Escalade Part Two: Geneva Old Town

Continued from Part One

In Geneva, Switzerland; 9th/10th December 2017

The City of Geneva began to celebrate the Escalade in earnest in 1898 with the formation of a Geneva Patriotic Association, renamed in 1926 as the Company of 1602.  The group is in charge of the commemorations, ensuring that all is dignified and accurate, and they organise the reenactments in the town, along with the nighttime procession.  In short, everything that happens over the weekend of the Escalade, which is the weekend of, or closest to the 12th December, is thanks to the geekiness of a group of guys, who during the week do their sober jobs, and come together to look and be awesome for one weekend a year.

To make events more interesting, the Company of 1602 also come up with a theme: this year it was medicine.  A little exhibition was set up in the town hall – but every time I tried to get in, it was shut.  The theme also governs what is on the top of the commemorative pin that is sold by children around the city.  These were 5 CHF and you can see in some of my pictures that all the re-enactors are wearing them.  Mine, I lost in literally ten minutes. Rather like the Remembrance Day poppy in England, they have a death wish.

The Company also organises lots of events over the weekend, from reading out the names of the Genevan victims of 1602, to demonstrations of arquebuses.  And what a fantastic weekend it is!

Going out on the Saturday morning, before the crowds developed, was a good idea.  It was sunny, but snowing, which was slightly bizarre.  No less bizarre is the sight of people dressed in 17th century costumes, and horses going through the streets.

One of the bizarre features of the Escalade weekend is the unique opening of the Passage de Monetier, the entrance of which is on the rue du Perron.  It’s basically a narrow passage, about a hundred meters long, that leads to the back of houses, so it provides an interesting insight into the world behind the facades.

There is a little section just after you go through the entrance where they’ve got some activities set up, but I couldn’t really see what was going on, and it was extremely cold.  Then you go up some stairs and immediately go down a passageway.  You go through this bit and think “It’s narrow, but not that bad”.  You admire the buildings you pass, and then quite suddenly you’re faced with a teeny-tiny opening to go through, and you remember in panic that the guys at the entrance didn’t check your girth to make sure you’re going to make it, and then you have images of getting stuck in the damned passageway, and making it in the local newspapers where you are used as an example of the English obesity crisis.  Then you make it through, relieved that you didn’t get trapped like Pooh-Bear, and seek out the nearest mulled wine seller to calm your nerves.

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The initial, “Oh this is not that narrow” section of the Passage de Monetier, Geneva, Switzerland

A view over the back of some houses you see walking along the Passage de Monetier, Geneva, Switzerland

A view over the back of some houses you see walking along the Passage de Monetier, Geneva, Switzerland

The Pooh-Bear Section of the Passage de Monetier, Geneva, Switzerland

The Pooh-Bear Section of the Passage de Monetier, Geneva, Switzerland

That’s almost a true story.

But quite seriously, if you are over a British size 16, think about how much you can breathe in and how much you value your life before going down there.  Truly you could find yourself a little trapped.  And honestly the experience isn’t worth it.

Once you come out of the passage, you’ll find that you can go up some stairs to the right.  If you go and turn left, towards the mosaic walls, and keep going, you’ll find yourself on a platform overlooking Geneva.

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View from the Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubingné, Geneva, Switzerland

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There’s a little micro-climate at the Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubingné, Geneva, Switzerland

View from the Terrasse Agrippa-d'Aubingné, with the Jet d'Eau in the distance, Geneva, Switzerland

View from the Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubingné, with the Jet d’Eau in the distance, Geneva, Switzerland

Here is a little encampment, with tents demonstrating crafts, and selling goods.

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Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubingné, Geneva, Switzerland

City in the snow, Terrasse Agrippa-d'Aubingné, Geneva, Switzerland

City in the snow, Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubingné, Geneva, Switzerland

The sheep that walked with the peasants during the procession the following night, at the Terrasse Agrippa-d'Aubingné, Geneva, Switzerland

The sheep that walked with the peasants during the procession the following night, at the Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubingné, Geneva, Switzerland

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Yellow smoke rising from the the grate making horse-shoes, at the Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubingné, Geneva, Switzerland

Contemplating those nasty Savoyard beasts, at Terrasse Agrippa-d'Aubingné, Geneva, Switzerland

Contemplating those nasty Savoyard beasts, at Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubingné, Geneva, Switzerland

Patriotic image of the Genevan and Swiss flags over the Cathedral, Geneva, Switzerland

Patriotic image of the Genevan and Swiss flags over the Cathedral, Geneva, Switzerland

It wasn’t very busy around here when we visited, so there was a really tranquil, gentle atmosphere, which made it a pleasant place to just potter around.  If you like history, just seeing the people walking around in costume is wonderfully evocative – to have a scene where guys are standing around, smoking pipes and wearing those awesome helmets is enough to make me happy.

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Like a scene from a Rembrandt, Geneva, Switzerland

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The soldiers making themselves at home next to the Cathedral, Geneva, Switzerland

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View of the Cathedral, where the above encampment was based, Geneva, Switzerland

Please click here for Part 3

 

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