Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Switzerland: So I am not quite a Swiss Miss...

I really try to keep the following quote at the forefront of my mind whenever possible:

...she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring...

No prizes for guessing which of my favourite songs that line also inspired.

Which makes me feel more than a little bit guilty about writing this post. On the bright side, if anyone is sick of the posts when I am all happy-happy-joy-joy-this-is the-most-awesome-place-ever, than this is the update for you.

I was in Switzerland mostly because the trip to Val d`Isere included a free transfer to Geneva Airport. And since I have always found free to be a compelling answer as any to the question why, I just kind of went with it.

So, on to Switzerland. Yeah. Your pulse is racing, I know.

Geneva is a major diplomatic and NGO centre. Very important place. An International Canberra, if you will.

In addition to the UN, Red Cross, WHO and other really important...associations... Geneva is crowded with amazing furniture and interior decorating stores. Which should have been my first clue.

Now, I love a good homeware store as much as the next person (Hi Lana!), but I also have a theory about places with too many of these kind of establishments. I think its a pretty reliable indicator that the people who live in that place are more interested in making their private homes fabulous than making their public spaces exciting and vibrant and in any way, shape or form... fun. Which is awesome for them, and I really hope the people of Geneva are rocking out with the SingStar in their living rooms as we speak, but does not make for a great place to visit.

To be fair, I was there on a Sunday and Monday, which are never my most sparkling and witty days, but at least I will make an effort and wear interesting shoes or matching underwear or something, but no such effort from Geneva. On the Sunday, the only thing open was Starbucks. On the Monday, the only things open were Starbucks and the UN.

And the I was so psyched for the UN. I was totally going to see someone famous wandering the halls of power, and they were going to hear me ask the guide a really insightful and non-judgemental question, and I was going to be hired to, like, bring about an end to worldwide bad-stuff, and they were totally going to replace the Talking Dog outside the QVB with me and for generations to come Sydneysiders would meet at the Talking Penny before going out to dinner in the CBD, before realising that there isn`t actually anywhere both nice and affordable in the CBD to eat, and getting a bus to Newtown or Surry Hills or Potts Point or whatever.

I had a dream, man. And instead I went on an hour long tour of meeting halls. Really nice meeting halls, but meeting halls nonetheless.


The other thing about Switzerland? Really bloody expensive, so it drove me to new levels of backpacker stinginess. I was only in Bern for a few hours because it was about 20 Euros cheaper to buy a train ticket from Geneva to Bern, then a train ticket from Bern to Zurich, rather than buy a ticket straight from Geneva to Zurich.

And Bern, to be fair, was lovely. Very pretty. Lots of bridges. And a river, which explains the bridges.

I think its hard to get disappointed with a place when you`re only there for two hours.

Zurich sounds really interesting, doesn`t it? Like, every single Zoe and Zach I know is interesting. And the zoo is interesting. As are zebras.

And Zurich did contain the most gorgeous church I have ever visited (and I`ve toured both Italy and South America, so I have been to some churches, girlfriend). The Fraum√ľnster is really lovely. Massive yet intimate and very feminine. Plus, the Marc Chagall stained glass windows are just amazing and so different and generally awesome.

Aside from that, I got pretty bloody bored in Zurich. Plus, I was suffering from acute paranoia, because one of the girls in my dorm was studying to be a dentist. Our sink was actually in the bedroom part of the dorm, which meant that everyone could see and hear you brushing your teeth, and every time I brushed my teeth I felt as if I was being judged against a very professional criteria to which I could never possibly measure up. Very stressful situation, let me tell you.

It all got to me on the last day. I was wandering around a university campus when I saw a sign advertising some free museums. Great, I thought. Free heating and captions to tell me what to think. I am so there!

One of the museums was being advertised with a man wearing one of those pointy beak-like mask things that doctors used to wear during the Black Death (I think), and its name was prefixed with `Medi` (the rest was in German, which, despite 3 years of German in High School, I do not speak or understand at all. Cheers, NSW education system!). Terrific, I thought. A medieval museum! Maybe there will be knights! Courtly love! Right up my alley!

Erm, so it turned out to be a Medical History Museum. I only caught on to this after viewing the `Obstetrics Instruments Through the Ages` exhibit. After which I needed a whisky. Sitting down. With my legs firmly crossed.

So, to sum up: I would never say don`t go to Switzerland. I would, however, happily say don`t go to Switzerland without a very good book.


rachelhills said...

I don't know, Pen - Parramatta Road is littered with furniture shops (and bridal shops) and the inner west still has pretty vibrant public spaces.

I take your point, though - both about the presence of furniture shops and the very Canberra-ness of Geneva. I remember thinking when I was there that it was quite like a guy I had a crush on at uni whom I used to call Mannequin Boy - very pretty to look at, but not very interesting at all.

Also agree on Switzerland being expensive. I only ate one meal a day while I was there to save money (being 22 and poor) - and even then, the food was awful.

I suspect we both have draw just as much hilarity from commenting of the crap sides of a place though, as from actually experiencing the good side.

Sister By Association said...

Very excited to see that you are blogging again. Some great installments. Still fantasising about all that cheese in France. A huge soft cheese platter is on my list of must-haves after my belly-full-of-arms-&-legs bursts...along with sushi, sashimi & unlimited alcohol.
Was just commenting to Kellie re Switzerland that only you intellectual types go to Switzerland to see places like Geneva & Zurich. Ho-hum indeed! The rest of us go there to see the romantic stuff like snow covered Swiss Alps, Swiss chocolate & men in Lederhosen.
Loved Cara's postcard. Very witty as always. Guess we will wait & see if she understood it.

Ozebasa said...

Come,come Penny....I can't agree! My bet is that you were feeling a bit down (PMT,hangover, homesick....?) and judged the places on your mood. One day you will return to Switzerland and see the magic that it offers....it is one of the prettiest places in the world, I think..a bit like Bruges. Maybe I was on a high on my visits. Heath

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