Way more impressive example of the many names one city can go by than Luzern. (German, French, and English)
On New Year’s Day, Jeff and I took the 3 hour train ride to Geneva in the french speaking part of Switzerland. Geneva is the second largest city in Switzerland (first being Zürich), and is within spitting distance of France. The French speaking part of Switzerland is called “Romandie,” I’m told that can be roughly translated to “potato trench” but I’m not betting any money on it. Geneva is the international city of Switzerland and is the home to the United Nations building as well as the Red Cross. Of course, it is also where the Geneva Convention (for those of you how don’t remember, this is the international convention that decided the rules and practices of war, ie don’t shoot medics) occurred. One of the more interesting people of Swiss history (though you won’t find much immortalizing of him) is Henry Dunant. He is the founder of the Red Cross as well as an influential figure connected to the Geneva Convention. He was a banker, and after seeing the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino, he set forth on his quest for human rights. Despite all of his humanitarian accomplishments, he died depressed and alone on the other side Switzerland in Heiden. He is the recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize (there are two “first” ones though) but he did not spend his winnings and gave them to the Heiden Hospital to reserve a bed for anyone who needed it, but couldn’t afford it.
But more about Geneva. Jean Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, a branch of Protestantism, called Geneva home from 1536 to 1564. During this time the whole city followed a strict Protestant influenced set of laws, no dancing, early curfew, no ornament (such as jewelry or fancy clothes and decorated buildings) and they also followed “the protestant work ethic” which is basically to work really ridiculously hard. Geneva still has an air to those humble and serious beginnings, though obviously not as strict, with some playful flairs. That seemed to be emphasized on the day we were there, but I think if we had gone on a non-holiday, the place would of seemed much more joyful.
More on Swiss history, Switzerland has had a few civil wars, but nothing as serious as its neighboring countries or in America. The main cause for these wars is religion, with cities and cantons either being Catholic or Protestant. This is still a kind of big deal, when we registered with the kreisburo here, they asked us what our religion was, later we found out that individuals are taxes based on their religious affiliations.
Our day in Geneva was pretty quiet. It being New Year’s Day, basically no shop was open and the streets were dead. Though, there was the remains of what seemed to be a wicked New Year’s Eve. There is a pretty amazing St. Peter’s church though it was closed so we couldn’t go inside. We were able to find the wall of Reformation (the conservative minded shrine could also be an apt name) which had large sculpted figures of Protestant somebodies, such as Jean Calvin, an American pilgrim, and someone who looks like the Quaker Oats icon. Other note-worthy things was pac-man dedicated lighting all around the water front, a sign forbidding people to pee in a playground, lots of pretty swans, and a statue showing the feminine representation of Geneva joining the Confederation of Helvetia (Switzerland).