Monday, January 5, 2009

Let the adventure begin!

Saturday...We hit the road before 7 am, and the amount the car was packed gave new meaning to the word, full, as you can see. The kids were all excited for this trip, especially Zander. He was the first kid out of bed and stayed awake during the entire trip - he loves looking out the window - and let's face it - there was a lot to see! We had our google maps directions but I am not the best gun in the world and we got lost a few times - we were supposed to get to the airport by 9:30am to pick up Mark and ended up meeting him at the red cross museum at around 10:30... This was after circling around the UN building more than once - how amazing to be where the UN meets - this is what I think of when I think of Geneva - peace!
Finding Mark was wonderful! We were so happy to finally find him and have our first official vistor as well - it was stressful worrying about him and wondering where he was... He made it in one piece (although understandably tired!) Here he is admiring a statue of the first creator of the Red Cross - this man also was one of the creators of the original Geneva Convention and the first person to ever win the Nobel Peace prize - as you can see, he really made a big impression on me, as I can recall all these nifty bits of trivia.... however, do you think I can remember his name? No.... So, of course, I turn to wikipedia - the guy was HENRY DUNANT (thought he deserved some capital letters) and here is more information about him and the history of the Red Cross if you are interested
The entire museum was really amazing. It was so interesting to learn about the history of the Red cross - the kids were fascinated. There was a display with photos of walls between warring countries or just walls between countries to keep people out. Israeli Palestinian, Mexico America, Ireland/North Ireland, Kashmir etc.... At the end there was a block of wood on which you could write what freedom meant to you - Zander said it was when no one makes you be a slave and Callie said it was when there are no walls between friends and family... we wrote their comments on the block. I have been trying to think about what freedom would mean to me and I think it is to be able to be accepted, valued and respected for who you are and the choices you make. Even if you don't agree with those choices, to not judge people and think you have the right to tell them what to do, as long as what they are doing isn't somehow harming others. We saw lots of videos showing disasters etc.. really interesting to see how the red cross has evolved over time. So sad to think about how, only 130 years ago, the wounded from battles would be left on the field for days before someone might come to help them (if they were lucky enough to live that long). It made me feel grateful for the angels that work, voluntarily, for the red cross. One thing that really made an impact on the kids was the display about land mines along with movies they show in various countries warning children of the dangers of unexploded land mines. Zander was excited to note that his Himalaya coat has a red cross on it - must be because he is so helpful!

We walked down towards the buses, passing the Ariana Museum and a statue of Ghandi. He is one of my personal favorite souls. Whenever the kids are vengeful, I say, remember "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" (Ghandi) and our sticker mobile van's racing stripe featured the Ghandi quote "You must be the change you wish to see in the world". We always try to do this. Hey, don't you think everyone should go live abroad for a few years??? We also saw the United Nations building - amazing to think of all the world's leaders gathering in this place, searching for peaceful ways to solve problems. There was a giant chair in front of the building missing one leg - a symbolic outcry against landmines and cluster bombs - these bombs don't drop in one targeted spot but rather explode into lots of bombs all over - killing many civilians. The UN is trying to get these bombs outlawed internationally - sadly the US still uses these bombs and won't sign on to the treaty.

We left the museum and slowly made our way down to the central part of the city - we went to the Jardin Botanique and saw some amazing plants and also passed the World Trade Organization - unfortunately there were no protests in progress.... We then walked over to the immense Lac Leman. We ate lunch on a pier and warmed up.

We then walked by the Brunswick Monument - I saw online that Brunswick was this rich person who left all his money to the city on the condition that they built an obnoxiously huge tomb for him. Well they sure did! Here is our Griffin perched near an amazing statue of a gryphon...

We had a great lunch on a local pier and then went over the bridge and found the lovely small cathedral Madeliene. How in this city of hustle and bustle, would one find such a gem? Well, it was easy to follow the neon, glowing, bar sign that was posted next to the door and discover the quiet beauty within. Yet another example of the inseparable intermarriage of old and new that sometimes seems so incongruous it makes me laugh out loud. André wanted to show this shot of the Tavern de Madeliene - right next to the belltower of the church - how convenient! (maybe they lent them the OPEN sign - or they share it - for the church during the day, and the bar at night)

Onward and upward to the main event - the Cathedral de St. Pierre (at least, I think that's what it was called) But, who really cares about that detail??? The cool thing about this place is it is where the great John Calvin, one of the main founding fathers of the protestant revolution, preached and argued for many years. Hence, Geneva was one of the main centers of the Protestant revolution and still has a largely protestant population (as opposed to France, heavily Catholic). We were also excited about this cathedral because you could spend only a few euros and get access to the top of the cathedral. What a climb - it was amazing to get a different perspective on these colossal buildings. One of the things that was surprising to me was that the ringing bells from the carillon were not deafening, even though we were so close - yet you can hear them all over the city. Modern day speaker makers need to tap into some of that technology! It was also wonderful to see how ornate the carillon walls were and we got some great views of Geneva and the lake, as well as a gorgeous sunset over the mountains. It was also amazing to see the giant beams that support the cathedral from the inside.

We split up with Mark - leaving him with one of our phones to call us once he figured out how to get to Les Contamines. We head back through Geneva in the dark - which is neat because it is still covered in holiday lights, making the town places full of magic. Finally we make it back to the car - which is now utterly, completely jammed packed, overloaded since we are now also carrying Mark's 2 giant bags! We spend the next 3 hours trying to get to our new home, it should have taken about an hour but (even though we don't have a real 'dinner' just snacks in the car) we get a bit lost, have to stop for potty breaks and miss our exit (of course) and it takes 20 minutes to find a place to turn around...we finally make it just in time to dump off everything so André can go and pick up Mark at the bus station 40 minutes away...whew! The apartment is super tiny but we all manage to fit. I am grateful Mark's cot fits next to the fold out couch - just barely!


HarvieFamily said...

The pictures of the architecture are beautiful! And a bird of paradise in the cold? Who knew? Glad to see Mark made it!

Jeuce said...

I am so glad to see that you made it!!! I was nervous after the last post I read! Enjoy every minute.



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