Two weeks ago, my husband came to visit me in Geneva for a long weekend. Normally, when there is travel involved, I get in ‘super-planner mode,’ and come up with an itinerary of activities for us to do during the trip. This time I tried a different strategy.
When plans to go to an excellent Saturday farmer’s market across the border in Ferney-Voltaire, France didn’t work out, we decided to try another approach. Taking the bus to downtown Geneva, we decided to wander aimlessly, seeing what sites and activities might present themselves to us. Here are some of my favorite activities from the weekend, some that I didn’t even know existed until our little jaunt.
The St. Pierre Cathedral is a really old church in the Old Town district of Geneva, dating back to the 13th century. It played a significant role in the Protestant Reformation, orginally under Roman Catholic rule, but now part of the Swiss Reformed Church. What I didn’t know, is that the site on which the cathedral sits has been a holy site for over 2,000 years. An archaeological site beneath the cathedral tells the story of an Allobrogian chief who was buried on the hill around 100 B.C. Originally a sacred site for an archaic religion, a Catholic church was built on the grounds in the 4th century as Geneva became a prominent stronghold in the Roman Catholic church. Visiting the site on audio-guided tour, one can see the remains of the original bapistries and mosaic floor, which now lie directly underneath the modern-day Reformed Church building.
On Sunday, we went to brunch with music at my favorite bar in Geneva, Alhambar. A weekly event in Geneva, and hailed one of the best Sunday brunches in town, one can enjoy breakfast cocktails, tea infusions, kombucha drinks, and perfectly portioned brunch entrees.
Leaving work early on Monday, we headed to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, known to be one of the best museums in all of Europe. The museum traces the history of the Red Cross movement, founded by a Geneva businessman after the 1859 Battle of Solferino, one of the most significant battles in the war for Italian independence. There is an excellent audio-guided tour available in a number of languages, old video footage from the first and second World Wars and natural disasters from all over the world, information about the Red Cross’ work in providing support to prisoners’ of war, and interactive exhibits about some of their more recent work, such as health education, disaster response, helping the victims of landmines, and reuniting families in the aftermath of war.
By wandering aimlessly through the streets of Geneva, we came across a small restaurant operated by a Portuguese family where we were served a delicious platter of fresh perch from Lake Geneva, and visited the small chapel in Old Town that was home to John Calvin and John Knox’s teachings during the Protestant Reformation. Learning from this new strategy for exploring a city, maybe next time I won’t spend so much time planning, and will just focus on being.