Well, Jasmin and I are in Switzerland! I got to Geneva yesterday afternoon, checked in, and, you guessed it, went to the UN! It was so cool to actually visit the Palais de Nations, which was once home to the League of Nations. I took a tour and saw two amazing committee rooms (Human Rights Council and Disarmament committee), both with artwork by Spanish artists.
I met two German sisters on the tour, one who was doing an internship in the UN office for sport, and they told me that I was in time for Geneva’s biggest festival, which was happening this weekend. I had no idea it was on, so I think we were just incredibly lucky with the timing! More about that in a second.
I also visited the International Red Cross Museum while I was waiting for the UN tour (it’s just across the road). They have records of all the WW1 and 2 prisoners of war in huge cabinets, on index cards. It was a sober museum, but I learnt a lot. A highlight was seeing an original draft of the Geneva Convention, which was on display.
It was dark by the time I was done, so I waited to meet Jasmin (who was flying in from Manchester). We went out for dinner at a Swiss place and had roestis, which were cheesy, but tasty.
Today we planned our day around the festival, which commemorates the city being saved by a woman cooking vegetable soup late one night in 1602. She saw the Duke of Savoy’s army scaling (hence the festival name, L’Escalade) the city walls, and poured the hot soup over them (and then presumably alerted the army). Today’s celebrations were for the city’s victory over the invaders, which involved historical reenactments, musket and cannon fire displays, lots of people in costume and lots of horses. (The chocolate version of the woman’s pot with marzipan vegetables in it is a traditional festival food! We bought one each, but haven’t opened it yet! They look like this:)
But before we went to the festival (which started around 2), we visited a flea market and picked up what are now our week-long trip mascots, The Russians. We found a matryoshka doll of Gorbachev, which has Brezhnev, then Khruschov, Stalin, and finally a teeny tiny Lenin inside.
They have already had some adventures (Stalin tried to ”escalade” the Reformation Wall and Lenin was shot out of the jet d’eau), and will probably provide amusement for much of the next week.
Right, so we went down to the Lake, and saw the flower clock, and the jet d’eau, which normally only operates in summer, but which was on for the festival. We grabbed a quick lunch, then went back into the Old Town for some festival fun.
We began by following guys dressed in 17th century clothes holding muskets to the square in front of Saint Peter’s Cathedral, to see (and hear, boy could you hear it!) a live cannon and musket display.
We also saw a trumpet troupe perform in the Catherdral, and groups of drummers and flautists playing in the street. There were men on horseback prancing around and no matter where you walked in the Old Town, you could hear music and occassionally the sound of cannon fire! We drank spiced hot apple juice and ate apple tart, then watched a blacksmith’s display (making a sword and horseshoes). The whole atmosphere was amazing, with kids dressed up running around and Scout groups with their woggles playing games, people eating and laughing. I really really enjoyed the whole thing!
Once we’d seen pretty much everything, we headed back to the Lake, and saw the most spectacular sunset! It was like stepping into a watercolour painting, especially with the Alps all around.
We walked back to the hotel, relaxed for a bit, then went back out for dinner, as well as to check out the night lights on the lake. Tomorrow we’re off to Zurich, but might spend the morning looking around a bit more first. It has been a fantastic day, especially since we were so lucky in coming across the festival!