The mountains cup Geneva delicately in the palm of their hands, cradling, hollowing a city in the bowl left by the lake between fingers and thumbs, muffling the impact of the outside world. Watch companies and chocolatiers sell their wares at extravagant prices, their signage insistent, but never eclipsing the Alps that loom steadfastly as the clouds part, reminding you that you are protected.
Sound is hushed, streets are empty, and the air is so crisp that it burns my pollution-padded lungs as I climb the streets.
A short bus ride is all that it takes to emerge at the border, and I walked into France without realising until a man at a till informed me that he couldn’t take my francs, because I was in France. The houses stand solidly, echoes of the ones I longed to see after repeated viewings of Heidi when I was a little girl.
Switzerland has been on my travel list for a long time, an exotic land, and while it is full of the details that I longed to see with my own eyes, there is also a muted quality to all of it. I did not realise that the neutrality and the fear of war ran so deeply through the fissures and veins of the bedrock of this nation, hollowed our of fierce mountains, surrounded by key players on every side. It isn’t passionate as Italy or insistent as France or dogmatic as Germany, but perhaps it is all three.
But as Juliette and I climbed through the snow to a peak of Mount Saleve, we finally pierced through the blanket of safety and invisibility. Lake Geneva lay on one side, Mount Blanc towered on the other, and the roar of silence invaded my veins and ran through my body, invigorating and bringing peace in an instant.
I am glad to have been here, to have wandered in the quiet grey/blue. It is a nice change to the dirty grey chaos of my home. My shoulders have settled a bit.
Despite the beauty, when my aeroplane breaks through the clouds at London City Airport today, I don’t think that I will be too sad.
But perhaps that speaks of four too-short nights spent in a bunker, and not about Geneva at all.