Listening For Pyrene’s Echo 1: City By The Lake

posted in: Europe, Journal, Travel | 6

(Please click on the images to see them enlarged)

Second part of the series: Listening For Pyrene’s Echo 1: A City In Pink

Third part of the series: Listening For Pyrene’s Echo 3: A Village In The Mist


“In classical mythology, Pyrene is a princess who gave her name to the Pyrenees. The Greek historian Herodotus says Pyrene is the name of a town in Celtic Europe. According to Silius Italicus, she was the virginal daughter of Bebryx, a king in Mediterranean Gaul by whom the hero Hercules was given hospitality during his quest to steal the cattle of Geryon during his famous Labors. Hercules, characteristically drunk and lustful, violates the sacred code of hospitality and rapes his host’s daughter. Pyrene gives birth to a serpent and runs away to the woods, afraid that her father will be angry. Alone, she pours out her story to the trees, attracting the attention instead of wild beasts who tear her to pieces.

“After his victory over Geryon, Hercules passes through the kingdom of Bebryx again, finding the girl’s lacerated remains. As is often the case in stories of this hero, the sober Hercules responds with heartbroken grief and remorse at the actions of his darker self, and lays Pyrene to rest tenderly, demanding that the surrounding geography join in mourning and preserve her name: “struck by Herculean voice, the mountaintops shudder at the ridges; he kept crying out with a sorrowful noise ‘Pyrene!’ and all the rock-cliffs and wild-beast haunts echo back ‘Pyrene!’ … The mountains hold on to the wept-over name through the ages.” (Wikipedia/ Pyrenees)

I alight on the train platform, the stifling summer heat stirring up billowing heat waves from the afternoon platform pavement. Beyond lies the famed name of Geneva, city of the United Nations and CERN, Jean Calvin, Victorinox knives, and chocolate, now a confusing clash of 16th Century buildings mixed with modern glass and steal, and the lingering sweet odor of over-ripe garbage. Not at all what I expected. Already back at the airport everything had been so badly organized, and no one willing to help, with signs all wrong or non-existent, that it had taken three hours to get to the city center, instead of the twenty minutes the guidebook said it would. Now I can’t find the exit to the station because there are no signs for it. This would be my main experience with Geneva.

But it is only the beginning of the journey. I stay in Geneva only a few days, to get reoriented and to see a place I’ve wanted to visit since I was a child. Then it is on south into France, to the Pyrenées, for a longer, more intimate leg of the journey. It is still far away, but already I can make out the faint calling of the mountains. Perhaps I will find her there, where Hercules left her, broken and betrayed, and all alone. Or perhaps there will finally be peace for her, when I hear the echo of her name, Pyrene. It is a beginning. I have my pack, my shoes, my camera, and my eyes. For a month I want nothing more.

Geneva Jet D'Eau
The famous Jet d’Eau on Lake Geneva.
Geneva Old Town Street Restaurant
Noon street restaurants waiting for customers.
Geneva Parked Bicycles and Scooters in Old Town
Parked bicycles and scooters in Old Town of Geneva.
Geneva Old Town Façades
Old Town façades in Geneva.
Geneva Old Town Courtyard
View through the gate door into a Geneva Old Town courtyard.
Geneva Fair Hanging Out
Friends hanging out at the edge of Lake Geneva at the Geneva Summer Festival
Geneva Old Town Antiques Street
Small Geneva Old Town street with many antiques shops.
Geneva Lake Boat People
Tourists waiting for the Lake Geneva boat tour to get on the way.
Geneva Lake Faux Steamboat
Tourist faux-steamboat plying the waters of Lake Geneva.
Geneva Jardin du Anglais Mist
Strolling through the Jardin du Anglais alongside Lake Geneva
Geneva Old Town Lunch Tables
Lunch time outside in Old Town, Geneva.
Geneva Jardin du Anglais Timothy
Large Timothy growing in the Jardin du Anglais, beside Lake Geneva.
Geneva Lake Swans
Swans patrolling the edge of Jetée de Pâquis.
Geneva Women Chatting in Rue Basses
Women chatting in the Rue Basses area of Geneva.
Lake Geneva Marina
Sailboats moored at the Lake Geneva Marina
Geneva Lake Early Morning Lakeside
Early morning strollers taking a break beside Lake Geneva on Jetée de Pâquis.
Geneva Old Town Travel Antiques Store Window
Looking into the shop window of a Geneva Old Town travel antiques store.
Geneva Old Town Fountain
Fountain spilling water in Old Town Geneva.
Geneva Old Town Benches
Geneva Old Town tasteful bench graffiti.
Geneva Oak Tree Base
Oak tree base in the Parc de l’Observatoire, Geneva.
Geneva Museum of Natural History
View of the mammal diaramas in the Geneva Museum of Natural History.
Geneva Apartment Façade
Apartment façade in north Geneva, near the youth hostel.
Geneva Sparrow in the Youth Hostel
Sparrow stealing bread inside the Geneva Youth Hostel cafeteria.
Geneva Fair Sky Carousel
Spinning sky carousel at the Geneva Summer Festival
Geneva Fair Dance
Carefree spirits having a twirl at the Geneva Summer Festival.
Geneva Fair Carousel
Fathers watching their children on a car attraction at the Geneva Summer Festival.
Geneva Fair Water Bubbles
Children playing in water bubbles at the Geneva Summer Festival.
Geneva Fair Casino
Gamblers checking out slot machines at the Geneva Summer Festival.
GenevaFair Picking Hello Kitty.
Father accompanying his daughter buying a toy at the Geneva Summer Festival.
Geneva Old Town Waiting Dog
Spitz waiting for someone to return in Old Town, Geneva.
Geneva To France Street Sign
Geneva street signs pointing directions to France.

6 Responses

  1. Wonderful photos that bring the many subtle flavors, some pleasant, some not so, of the place alive. Looks like you had a great time, Miguel, in spite of the shaky beginning.

  2. Bravo! Thanks for reminding me how much I love Mythology :)

  3. kickingcones

    Thanks, Sybil. I only found out about the name as I was preparing this post. I wish I had known it earlier when I was actually walking there. It would have made quite a difference in how I felt about the history of the place, though in themselves, the Pyrenees had all the power they needed.

  4. kickingcones

    Maria, thanks. It was a strange, but lyrical kind of trip. I couldn’t really get into things at first, probably because I had a bad experience with a pickpocket in Geneva that shook things up pretty badly for the first two days. It was hard to take photos at first because of it. But as the trip went on and things settled, sometimes I was so overwhelmed by the surroundings that I couldn’t get my walking pace down. I ended up with a boat-load of photos, so many that it took me six months to get the motivation to tackle them!

  5. Oh, these are wonderful! I love the variety of subjects and styles – a smorgasbord of Geneva, which no doubt reflects the experience of travel, everything grabbing your attention. Glad you got around to posting them – I know what a daunting task that can be!

  6. kickingcones

    Thank you Leslee. Isn’t that just what traveling is like? You see all these new things, like glittering candy in a candy store, and you can’t decide where to turn to next, because so much of it is right there to touch.

    The digital age of photography has made taking photos too easy. So you come back from long trips with enormous boatloads of images, most of which you can’t possibly process and which most likely no one will ever see. I guess it’s a good exercise learning how to winnow the chaff, but my goodness does it take a lot of time! Then you have to write the damn article, and that takes yet more time. Then you have to formulate the code within the blog article so show the images and highlight certain words and… and… You know what I mean!

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