My train rolled into Geneva at 5:30 pm and the dark was just setting in. I got out and started to walk to my hostel when I saw the snowboarders standing waiting to get on the train and that’s when it set in that I was in Switzerland. And that I was in the land of my lover…Roger Federer.
I walked to my hostel nervous about my first official alone hostel experience. I am one of those people who has a hard time with hostels. I’m outgoing and love meeting people but when its forced I feel like I’m back in college and its freshman year where you walk around asking if people will be your friend. My nightmare. So I walked into that hostel (Geneva Youth Hostel) with my positive thinking cap on. When I walked into my room there were two Canadian girls there talking about what they were planning on doing that evening which was eating fondue. I quickly channeled my inner freshman spirit and invited myself along. It ended up being just fine.
We dined right on Lake Geneva at a restaurant called La Buvette des Bains. Its was at the end of a pier where the public swimming area and the public bathhouse are. It definitely has the hole in the wall feeling so instantly I felt like it was going to be good. It also almost felt like you were sitting in a cabin in the mountains somewhere. We showed up without reservations and were lucky enough to snag some seats even though there were lots of empty tables. When they pointed out their reservation system they pointed to a wall of post its. They were very advanced, but once again another sign it was going to be good. Another interesting thing about this restaurant is it is community dinning so we got sat at table of eight with four seats already occupied. We didn’t have to deal with the awkward small talk because our neighbors spoke French which was good but we might have missed some potential best friends though.
Fondue is the national dish of Switzerland. It is traditionally made with cheese, wine, seasoning, garlic and kirsch. Kirsch is a fruit brandy traditionally made with cherries. You can get fondues with different things in them like mushrooms, onions, meats, etc. The earliest record of fondue dates back to the late 1600’s and at that point they added eggs to it which makes it like a souffle as well. It was created for winter times by peasants in the mountains because they cooked what they had; bread, cheese and wine. Fondue took a big turn when cornstarch was added in 1905 which made it not separate and very smooth. There is controversy over whether the dish was created by the French or the Swiss but the Swiss locked in as theirs in 1930.
The fondue was delicious. It was hearty, earthy, and immediately stick to your ribs good, which was good considering it was probably below zero with windchill (I’m for sure exaggerating). We just got bread to dip in our cheese but you can also get a meat plate that has carne secca, a dried Spanish meat, pickles, and pearl onions. Fondue in Geneva, since it has a heavy French influence, is made with half gruyère and Fribourg-style vacherin, which is a cow’s milk cheese. Another littler fact is we never found chocolate fondue. Clearly an American thing.
We finished our bread when there was still a little bit of cheese left but we weren’t too upset and didn’t order more because we were pretty full. We got some strange looks when we didn’t finish our fondue but we didn’t understand why. It was at the next restaurant in the old town that I read about how you are supposed to finish fondue. The crusty, not burnt, cheese crisp the cheese turns into at the bottom of the pot is the best part of fondue. They sometimes put a splash of wine on it to help it become golden. Clearly I didn’t do enough research on my fondue. Who know there would be these secrets.
We walked around the old town and stopped in for hot chocolate and crème brûlée. I also made sure to use a Suisse Credit ATM. I felt like that was something you have to do.
I got up the next morning for sunrise; it was at 8 a.m. so it was not impressive. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy on top of the alps so it wasn’t the best sunrise but still pretty.
St. Pierre Cathedral
The famous flower clock.
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