Day five of our European Adventure was spent in Geneva, the land of John Calvin and the heart of the Reformation. To get there, we took the scenic route through more farms and over snow-peaked mountains. Who am I kidding? Every route in Switzerland is the scenic route!
We went straight up over a mountain pass, offering us spectacular views. Mary Anne did amazing in a stick shift up those windy, steep roads.
We found the snow! We intentionally drove to Geneva by way of France just so we could say we’ve been there.
“FRANCE! Oh, that’s ideal! I’d put up with anything to go!” (Name that movie.)
It was a foggy, misty day, and you can just barely make out a castle in the haze. (Or should I say, chateau.) The terrain was noticeably flatter in France, the homes were built in much different styles than in Switzerland, and the neighborhoods looked poorer and less pristine. I was surprised by the obvious differences even though we weren’t very far into France.
Mary Anne sweet talked the border patrols into stamping our passports both going into France and again back into Switzerland. Apparently it’s no longer standard procedure, but she convinced the first by telling him we were young American tourists, and the second by slyly mentioning the fact that “the others back there did it!” Listening to these conversations in French was entertaining!
We arrived and walked in the drizzling rain to find some place local and unique to eat. We found it.
This Cafe dished up some hearty, German-Swiss fare. Just look at my mouth-watering meat feast! Here’s a tip if you’re ever in a French-speaking restaurant: if you decide to order sauerkraut, don’t be a redneck and say “sour crout” or the waiter will give you a bewildered look. It’s pronounced “schroo krute.” Y’all got that, now? Good. Moving on.
The place used to be some sort of station or hang-out zone for guards in the 1600s, so the walls were lined with military paraphernalia. Oh, and paintings of John Calvin, too, of course. He’s pretty famous in those parts. They even serve a beer named after him! I’m sure Calvin would be humbled to know that he of all theologians was chosen for such an honor. ;)
Sarah and I both just had to photograph the bottle and glasses with his name on it, and the waiter was more than a little befuddled when we asked for an empty bottle to take as a souvenir. :) First butchering sauerkraut, and now this. What must he think of Americans?
You can’t really tell in this photo, but the tables were extremely close together! We were practically sharing food and conversation with the next table!
Next stop, St. Pierre’s Cathedral, the adopted home church of John Calvin during his time in Geneva.
The Cathedral, which you see was being renovated, sits on the highest point of the city, making it the focal point of Geneva. That also translates into more steep roads for us to travail!
Although we did not climb up the tower for the acclaimed spectacular view, the main floor alone was well worth the visit.
Imagine if modern day choir lofts looked like those of the 1500s, like this one!
Once upon a time someone had to light those candles!
The acoustics in this place must be amazing. What must it have sounded like to sing the psalms a capella, or hear Calvin’s sermons echo against these stone walls?
More cool doors.
This is the pulpit Calvin preached from.
Look at that massive pipe organ! Calvin did not approve of using instruments in church, so if it was there in his day, it was not played.
Off to the side was this “small” chapel with the most amazing artwork. It was like the ballroom in the animated “Beauty and the Beast”!
Leaving the church, we went around the building to the International Museum of the Reformation next door where we saw things such as the “famous” portrait of Martin Luther (below), Martin Luther’s personal bible, a 1562 Geneva Bible, and a 1535 Latin edition of the Institutes of Christian Religion, just to name a few.
This museum is where I learned that Calvin wrote Book 1 of The Institutes at age 27, and became inspired to at least read it by age 27!
We continued our Reformation adventure by visiting the Reformation Wall in the city centre.
The wall was built into the old fortified walls of the city in 1909 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, and the 350th anniversary of his founding the University of Geneva, on whose campus the wall is located.
Lest you underestimate the enormity of this monument, here’s another perspective for ya:
Yeah. I know, right?
Man, John Knox (far right) is looking rather fierce. It’s gunna be okay, buddy.
The wall is located in the Parc des Bastions (Bastions Park) in the city centre where there’s also a botanical garden and these life-size chess boards.
There remained a drizzly rain all day, but it did not slow us down one bit.
And of course, what’s a visit to Geneva without a view of the lake? These shops lining the lake were nearly all high-end retail or watch shops, such as Tissot and Rolex.
Just when we thought our day was coming to a close, Mary Anne drove us back to the Neuchâtel train station and the adventure really began! We arrived in plenty of time for our overnight train, but were told our confirmation emails would not do; we must have actual printed tickets. And the ticket office would not print them for us because they were purchased on an Austrian site, not Swiss. There were only two trains going out that evening, and the first one would be leaving soon. Mary Anne suggested going to her son and daughter-in-law’s home a five minute walk away at the chance they were home and could print tickets for us. I looked at my cheap, Made-In-China watch. We had thirty minutes til the last train left the station. So we booked it to their house–uphill all the way!
Of course they weren’t home. Not even the neighbor whom Mary Anne knew was home. We had no idea what to do. We stood in that apartment stairwell and prayed. Then Mary Anne recalled the young woman who had let us into the secured apartment building and then entered the door across the hall from her son’s. Maybe she would help us out! We knocked, but she didn’t have wifi . . . but, she did have a friend across the street who did. Maybe she would be home and would help?
We ran further up (literally!) the street and hiked up the stairs to knock yet again on a stranger’s door. She was home. And she let us come in! The first lady peeped her head out her window from down the hill and waved to the second lady to confirm our story. She was extremely gracious to allow us loaded-down travelers to burst into her home and try to explain the situation half in French and half in English! Once we retrieved our tickets, we thanked her profusely and began the sprint back to the station. We had maybe fifteen minutes at this point.
What a sight we must have been to behold! Here we were racing all over town with our backpacks and souvenir bags, knocking on strangers’ doors, and scrambling to pick up the loose items that kept falling out of our bags and pockets as we ran. As the station came closer into view, the hilarity of the situation was beginning to hit us and we had a good laugh. Well, as good as you can have while also running and panting.
We raced into the ticket office to confirm that our tickets would work for the second train. Then we checked the time again. We had ten whole minutes to spare! I think this photo says it all.
(And yes, we really were wearing bags on front and back. I told you we must have looked hilarious!)
We said our goodbyes to our amazing, sweet hostess, who was already making plans for “next time,” and settled in for the ride to Zurich, followed by the overnighter to Vienna.
And what’s a train ride without some Sudoku and Rivella?
Here’s a fun fact. “Calories” in Swiss is written as “Energy.” Now I don’t so bad about all the Swiss chocolate we ate. It’s just energy!
So . . . this photo has another hilarious backstory. But this post is already long enough, so you’ll have to just ask me about it sometime. Just come up to me and say, “Tell me about the time you shared a sleeper car with two gentlemen.” I’ll take it from there.