This last Friday marked the end of the first chapter of my year abroad. Waiting beside my gate at Geneva Airport, it was strangely comforting to be surrounded by Mancunian accents talking loudly about everything British, from the football to the weather. That said, landing in Manchester to be greeted by a surly passport officer and a roaring gale made me long for the rain-free skies and (mostly) lovely people of my host city.
Now I’m back in Wales, I’ve found myself making lots of comparisons – both positive and negative – between Switzerland and the UK. For example, it’s great to be back with my family and friends, and I certainly don’t miss being pestered for money every time I stand at the Plainpalais tram stop. On the other hand, I’m already pining for my morning croissant and the mountains of Snowdonia don’t seem quite as big anymore.
By the time I left, the Christmas spirit had well and truly descended on Switzerland and Geneva was taking the festivities seriously. On the Rue du Rhône, home to nearly every fashion and watch designer you can think of, there were no tacky neon lights in sight. Instead, Christian Louboutin’s shop had made a Christmas tree out of their iconic red heels, while Gubelin jewellers were proudly displaying a life-sized reindeer and sleigh on their roof. Geneva also has a number of small Christmas markets and outdoor skating rinks dotted around the city.
I’m slightly ashamed to say that Christmas markets are one of the highlights of my entire year. There’s something about that mulled wine-gingerbread-wood smell that immediately puts me in a festive mood! This year, I was pathetic enough to make a sort of Christmas market bucket list and managed to visit a grand total of five. The best was at Basel, which is Switzerland’s third biggest city, and the market takes up a good proportion of its old town. Think Christmas trees looming like leafy Eiffel Towers, wares from all across Europe and enough hot chocolate and glühwein to feed an army.
University has been going well and I’ve finished my lectures and seminars for the term. All that remains now are the scary January exams that I’ll be heading back for next month. Then I’ll be saying au revoir to Switzerland and beginning the second part of the year abroad in Kitzbühel, Austria. It’s safe to say that the Sound of Music is going on repeat from now on…