Plus Rousseau, the election(s), and friends from Waterville
05.11.2008 - 08.11.2008 14 °C
After over two weeks in the land of elaborate churches and the BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary) on every street corner (and, in some places, above every door), we experienced a welcome break (at least for me) from Roman Catholicism. Alas, it was a short break, as we returned to Roman Catholic-land yesterday. But, for a short while, I reveled in Reformation-land in Geneva, while Joseph enjoyed a new dimension of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau nostalgia tour.
We arrived in Geneva Wednesday evening, after another long day of traveling. The day began with trying to find out what had happened with the elections—the Presidential election as well as the election of the new Waterville Ward 2 city councilor (Joseph was the Republican candidate). News is hard to come by in Vernazza. We didn’t have a television in our room and there is no newsstand at the train station. One English speaking man on the platform was talking to a few other English speakers, telling them that Obama had won. But, could we believe him? And, aside from the news about Obama, he didn’t know much—and certainly not anything about what had happened in Waterville, Maine!
By the time we had reached Monterrosso, we had heard from several others that indeed Obama had won the election. I tried to curtail my elation, while Joseph reviewed all of the mistakes that McCain had made during the campaign. It was certainly interesting watching the campaign from so very far away. We wondered about the conversations that had taken place in recent weeks on familiar streets—places like Waterville, etc. In Italy, we had seen plenty of support for Obama—from U.S. tourists and from locals. But, still there was the question of whether or not people would really vote for him.
It was only when we got to our hotel in Geneva, with internet access, that we found out the details of the national election and learned that Joseph was defeated by a roughly 2-1 margin. On the plus side, it meant the fact that he received the wrong local election ballot (for Ward 3, not for Ward 2), did not cost him the election!
Both Joseph and I found a place of agreement, mostly, in the column written by David Brooks in the New York Times on November 4, “A Date with Scarcity.” Not optimistic, but very smart.
Anyway, on to The Reformation!
We spent much of Thursday exploring and learning about the Reformation. We started at the big Protestant cathedral in Geneva, St. Peter’s. We took a look around and then climbed the tower. After the church, we went next door to the interestingly named the “International Museum of the Reformation.”
The museum is an excellent one, with a variety of displays. Plus, they offered a great kid activity. In the Museum, information is presented in a variety of formats. In one room, we heard a young girl asking questions about the Reformation and Martin Luther and John Calvin answering her. In another room, a “theological banquet” was set up, with reformers at a dining room table discussing their views on predestination. Jean-Jacques Rousseau got the last word, which was a treat for Joseph.
My only complaint about the museum is that the label “international” is a stretch. It is really a museum of the francophone reform. Except for a brief appearance for Martin Luther at the beginning of the museum, other reformers are not really mentioned. John Calvin is the star of the museum. In the twentieth century display in the basement, male and female pioneers are displayed—but only pioneers from France, Switzerland, and, francophone Africa. Not a word about those great Congregationalists who ordained a woman in 1853!
After the museum, it was on to the archaeological excavations beneath the church. There were, apparently, three previous cathedrals on the site of the current one, and beneath it all, in the spot directly beneath the altar, what did the scientists find? The tomb of an Allobrogian (pre-Christian barbarian) leader. Ironic, no? Margaret's favorite part was the elaborate mosaic decorations on the floor of the fourth century bishop's residence.
After the museums, we marched down to the waterfront and over to the Ile Rousseau to get a photo of Geneva's monument to Jean-Jacques.
At this juncture, the kids demanded hot chocolate, and we needed some coffee, so we refueled at the Starbucks on the rive droite. With new energy, we started the "Reformation walk" recommended by the good people at the museum, which, for the record, was staffed by some of the most helpful and enthusiastic docents we encountered anywhere. We meandered across the old town of Geneva towards the starting-point, which was the "Reformation Wall." But before we reached it, we found the giant-size chess boards in the park, where the kids started a game. As Margaret started to pull ahead of John, an older local came along to give John help and advice (in French, of course). Mostly he kept saying "attack!" and "you do this!" gesturing where to put what. Naturally, at this point, Joseph helped Margaret.
But the old Genevan (on the right in the photo) was too much for Joseph, and he managed to pull out a victory for John, despite the overwhelming material advantage that Margaret and Joseph had originally secured. John was, needless to say, elated. Both kids demanded that we return the next day (which we did).
On Friday, we began with the Reformation Wall and some more giant chess. (The kids claim to want a yard-size set, with three or four foot tall kings, if anyone wants a gift suggestion). Here's Susan looking pleased with her company at last.
Then, finally, off to the Espace Rousseau, which is Geneva's museum to their most troublesome great son. The museum is located in the house where Rousseau was born, but seems to have no actual artifacts from Rousseau's own life. Instead, there are audiovisual presentations that introduce the outline of his biography and his basic ideas. There was a cd recording of his opera, but it was not even part of the main tour. The Espace did a great deal with what were probably not large resources, but on the whole the place was a disappointment.
We had a little more time remaining, so we strolled down to the waterfront and admired the "Jet d'eau," the aptly-named but pointless artificial tourist attraction created from the waters of Lake Geneva.
In mid-afternoon, we caught up with Liliana Andonova, Joe’s colleague from Colby who is currently in Geneva. Liliana and her daughters, Daniela and Nicolina, showed us around the castle in Nyon.
Then, we went back to their flat in Faunex, where Liliana’s mother (Liliana’s parents were visiting from Bulgaria) had made us a delicious dinner.
We had a great time catching up with them and seeing their little part of Switzerland, not far from where I spent a summer when I was fifteen.
We left Geneva yesterday and we are now in Paris, the last stop in the Grand Tour. It’s hard to believe!
We’ll post new photos soon.