I was surprised when, on the way to the grocery store (it’s in the street between Migros and the Co-op at Eaux-Vives 2000 across the street), I saw this in the road. It reads “Here laid an anti-personnel landmine.” It stopped me dead in my tracks. A land mine? In Geneva? Has anyone else noticed this? Does anyone know anything about this? I’d love to know who placed it there and why.
During the second world war, Geneva was virtually surrounded by nazi-occupied France. Switzerland developed the National Redoubt plan to defend the country from the Nazis, but everyone knew that Geneva would have been left to occupying forces as it was not easily defended. Landmines as we know them were developed during World War II (1939 – 1945). They were widely used as anti-tank devices. Smaller anti-personnel mines prevented the removal of anti-tank mines. Even today, some land in France is not useable because of the mines on it. Could it be from that period?
Since World War II the proliferation, production, sale and trade in landmines grew. Today, there an estimated 110 million anti-personnel mines in the ground around the world, another 100 million in stockpiles and 5-10 million more mines produced each year. The Swiss Confederation signed and ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It took effect on the 1st of January 2013.
The other day, I was walking down a street in our neighborhood (Geneva‘s Eaux-Vives) and I saw this plaque. Being an art fan, I knew immediately who this was. Since he’s not a huge art fan, I had to explain why I was so excited to him.
It says “Here lived from 1943 to 1945 Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966 Swiss Sculptor and Painter”. I knew that he was Swiss, but never imagined that I’d live in the same neighborhood that he did. He had been living in Paris, but when the Nazisoccupied France, he returned to neutral Switzerland.
Alberto Giacometti is perhaps the most important of the modern humanist artists. His works are especially interesting because they are complex, show conflict and portray a depth of human emotion. For example, the figure is simultaneously flat and rounded, strong and fragile, stark but filled with humanity, abstract fragments are put together make a whole… The skin of his figures crumbles and crawls but the figure remains invincibly upright.
Many artists were impacted by the World Wars. Some say Giacometti showed human beings holding their own in the midst of war’s devestation, humanity surviving the trauma.
At some point his eyes started to glaze over, so I knew I had to make it more interesting for him. I’ll do it for you too. At 16, he contracted the mumps which rendered him sterile. Let’s just say that this damage to his left him with some lingering issues with women, the body, what it means to be a man, etc.
We have been very lucky. Apartments are hard to come by in Geneva. It is on a lake and surrounded on three sides by the mountains. This makes land scarce. None of the buildings are taller than six or seven stories tall (preserving the mountain views). It has made a perfect storm for a housing crisis of epic proportions. I have heard that there is .5% vacancy (it may even be less). When we only put one offer and got our dream flat we were extremely lucky. We were even luckier that we could get the keys within hours of landing!
Every makeover show has a before and after. I decided to show our apartment the same way. Plus, I am still putting things away. Here are the before shots of our place:
Bathroom (sorry about the toilet seat and notice the showerhead)
The kitchen with my nemesis (the stove)
You shouldn’t have to wait too long for the “after” photos should not take too long. I have invited everyone in our building over for a housewarming party on Friday (not a very Swiss thing to do). I am frantically trying to get pictures up and get the apartment ready.