This is the ninth installment in my travel adventure series through European countries including France, Spain, Czech Republic and Switzerland. I was gone for five weeks to a different world with different languages, and different traditions. So, now after coming back on Oct. 9th to Lowell,Michigan, it feels like I’ve been in a time capsule.
Geneva, Switzerland Oct. 2nd
We planned a day trip to Switzerland with my daughter Emma partially because of my Lowell area following of friends. A great portion of Lowell residents are of Swiss origin including my neighbors and one of my best friends.
I’ve never been to Switzerland, and I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve only heard stories how beautiful the country is, and I remembered my friend’s pictures of Swiss Alps in her office. Switzerland borders with France to the east and shares the language, but not the membership in the European Union. So, the country has its own currency, and that is the Swiss frank, which has a lower value than the Euro, but higher than US dollar.
Our intention was to go to Lausanne which is located on Lake Geneva just like the city of Geneva. We took the back roads to avoid the 40- frank sticker for using the freeway crossings between the two countries. Soon after we left the cheese city of Poligny, home to the famous Comte cheese, the narrow road started climbing. We were stuck behind a truck, that wouldn’t let us pass.
When we finally lost the truck, the signs to Lausanne also disappeared. Now, instead of Lausanne, all the signs pointed to Geneva. The two cities are not exactly close to each other. Each city is on a different side of Lake Geneva that stretches for more than 50 kilometers.
We stopped at a border town already high in the mountains, where you could hear bells ringing. I thought it was the train coming. Then I looked up, and the cows that were grazing on a steep hill, had bells tied around their necks. I knew we were in for a Swiss adventure, and not just chocolate and milk.
“This is a classical echec,” Emma said. “We’re on our way to Geneva. Those cows have the bells so they don’t get lost.”
“What is echec?” I asked about the strange French word that doesn’t have an exact translation but derives its origins from chess terminology. I was yet to find out what echec really is.
We arrived into beautiful Geneva instead of Lausanne on a sunny afternoon. People on the streets were already wearing winter coats and jackets. We walked into the old town across a bridge, where the big river Rhone flows into Lake Geneva on the backdrop of snow-capped Alps with eternal ice. The water sparkled in the sun with a million rays. A landscape on the bank lined by beautiful buildings was in the shape of a clock.
“This is breathtaking,” I said.
Boats and yachts were cruising on the mysterious lake that does not give away its secrets.
“I got to get some monkey money,” Emma said referring to any currency that is not Euro.
Well, the monkey money, could not buy us a lunch that we could regularly afford in France or in Czech Republic, not to talk about Spain.
We ended up eating steamed food in a paper dish at probably the only health food restaurant in Geneva. Signs advertising menus on the sidewalks in front of restaurants did not go below 30 franks for a dish of tartiflette or potatoes with cheese. Even a burger in Geneva cost 15 franks.
We walked into a Geneva “patisserie” or coffee house and did not buy their cream filled squares covered with chocolate and a logo, because we were full of the steamed food.
“There will be other patisseries like this where we can have a dessert,” we thought.
Well, there were not. We did stop to buy some Swiss chocolate in the new town at La Chocolaterie de Geneve. The friendly owner lady offered us extra chocolates to taste.
But, still if I didn’t have Emma by my side with her knowledge of French, I would have trouble communicating in this heavily tourist European metropolis.
Also, while window shopping, most stores did not indicate prices of their goods and the famous Swiss watches. The Chanel store did not label prices either, but it was cool to check out their tweed-covered purses.
So, in the end we had Swiss franks left, and spent them at a tiny border town meaningless gas station on our way back to France for a beer and a coffee.