frappucino is 8.9 CHF
- an average McDonalds combo meal is 12.9 CHF
- a ready-to-eat salad at the supermarket is 5.5 CHF
That’s why, as our host told me, Genevans don’t travel within their own country. Whenever they have vacation, they always go elsewhere, because they know it will be cheaper to go anywhere else aside from Switzerland. In fact, it would even be cheaper to leave than to stay at home!
Geneva in itself is a tiny city. One day is enough to explore everything worth seeing in my opinion, unless you’re up for other activities such as hiking. It feels a lot like Brussels, in terms of size and things to do, but I’d say Geneva is a lot more beautiful. Well, natural geography puts Geneva at an advantage in this respect, as it is located by the lake and garnished with mountains in the background.
In the middle of this lake is the Jet d’Eau, a water fountain that was originally used to release pressure, but then turned into a tourist attraction and moved to where it is now.
As we were walking along the lake on our first day, we had a scorching sun shining down on us, and it felt lovely. These experiences are hard to describe, as it sounds like just another day of nice weather… but it’s more than that. It’s what makes a carefree stroll so carefree – like when you’re walking around Steveston Village with Timothy’s ice cream under a smiling sun, and enjoying God’s creation.
While most European cities I’ve visited are home to these crazy grand Catholic cathedrals, Geneva is famous for its Protestant St. Pierre Cathedral. We walked past the cathedral on our first day before checking in to our place, and I had no idea so I wasn’t really excited at the thought of visiting yet another church, since we’ve been to so many already. After I got home and learned about this fact, I suddenly regret not going inside. Just like that, I lost an opportunity to see and experience! But at least I still got to learn about it.
We did, however, see the Reformation Wall, along with the huge figures of the four founding fathers of the Protestant religion. This wall is located at a park next to the University of Geneva, and among many relaxed people lying around the park are also a bunch of other people playing giant chess.
Geneva is also home to many international organizations such as the United Nations and International Red Cross, and perhaps this fact is what defines this city. The architecture is nice, but it’s not as historic as other places. The view is stunning, but there are other places in Switzerland that are even nicer. And even though it is modern and a working city, there is Zurich that is even bigger. Geneva is known for its peace.
We were dead tired from all the travelling, so day two in this city was a very short day. We slept in, went out late, and returned home quite early. I even took an afternoon nap. It felt good to catch up on sleep.
Our host recommended Bains des Paquis for lunch, situated on the left bank of Geneva. It’s not so much a restaurant, and it resembles a café you would find at a park or a beach. At 14 CHF for the plat du jour, it is already one of the best deals in town, and their food is not bad at all. You can also get a beautiful view of the lake and the mountains, but we had a windy and cloudy day, so the food cooled off quite fast.
From there, we walked to the United Nations Headquarters. It is not close at all, but you know me – I like to walk. We didn’t sign up for a tour, but we took a picture to prove that we were here. And finally, I got to see the iconic view of the flags, as my previous visit to the UN building in NY was somewhat in vain.
We then took the tram to CERN – that was too far to walk to. Just our luck though… CERN is undergoing renovations for their visitor exhibits, and these renovations just started at the beginning of May. Guided tours are only for groups and require advance booking. So unfortunately, we couldn’t do much at CERN aside from stroll around the gift shop.
I love this aerial view of Geneva and its surrounding area; it gives you an idea of how big the LHC really is.
So anyway, we are now in Interlaken, which is known for its beautiful view… except we are expecting rain the entire 3 days while we are here. But I won’t let the weather define this trip! Experiences are waiting ahead.