After three flights and lots of expectations about the following week, Geneva appears in the far distance - green, neat and welcoming. The memories of the deep Norwegian snow disappear the minute we get out of the airport. The evening is warm and the people are in a hurry. It is April in Geneva.
The first thing my Swiss friend, Fabian, wants to show me late at night is an English pub with good beer. Much later we are still sitting there with some unknown English and German guys, drinking and talking nonsense. That's the good thing about Geneva, says one of the Brits, it makes you feel at home. The Germans do not seem to agree, however, and a big blonde guy objects: That's the thing about home - you never want to stay there but you always want to come back. Too much beer, I'm thinking, and the evening goes on. To make it clear from the beginning - I am not a tourist in Geneva.
Every time I go to a place I end up in the mainstream tourist paths polished by the steps of thousands before me. Not this time - I am here to attend the conference and to do some shopping. The conference goes well, the shopping, too.
The shops are cheaper than expected and there are fancy brands I have not seen before. The first thing I notice about the streets are not the nice buildings but the people. All are well dressed - from rich Arabs which you meet in every shop, to young gorgeous men in suits.
Fabian explains the guys in suits work in banks. That young? Sure! The banks are everywhere - solid buildings with respectable names. Fabian's father works in a bank too. With only four clients, his father's bank is one of the smallest. The conference is about to end and a fellow linguist insists on showing me some special Genevan chocolate. We go to a small shop in the old part of the city and enjoy the soft Genevan chocolate in the shadows of the big cathedral.
Do you know a special attraction we can visit in the afternoon, he asks. And our tour begins. First we go on a boat trip. The lake is huge, the water fountain really tall, there are lots of families on expensive boats just basking in the sun. We see lots of nice houses, or rather palaces. The brochure reads: the chalet on the right was the Residence of Lenin in 1914 while he was preparing the Russian revolution.
Small and dull at first sight, the house suddenly becomes somewhat mysterious and cozy. Here's Mont-Blanc, the White House Napoleon gave to Josephine, the UN building. We are both impressed. After the boat trip, we make a quick tour around the city. We see the Russian church, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the flower clock, an Egyptian exposition in the Art and History Museum, where I buy I lovely Indian postcard; we rest in few cafes in the street, see some capoeira dancers on a small square and really get an international feeling about the city. Tourists or not, I don't seem to care anymore, and the evening ends in a small restaurant where we can taste the famous fondue.
More friends join and the feast begins. Our host is a lovely old lady who only speaks French, jokes all the time and smiles at us motherly. The meal is really delicious and the old lady makes sure we always have full glasses of white wine. No water, no water, she gestures vividly and then jokes again about something most of us do not understand.
The place itself has a bit of oriental touch in blue and white. A bit drunk from the wine and the dish itself we can't refuse the dessert. The cherries in alcohol we try at the end are irresistible. We all get kisses and hugs before we plunge into the warm evening.
A year after, I still remember the soft breeze in the lit evening streets, the crowded bars, nice shops with beautiful women, the soft chocolate I had in the old town, and the nostalgic chateaus on the lakeside. After all, the German was right - Geneva is a place you definitely want to come back to. This is thanks to courtesy of Copenhagen Hotels: http://www.europe-cities.
By: Anna Kowalski
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