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I Like it in the City When Two Worlds Collide


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Geneva is the first city this trip that has felt like a city. I couldn't wander around Helsinki for half an hour without coming back to someplace I'd already been, Rome was just a giant museum disguised as a city, Domodosolla was a small Italian village, Bern was full of people who thought that watching a clock strike a new hour was interesting, and Aix Les Bains shut down by 10:00 at night. But Geneva is a city.

I realized that shortly after I stepped outside the hotel sans baggage. Everywhere else, wandering around until I either found something interesting or a sign to something interesting was a decent approach. It didn't work so well in Geneva. Geneva's big.

Geneva is not just a modern city, it's an international one. This is related, but not limited to the Palais des Nations and the United Nations Office at Geneva. I'd seen a lot of restaurants with Italian or French cuisine. I hadn't seen Indian, Ethiopian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Russian, and French cuisine all within a few blocks of each other.

I did succeed in finding the lake, and sat watching it for a while. Then I kept watching. There was a display done by the Green Cross for “Helping the Planet/Helping the Future” which was mostly in English, so I didn't get to test how while the last unit of French had been in teaching me the vocabulary for that topic.

The lake was the nature part of the day, so after that I could go look at stores. I admired Swiss watches, Swiss knives, and Swiss chocolates.

I ducked into a souvenirs and chocolate shop, mainly because I wanted to write a few things down without being in the middle of the street. I'd made my way near the back of the store, and was pretending to look at a tea cup that had the flags of different Swiss towns as patterns for cows. (It was a pretty cute cup.)

The woman who owned the store came over and asked if I needed any help.

“I'm looking.”
“It looks like you're taking notes.”
“Euh...” I smiled.

She told me that I could take a picture if I wanted, so I did. She asked if I was Swiss, so I needed to admit that I was American. Then she showed me a ChocoWatch (“The ultimate Swiss Souvenir!”) and read the back of the box in both English and French. Then she showed me an article about the designer and his thought process that was resting next to it. I read the article for a while without making any attempts to understand what it was saying.

As I went to leave, she offered me a piece of chocolate. I'm not about to say no to Swiss chocolate with hazelnuts, so I took a piece, thanked her, said goodbye, and left. (Unsurprisingly, it was very good chocolate.)

We were the only ones in the restaurant at dinner that night. Every single person got artichokes at some point in their meal, so I approved. Even if we did need to drag someone who wasn't normally a waiter out to talk to us in English, and even if there was a really long break between them clearing away our plates and them bringing us dessert.

A lot of things were closed the next day, including the grocery store and two different bread/pastry shops that I looked at. Regardless, I still found a place to eat breakfast, and then walked up and down the same street a few times.

I did have three different people ask me for directions while I was in Geneva. I felt less bad about needing to tell them “I don't know, I'm sorry,” then I do normally, because I was able to respond in French. (The last time I had someone ask me for directions was in Rome when a family got my attention with “Scusi!” and then immediately asked “Do you speak English?”)

Besides, as I learned at the restaurant yesterday, people wouldn't assume I was an American tourist. The English-speaking person who served as our waiter said that there weren't many Americans in Geneva, but there were too many British.

Posted by Soseki 09:58 Archived in Switzerland

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