21 August 2010

The Ticking Clocks of Geneva

Four minutes is only two hundred and forty seconds. Two hundred and forty seconds of grace time between one train arriving in a station and another leaving is not a lot of seconds.

Our first train of the night arrived in Toulouse about twenty minutes late. That made us about nine hundred and sixty seconds late for our eight hour long overnight train to Genève. We fetched our backpacks and waited anxiously by the doors of the train, watching the seconds slip away into the night. I was filled with an absolutely irrational confidence that everything was going to work out fine as train rambled forward.

When we arrived at the platform in Toulouse, with no explanation, our first sight as the doors opened was a train with its doors marked "Genève." Irrational confidence indeed! We sprinted across the platform and jumped on the train, moving through the cars to find our seats.

However, we became slightly confused when we had gone through all the cars and not found car #20, which was where our seats were assigned. In a confused panic, I stepped off the train and asked a conductor in French where our car was. She looked at my ticket, looked at the train, looked back at my ticket and informed me that this wasn't actually our train. Our train indeed had left nine hundred and sixty seconds before our arrival.


She shrugged, like any self respecting French person would.

But, again, after briefly panicking, I returned to my irrational confidence.

"Ok, our train has left, but we have these tickets, may we take this train instead?"

Again, she shrugged in a lovely French accent. This time though, the shrug said, "Why not? I am not going to stop you."

We managed to find two empty seats together and we fell asleep. No one checked our tickets, no one asked us for our seats. We arrived in Genève less than one-thousand seconds late.

Our stay in Genève was quiet and expensive. We did see some very beautiful sights though. Genève is situated around the end of a lake, which is the dominate vista of the city. Many cultures construct monuments that are strangely phallic in nature - The national monument in Amsterdam's Dam Square, the Washington monument - you get the picture. But, the Swiss have taken this trend to the extreme by punctuating their lake with a massive fountain that continuously pumps tons and tons of water at least fifty meters in the air. If you don't understand that metaphor then 1.) You aren't Swiss and 2.) You're too young to be reading this blog.

We took a tour through the cathedral that used to be the common preaching point of Calvin. We also stopped by Rousseau's old house which was very educating, but had been disappointingly stripped of any artifacts and was replaced by a glossy interactive audio tour. We even stopped by a restaurant that was advertised to us as being "beachfront." This actually meant walking out on a jetty to a manmade island on the lake, the shore covered by small pebbles. After coming from Spain, this version of a beach was a little bit laughable, but to be fair, there was still topless sunbathing here. We all make do with what we have.

But, what really happened in Genève was that we shed our Spanish nonchalance in favor of the Swiss efficiency and became extremely productive, spending no less than four hours preparing bookings for the rest of our trip and doing all of our laundry.

That may not sound as exciting as some of the other stories I've written about, but I assure you, when you are living out of a backpack in the middle of August, there are few things more thrilling than knowing that each and every one of your socks are squeaky clean.

We met an American in our hostel who was flying back home after a two month trip the next morning. He wasn't planning on going out and he seemed entirely unaffected by the fact that he was leaving Europe. I'm pretty sure they're going to have to drag me kicking and screaming onto the plane when the time comes for me to leave.

Genève was an insanely expensive city (with an attitude that reminded me quite a bit of New York) so we only stayed one night before packing up and leaving for Interlaken - far up in the midst of the Swiss Alps where we hoped to find out why the Swiss are so found of extreme sports.


Anonymous said...

Hi there

Awesome blog, great write up, thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hey - I am certainly happy to find this. cool job!