After one “rigorous” month of work devoid of the ample days off I experienced in October, December ushered in a new season not only of the holiday kind, but also with free days from work! If you haven’t noticed already, Spain likes celebrating at any time and I was blessed with a couple days without work allowing for me and Anna to take our first trip together since we went abroad. The story of how we ended up in Switzerland was anything but methodical. After realizing a ticket to London might be a little steep, we made a list of the cities we could fly to for the least amount of money, read a little blurb on each, and booked our trip to Geneva. Little did we know that affordable ticket would quickly be supplemented by plenty of expensive train rides, food, and lodging, but like I said, we were indulging our spontaneous side.
We arrived in Geneva late Thursday night, found our hostel, and cashed in for the night so we could wake up early to catch the English tour of the United Nations. We saw a lot of the different halls where meetings are held and even caught one in session. It only reinforced the international feeling the entire city emanated from the moment we stepped off the plane.
Afterwards, we made our way into the city to see what Geneva was all about. We explored their big cathedral, Maison Tavel museum showcasing it’s history, park, and anywhere else that would let us in. Little did we know we were visiting Geneva on the weekend of it’s biggest holiday, the equivalent of our Independence Day called L’Escalade. This 400 year old celebration is marked by lots of mulled wine, vegetable soup and parades. We found ourselves in the midst of it all by nightfall.
Saturday we awoke to catch a train to Montreux, a town about an hour outside of Geneva that is known for Chillon’s Castle. While the entire castle was beautiful, the views from above were absolutely breathtaking.
Since it’s Christmas, their was huge market scattered throughout the town. At the castle there was a medieval themed market, while in the city center there was a more traditional one where we ate a French dish called tartiflette.
Then we hopped on the scenic Golden Pass train for a three-hour journey into the heart of the Alps. We passed through charming towns, alongside lakes and green pastures, and snow-capped mountains until we arrived in Interlaken, our stop for the night. Apparently, the town residents haven’t been doing their snow dance because the area was devoid of the white stuff I had been hoping for. This made it impossible to snowshoe or sled like we were hoping. Instead, canyon jumping and paragliding were the activities available and being strapped for cash, we decided to cut our visit in this town short and instead, make our way to the country’s capital, Bern.
We spent the afternoon walking around Bern, taking in the cathedral, another Christmas market and an old house of Albert Einstein where I found out more about the scientist than I ever imagined. Since we hadn’t had Swiss cheese fondue yet, we knew what we wanted for lunch.
Sunday evening we made it back to Geneva in time for the Proclamation Parade, the culmination of the L’Escalade festivities, and it felt right to end the trip just like we started it. We did have a little time to spare on Monday before catching or flight back to Madrid to visit CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. While I understood probably one percent of all our tour guide had to say, I felt smart just being there.
Now I am back in Madrid and anxiously awaiting my return home for the holidays. Until then, I am planning on some holiday gatherings, including the classic ugly sweater party, present shopping, and I guess some teaching along the way!