The strangely smalltown feel that the Swiss capital manages to pull off is a great reminder that the principle of subsidiarity (ceding initiative to smaller governing bodies and not trying to control it all from the top) a healthy democracy makes. So perhaps does dividing your executive branch in seven.
By the way, the town provides free bike rental. Thanks Bern. And free suicide prevention nets from the nice lookout spots. Uhh... thanks Bern.
Fortunately Bern Cathedral was, like Nuremberg's, another example of a church that went Protestant without scrapping all its art. Thanks Bern. Really.
Ganf (being the inelegant German word for Geneva) was of course another story. Calvin's "Protestant Rome" went, I am increasingly convinced, entirely too far. The gutted cathedral, like Amsterdam's (point 7), feels emptied rather than "purified." Furthermore, the Reformation Museum, recently constructed to accommodate travelers like myself who go to Geneva for its historic interest to Protestantism, was a disappointment. Holographic images of Calvin and Luther appeared in mirrors a la Snow White and proceeded to make bad French jokes. Why is it that everything touched by Protestant bureaucrats turns to ash?
At the end of the Museum there was an uninspiring video to on "What can Protestantism offer today?" (It was as if they expected you to exit the museum with that question.) The answer: Protest. Protestants can, like, protest stuff.
Why, I wonder, do I need to be a Protestant to do that? I'd much rather grow dreadlocks, start an angry-band and a new N.G.O. I'm already one third of the way there.
But you know, maybe they're right. And... if Protestantism really is about protest then I can gladly name myself a Protestant whose roll in life is to protest the fact that Protestantism has become about nothing but protest. In reality, the "protest" aspect of the Reformation was an unfortunate means to the end of the Reformation, which was the Gospel.
The Reformation Wall was a bit more interesting... In giant letters reads the motto of Genevan Reformers
"POST TENEBRES... PROTEST. woops, sorry. I mean POST TENEBRES LUX."Chamonix
That night I was on the slow train deep into the Alps, breathtaking in more ways than one, for a Saturday night in Chamonix where I scored the last bed at the cheap place in the dorm right next to the bionic snorer. What was first annoyance soon became fascinated admiration that someone could be that loud without waking themselves up. Then to church at the French town of Plateau d'Assy. The former was of such personal significance to me that it has earned its own forthcoming blogpost. What greater honor could a small French village want?