Friday, September 30, 2016

A Reprieve in Geneve

I spent most of last week in Geneva.  I’d gone to visit WIPO.  This is a pretty big deal, visiting WIPO.  As a Midwestern city girl, WIPO is much like Harvard or New York, one of the places on tv that doesn’t really exist in real life.  But it does, and like Harvard and New York, now I’ve seen it.

My three favorite things about Geneva were the roads, the silence, and the shutters.  The cheese definitely deserves an honorable mention.  And I mean the cheese at the grocery store, the big blocks of hefty, strong Swiss-made cheeses, and maybe a few of the soft French cheeses.  I could easily get by on meals of bread and a bit of cheese.  The cheese was priced about the same as American brands of cheese back in DC, so it was still a bit of a splurge.  (In DC, these are usually from Pennsylvania and Vermont and occasionally from Wisconsin.)  But of course, these types of cheeses would be imported back home and thus far more expensive.  My big find for the cheese was a tube of mustard that went splendidly with the Emmantaler and with fresh rolls and baquettes.  I wasn’t completely sure it was mustard, but “moustarde” and “Dijon” both sounded like mustard-y words to me, so I took my chances.  Boy was that a good gamble; it was so delicious!  Cleared the sinuses and woke you up really good too, perfect for a bright breakfast.

The skyline in Geneva is an odd mix of glassy new, blocky mid-century and quintessentially Swiss.  The different styles nearly all had some type of exterior window covering.  Some had awnings that could be dropped down, others had horizontal blinds that rolled down.  A few had metal doors similar to the ones on mass storage units in the U.S.  But my favorite were the shutters.  Real shutters that opened and closed instead of being silly ornaments stuck to the sides of windows for which they are clearly far too small.  I loved to walk down the streets and look at all the variety of shutter positions, latched open against the building, shut tight, flung open and hanging ajar high above the bustling roads.  Someday, I would like a home with shutters.

The streets were narrow and made of all sorts of different materials, sometimes pavement, sometimes brick, sometimes cobblestone.  I struggled to tell street from sidewalk from bike lane from tram line.  At first, this made me very nervous as I had no idea if I was supposed to be where I was in any given spot.  But then I realized, everyone was okay pretty much everywhere.  People were sharing the space, paying attention, deferring to others as needed.  Everyone seemed to acknowledge that others needed to use the same space.  It was so much nicer than the I-have-a-right-to-be-exactly-where-I-am-wherever-that-is-all-the-time mentality from back home.  Much less ground was needed to accommodate the movement of massive numbers of people.  And with narrower streets, it felt less like one was traversing a big city or long distances; it was easier to walk a mile surrounded by buildings and activity than across stretches of pavement and parking lots.

And with sharing the space and moving all those people came an immeasurably pleasant silence.  Oh, there was talking and laughter and engine rumbles and tram dings and the noise of a city, but there was no incessant automated yelling like one must endure on a daily basis back home.  No “STEP AWAY FROM THE DOORS!  THE DOORS ARE CLOSING!”  No “THE FARE FOR THIS BUS IS ONE DOLLAR AND SEVENTY-FIVE CENTS!”  No “THE WALK SIGN IS ON TO CROSS!  THE WALK SIGN IS ON TO CROSS!”  Even at the grocery store automated check-outs, no “UNEXPECTED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA!  UNEXPECTED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA!”  No glaring signs screaming at you to don’t do this or not do that, to stay away, to go this way and to not go that.  No we-must-put-warning-labels-on-everything-or-someone-will-sue-us-signs.  It was so nice.  So refreshing.  So amazing to be in a place where people were left to get by on their common sense; and you know what, they did ok.  Don’t want to get hit by a tram?  Move when the tram is coming.  People open the tram, bus and train doors themselves by pushing a button.  If the door is closing, push the button and it will open again.  And the people are so polite.  Not in the Southern or Midwestern smiling and speaking nicely polite.  In a very matter-of-fact way that said “I acknowledge your existence and your need to get where you’re going, too.”  And that was that.  It was so very pleasant.  I want to live in a world like that all the time.

1 comment:

Munchkinhead said...

Me too. Yo both wanting shutters and living in a world like that.