Thursday, October 19, 2006

First post

Hi, I'm a student from Ireland, and I've moved to Geneva for four months as part of the Erasmus exchange programme. I've decided to attempt to make a record of the next four months, mainly for myself, and mainly to put up some photos that I'm happy with. I'm going to steer completely clear of describing the people that I'm over with, eight other students from my university; not because I have bad things to say (on the contrary I've been extremely lucky and we all get on as a group), but because I'd feel a little uneasy talking about people on something that is published to the world - even if I am the only one who will ever see it. So it'll probably seem as if I'm on this trip on my own, while in fact I'm with a group of funny, easy-going, up for a laugh people, without which I would probably be going ever so slightly mental.

I'll start off with the first few days, and while I'd love to write a detailed account I really couldn't be bothered. After a uneventful flight, we landed, and I stayed the first night in a dorm in a cheap hostel, and the second night in an individual room, in another slightly less cheap hostel. I was expecting the worst, but both were surprisingly fine. They were definitely basic, but they were Swiss basic, which means that the rooms, toilets and showers were flawlessly clean and everything was very efficient. I guess coming from somewhere like Ireland you expect a slightly low standard when it comes to dirt-cheap accommodation. For posterity (or something) here's a picture of the street the first hostel was on:

I came over with no permanent accommodation arranged; not through lack of trying, and this was something that was playing on my mind from the moment we set foot in the city. This problem didn't last long though, thanks to a mixture of blind luck, and also good old Irish clannishness (with I severely doubt is a word, but anyway) Several others in the group had managed to find accommodation in a student residence, and when they walked through the door for the first time were surprised to be greeted by 'Conas a ta tu?' - the Irish for "How are you?". In a perfect example of 'luck of the Irish' it turned out that one of the people working in the residence was from Derry, and within a few days had somehow managed to find us as room there, this in a city which apparently has a 'grave crisis' of accommodation, for students in particular. So we basically fell on our feet - a comparatively cheap room, with rent and wireless Internet included. The residence is... interesting, to say the least, but I think I'll leave the description for another time.

So with that worry out of the way, we took to the streets of Geneva for some sightseeing, as we didn't have to begin college for a couple of days. Geneva is built on the shore of a lake (Lake Geneva, surprisingly), and of course the Jet D'Eau, a 140 metre man-made waterspout is the most famous landmark and can be seen from much of the city:

The lake shore is thronged with tourists, and it's funny to see little groups of people where ever you look, standing with their back to the jet, posing for the obligatory 'I was there' photo'. I quite like the jet, I think it's an elegant and imaginative idea for a landmark. It's also extremely impressive close up, with the spray in your face and the sound of thousands of litres of water being hurled 140 metres into the air:

The following couple of days involved a couple of leisurely strolls through the touristy parts of Geneva, with me snapping frantically - I'm no photographer but I love taking pictures. My tactic is to take as many as possible, with only a vague sense of composition and light. Hopefully that will change as I practise: I'm certainly doing an awful lot of that!

Right so, I think post up a couple of pictures. I'm going to make a conscious effort to stay away from the typical tourist shots, but I'm sorry to say that I'm weak. There's a reason things become over-photographed: everybody wants to take a good picture, and impressive buildings and landmarks usually make good ones. Also, the Internet connection I'm working on seems to be run by an arthritic sloth with a penchant for cheap gin, on his day off. So appreciate the amount of frustrating time this is taking me!

Geneva is littered with neo-classical architecture, and it's tempting to take pictures of every one, although you do get sick of it after a while:

The Geneva convention, and other important stuff, were signed here:

Autumn is a nice time to be in Geneva - and a great time to photograph. There are trees everywhere, all deciduous thankfully, which means fantastic colours all over the place:

We spent Sunday morning complaining a bit about the strict laws in Switzerland that mean that nearly everything except for maybe a couple of petrol stations are closed on Sundays. However, we walked to a park in the centre of the city, and the reason and logic behind the laws were instantly apparent. There were families everywhere; soaking up the late winter sunshine, watching and playing chess with giant pieces in the park, just generally enjoying themselves. The chess-playing is something which seems to be done with a great degree of gravity but a definite sense of fun, as this player deep in contemplation while his opponent makes his move would probably agree with:

Sunday is still a day of rest in Geneva, and I would assume it is in the rest of Switzerland. It's highly commendable that in probably one of the most consumerist societies in the world (You can buy just about every expensive designer item you could possibly think of) they can still have a law that puts the enjoyment and mental well-being of the ordinary individual over profits - for one day of the week at least.

Two more generic 'touristy' shots (I don't mean to use that condescendingly, I don't see myself as some sort of high-brow artisty type or anything, I just realise that it's probably a bit pointless publishing pictures that you could find superior versions of on the Genevan tourist board website) The first is the reformation wall at the edge of the park I mentioned, and the second is the UN European headquarters - I've never been so afraid of taking a picture before - I decided to go way back and use the zoom lens. I was afraid of being carpet bombed in case I accidentally took a picture of the wrong person or something:

There are waterfountains everywhere - not particular exciting but I just like this shot:

I took this basically by accident, and it's one of my favourite photos since coming to Geneva - pity it's the French flag, not the Swiss one! It does illustrate to a degree the extent of the Frenchness of the town. I was expecting blue-eyed blonde-haired Heidi types, just speaking with a French accent. On the contary, the people here are dark with brown eyes, and the architecture in most of the city would remind you of something from Paris or another French town:

The next two were taken from the shore of the lake - not much else I can say about them really: That Geneva has swans and flowers perhaps? (Who'd a thunk it?)

Well now wasn't that fun? That's everything for now - this blogging malarkey takes an unhealthy amound of time and I actually have to get up at a reasonably early time tomorrow! Oh the humanity!