Thursday, November 30, 2006
Geneva was special among the European towns I visited. Geneva was distinct for many reasons. That was the first place I saw, I was put up in a nice hotel and was there for a whole week. Also Switzerland being one of those really exclusive countries and the general prosperity was almost paradise for a gaping third world type. I walked a lot about the town, exploring the night zones, the clubs, the cabarets, talking to prostitutes waiting at corners, it was all so new for me. I watched my first topless cabaret, well it was my first cabaret anywhere. The really sunlight was the most amazing for me. I had a vague impression of the Medditteranean Yellow and it was so invigorating to just be there even if for just a few days. The last two pictures in this post was my last day in Geneva and I was suffering my bout of an acute 'morning after' sickness.
Lake Geneva or Lec Leman as the lake is called in French is the center of Geneva. The lake is also open to water traffic till September and was unfortunately closed while I was there in end-October. It was cold and breezy, the lake was the source of icy winds. One morning while I was rushing to the workshop venue at GIIS, I thought my ears would crack up and fall, thats how cold it seemed. The lake had lots of ducks and even swans and full of boats and since most of the days were sunny, the light on the lake was attractive and the perfect meditteranean yellow.
So the first real contact with Europe came when I smoothly exited through Geneva airport. The first sense activated was the sense of smell and I took in that gulp of mountain fresh air. I was travelling with a friend and it took us atleast 45 minutes to figure out our way to the Gare Carnovan (Main Station) from the airport. We had detailed instructions from the GIIS about how to make our way to the Gare Carnovan with maps and train/tram numbers and even fare. So we took a train and the getting the ticket from the automated machine took us a long time, maybe 10 minutes or so and with some help from an 'uncle' we did manage to take the short ride and arrive at our destination.
Very obviously as a third world citizen, I noticed the immaculate cleanliness, the organisation, the smoothness of services and the very quiet station, sometimes it felt eerie but well thats development for you.
So from the main station we were expected to walk it to the hotel or take a tram going towards Nations and get off at stop two. So we again tried to figure the ticket machine out and we were even more clueless, till my companion's brain wave put us in the tram but in the wrong direction. We managed to get off and lugged our way back to get the tram in the opposite direction. There was actually a Sardarji with his what I suppose newly wed wife on a honey moon who were also eyeing the ticketing machine. The Sardarji gave us a vulnerable smile and admitted that he had also just arrived and had no clue while his wife was stand offish in a, "I am pretty sort of way".
These pictures below are during the time when we were lugging our way back to catch the tram in the right direction.
I had this terrible urge to take as many pictures as I could on the road because they are so different from Indian roads and the colours and the sophisticated transport system...the trams, the buses....
Friday, November 24, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
I was heading for a workshop of "Young Scholars of the Global South" organised by the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland. We, 'young scholars' were expected to share our phd research and findings with each other and provide comments over a period of five working days. It was an informal setting and we had people from all parts of the world in the group of 13. Some of the countries where the participants came from were Brazil, Mexico, Uganda, India and Phillipines.
So this was the setting. Being an aspirant traveller, Western Europe worked as a heady charm in applying for the workshop and being selected was an exultant feeling. I decided to use the workshop to launch myself in the select group of people who have travelled through bits of Europe. The Swiss Visa (Switzerland is not part of the Schengen or the common European Union Visa) was not a difficult process owing to the organisational abilities of the GIIS. However, to see the countries bordering Switzerland, I would need a second visa, the Schengen or the common European Union visa. Staying true to my penchant for being late, I secured the Schengen Visa (Schengener Staaten) from the German Embassy in New Delhi five days before my departure. There were moments of panic, when I was certain that I would not be granted the Schengen visa owing to my poor documenting abilities as well as my skills at being badly organised. In times like these, I felt a surge of pity for myself at being so close to the 'promised land' and yet so far. In my mind Geneva, which was surrounded by France from three directions and Switzerland, which was closely bordered by Italy and Germany, was a box in which I was enclosed and while I could stand on my tip toe and peer into the above countries, I would not be able to visit them due to the absence of a visa!
But all's well that ends well. And so I was on the Air Canada flight to Zurich, enroute to Geneva. I have been told that premier airlines use their worst aircrafts/services for the South Asian sector, I havent travelled much so I cannot vouch for the veracity of that claim. But compared to my last outing abroad on Singapore Airlines, Air Canada was a poor cousin. I wanted a moniter to watch my own movies on the flight, something I was really looking forward too. But the aircraft had no back of seat personal moniters but rather shared ones in front of the respective cabins and a bigger projection screen with bad resolution and worse choice of movies. Mercifully, it was a night flight and I could sleep most of the 8 hours of the flight to Zurich.
Never mind the airports my motherland offers to visitors but last year an eight hour transit in Singapore airport had made airports a fetish from me and everything was judged by such high standards. The transit lounge at Changi Airport in Singapore is huge with bars, cafes, resturants and shopping malls. Zurich Flughaufen (German for airport) was not dissapointing for me in the three hours I spent there. Then there was the heady feeling of being part of the an International/global travelling population. And so I boarded my flight to Geneva, a short 30 mins Swiss Air flight with chocolates as refreshment and when I ate it on the train to the main station in Geneva from Geneva airport, I realized that it was ummm gorgeous.