Everyday Europe, In Black & White

City parks are abundant and accessible in Europe.
City parks are abundant and accessible in Europe.
The beautiful landscape invites contemplation.
The beautiful landscape invites contemplation.
Some do, some observe.
Some do, some observe.
Life extends to the streets.
Life extends to the streets.
Cafes are cultural centers.
Cafes are cultural centers.
Outdoor markets as part of everyday life.
Outdoor markets as part of everyday life.

I find very few things as satisfying as walking around neighborhoods in Europe to find out what people are really like away from the tourist spots and the hustle and bustle of city center. I’m talking about those neighborhoods that never make it to travel brochures, but which are teaming with ordinary life like the one I leave behind every time I embark on a journey. Interestingly, I travel thousands of miles, spend more money that is prudent to spend, and put my joints through grueling day walks, just to observe and experience the lives of ordinary people like myself living ordinary lives like mine. Now, I grant you that this is not everyone’s cup of tea, or that it ranks up there with what most people would choose to do with their limited time and money, but for me, this relentless pursuit of “distinctive sameness” (how’s that for confusion?) is what has fueled more than 40 years of travel around the world. You could say that I am simply fascinated by all that is the common amongst the people of the world, but at the same time different. A narrow line marking the distinction between cultures and people, but for me, a demarcation zone that has fueled the pursuit of a lifetime.

In absolute terms, human behavior and culture, are rather similar. We all eat, enjoy art, labor, love, pursue happiness, experience sadness, etc., etc, etc. We just go about it differently, and that is where my insatiable interest lies: on the “unique” ways we all experience all these common traits of humanity as a result of history, culture, and geography. The Japanese people bow deeply with tears flowing down their cheeks upon seeing someone dear to their hearts after years of separation, while the Italians hug incessantly as if trying to fuse two people into one. Same feeling, different expressions. And it’s the same wherever you look, be it in what people eat, or what they do with their free time. A beautiful river with incredible landscapes invites contemplation and romance. An industrial city replete of square, concrete buildings, perhaps not as much. Thus, the factors affecting our adopted behaviors are indeed many and varied, and there’s no better place to discover these behavioral distinctions than in the neighborhoods where people disarmingly engage in them without a care in the world. In the process, I learn a lot about them, and without a doubt, a little about myself.

Geneva In Black & White

The views overlooking the Place de la Madeleine in Old Town Geneva are some of the most magnificent in the city.
The views overlooking the Place de la Madeleine in Old Town Geneva are some of the most magnificent in the city.
Perhaps the most famous landmark in Geneva, the Jet D'Eau started life as a relief valve for a city water pipe.
Perhaps the most famous landmark in Geneva, the Jet D’Eau started life as a relief valve for a city water pipe.
A typical street in Old Town Geneva during the early morning hours.
Even in crowded cities like Geneva, starting the day early before the crowds show up will always lead to some magnificent scenes.
A lady crosses the Rue du Soleil-Levant on her way to the Cour de Saint-Pierre, one of the greatest squares in Geneva.
A lady crosses the Rue du Soleil-Levant on her way to the Cour de Saint-Pierre, one of the greatest squares in Geneva.
Lovers kiss by the historical display at the Geneva Arsenal.
While most people in Geneva seem to be in a hurry, lovers still find time to kiss at the historical Geneva Arsenal.
The cafe restaurant immediately in front of the Geneva Arsenal Museum is a throwback to Europe in years past.
The cafe restaurant immediately in front of the Geneva Arsenal Museum is a throwback to Europe in years past.
The metal Pont de la Machine provides safe passage over the mighty Rhône River.
The metal Pont de la Machine provides safe passage over the mighty Rhône River.
The building housing the Dante Alighieri Association sits quite imposingly between Rue du Perron and Rue Otto Barblan.
The building housing the Dante Alighieri Association sits quite imposingly between Rue du Perron and Rue Otto Barblan.
Always good to find out that while people are curious about your photography, a simple thank you and a smile always go a long way.
Always good to find out that while people are curious about your photography, a simple thank you and a smile always go a long way.

My time in Switzerland came to an end at the cosmopolitan city of Geneva.  Had the weather cooperated a bit more, this would have been a great finale to a most wonderful journey to what has become one of my favorite countries in the world.  And while it does take more than three days (and hopefully, sunny days) to visit this wonderful city, its compact city centre and incredible transportation system are a great help in getting the most out of a limited visit, even in the non-stop rain.  Walking, however, is perhaps the most rewarding activity for visitors.  Venture out along the ritzy Quai du Mont-Blanc from the Pont du Mont-Blanc, with its magnificent hotels catering to a high-flying clientele, and then head on back via the more down-to-earth Rue Philippe-Plantamour (also home to some very good restaurants).  Cross the metallic Ponte de la Machine and spend some of those Swiss Francs along the shopping heaven that is the Rue du Marché (it changes names various times as it goes along).  And when you’ve had enough of people and crowds, get lost in old town and find one of those small cafés that hide along one of the many narrow, cobblestone streets.  Your feet may get tired, but you will hardly notice.  What you will surely notice, though, is that the time you’ve got in this incredible city will never be enough.  Befitting one of the most international cities in the world, there are a myriad of incredible museums, sights, and restaurants that will require more than a single visit to even scratch the surface of this city.  But don’t despair, because the good news is that no one will ever need a reason to visit Switzerland.  Great food, great people, and some of the most incredible scenery you will ever see in a lifetime.  Good enough for me, and I can’t wait to go back.