So Thursday I woke up early and headed out. After my long walk the day before I figured today was a day of standing around and looking at things. I already knew I was going to go to the Fondation Martin Bodmer, a rare book museum which seemed to be open only Thursdays between 2 and 6pm and the odd Friday so this was going to be my only chance. So the question was, what do I do with my morning?
Well… Geneva, in addition to being home of knives and neutrality, is home to the European headquarters of the United Nations and, according to the map the nice guy at the tourist office gave me, this was one of those “must see” places and I thought I could figure out how to get there, so it was off to the UN for me!
Of course, when I got there, there was a huge line and most of them were tour groups (and of course, no English signs)so I got in the back of the line and prepared to wait for my turn. A girl got into line behind me who also didn’t speak much English (she lived in France, which, as you may or may not know, almost completely surrounds Geneva – In fact, my hotel was in France so I was crossing international borders just to go to bed at night). We exchanged a few words but nothing much… I told her I lived in Hungary and explained a little bit about my tiny village and she smiled, which I thought was nice. Then the guard looked at us, asked how many we were (We each told him “1”) and then pulled us in front of the groups and sent us inside. Of course, there were no instructions on the inside so we stood for a few minutes until I went up to a lineless window and asked about the tour. Sure enough, that was where we had to go. So I called my new friend over and we signed up for a tour. Being the UN, we had to show passports in order to get in, so I pulled out mine, and that was fine, but when she did, I noticed her passport was Hungarian! Her indulgent smile when I was describing Mezotur wasn’t due to any type of communication gaps… she knew the town! She was in France working for the semester and would be going back to Hungary at the end of the year! The whole world is Hungarian if you look! At this point, we exchanged names, Her’s is Zsuzsa, and we became tour buddies!
The tour itself was pretty interesting. We got to see a number of meeting rooms and chambers, which, to some, may not be all that interesting, but then again, what do you expect from the UN? All they do there is hold meetings. For me, I gotta say, there was a slight catch in my throat when we walked into the main chamber and saw the huge United Nations logo on the wall. No, this isn’t where Kruschev took off his shoe, but it was still impressive. World policies were decided in these rooms.
We also got to see a bit of the old building which was the original headquarters of the League of Nations, predecessor of the UN. On the bridge to the old building we could look out and see Mont Blanc. The guide said it was unusual since the sky was usually overcast, but today was brilliant – sunny and relatively warm.
After the tour, Zsuzsa and I said good bye (she had to get back to work) and I headed off, camera in hand, sweatshirt in bag, to walk along the banks of Lac Leman on the way to catch my bus to the museum.
As I said, the weather was beautiful. UN workers were jogging or eating or working in the green park which paralleled the water and I was just enjoying the sights and sounds. At one point I looked inland and saw a mansion of sorts with some people sitting in front eating or reading, but that wasn’t unusual. What was unusual was the two parabolic dishes set up on either side of the courtyard. Now, I’ve been to enough science museums to know that’s an experiment in sound waves so unless the owner of this particular mansion was a HUGE science geek, this was probably some sort of exhibit hall.
I was right.
And it was free (something I was coming to realize didn’t happen often in Geneva, where a Mcdonald’s meal can run you $12) so I went in. I figured I had a few minutes to spare.
The museum had an exhibit on force so there were a lot of gears and pulleys and water wheels on display. And then their permanent displays were all on the history of science so overall, a very cool, very informative hour or so (I could imagine this would be a place to bring the kids on a rainy weekend). Then it was time to move on.
I stopped at the lighthouse across from the Jet D’eau and saw some interesting sculpture and then found my bus to get out to the Bodmer.
The Bodmer is in a suburb, I guess, called Cologny, which seems like the Bel Air of Geneva. Lots of big houses with lake views! And the Bodmer itself? Amazing! It’s actually open more than just thursdays and it’s a beautiful facility, really well designed. The special exhibition they had going on was on medical texts dating from the 800s (scrolls) up through the 1600s (William Harvey On The Blood). I got the audio tour (and the teacher discount, which doesn’t really exist but he gave it to me anyway) and this was the only downside… there were about 250 items in the exhibit and the audio guide talked about maybe 175 of them in significant detail. It was fascinating but
a bit overwhelming at times. And once I was done seeing the special collection I had a look at the permanent items, which included several Shakespeare pieces (a First Folio amongst them) and a Gutenberg Bible! Very impressive, I must say. I was there for a good three plus hours and probably could have gone back for more on a different day to see more of the collection.
The bus to and from this area doesn’t come very often, so when I finally left the gallery, I had a bit of time to wait. I decided to get a coffee in a little shop just up the road from the bus stop. While talking to the girl working, she mentioned the beautiful sunset and that I should go to a park just up the road to really get a good look at it. I checked the bus schedule, another one would be coming along in a bit so I had time to go for a walk.
As I made my way to the view point, I passed a bunch of really nice houses, one of which had a plaque on the wall outside proclaiming Lord Byron had stayed there in 1816…
The Villa I really wanted to see and all of a sudden, here it was, right in front of me. Needless to say I was pretty damn excited! So pictures were taken of the house and the sunset and I eventually made it back to the center of town where I made it back to my hotel.
Day two in Geneva proved to be a huge success. I couldn’t wait to see what Friday would bring!