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The world in Geneva

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There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice. – John Calvin

Geneva smacks you right in the face with multiculturalism as soon as you arrive. You’d think you’re in Rotterdam, except that they speak French here (among other languages). The most popular city of Switzerland, often mistaken for its capital city, teems with different colors, languages and cuisines. It is a good example of the phrase “small but terrible” – small in size but big in causes. The United Nations is here, the International Red Cross, World Health Organization and International Labor Organization, to name but a few. This global city is also one of the biggest financial hubs in the world, the diplomacy capital, a center of peace. That’s quite a lot to to represent, don’t you think?

Not realizing that though, it would be easy to say that there’s not much to see in Geneva. Walk around the lake, take an image of the fountain with the French name and you’re done. But that would not give the city the justice that it deserves. Exploring this small city is like a trip to the world – old and new alike.

It is very cosmopolitan and very chic, not to forget modern. We stayed for a weekend and enjoyed it quite much.

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How to spend a weekend in Geneva
Our weekend was a combination of tours in and out of the city using different public transports. But I found the boat trip and a historical tram tour to be the highlights of this weekend. Let me start with the boat trip.

There are many tourist boats available around the Geneva lake but a tip from our B&B owner led us to the yellow boats on the other side of the old town of Geneva. There are two important boats on this trip:
• Boat #1 bound for Molard goes to the old town.
• Boat #2 goes to Geneve-Plage, the closest you can get to the Jet d’Eau, the world’s tallest fountain, and continues to Chateaubriand.
 

Interesting Trivia: Mary and Percy Shelley and Lord Byron were said to have holidayed by Lake Geneva and wrote ghost stories, one of which was the basis for the novel Frankenstein.

 
These boat trips are a great way to explore the city. Not to mention they offer another form of transportation. The buses and trams are highly dependable, but looking at it from the lake was like looking at Geneva from a different perspective.

Jet-d'eau
Jet d’eau is the highest fountain in the world. The word literally means “water fountain”.
Boat-from-a-boat
One of the yellow boats plying Lake Geneva.
Public-swimming-area
This area in the lake turns into a public swimming pool on a nice day.

In Chateaubriand (boat #2), the History of Science Museum can be found housed in Villa Bartholoni, a neo-classic residence built in the 1800’s. Eclipsed by the trees of park Perle du Lac, it is only one of about 30 museums and art galleries in the city. Charming Geneva Lake can be viewed from the second floor of the building. Interesting scientific experiments adorn the exterior. Inside is a large collection of scientific instruments to be found. I particularly found their collection of microscopes (they have really intricate ones and a nice replica of Leeuwenhoek’s) and astrolabes interesting. It’s like time-traveling to Geneva’s scientific past.

View-from-Villa-Bartholoni
View of Geneva lake from Villa Bartholoni
Microscope
One of the antiquated microscopes at the History of Science Museum that caught my eye.

The historical tram that only plies in the first Sundays of the summer months completes the ambience of this time-travel. It leads you to the most important sights of the city with Geneva’s old town as the primary tourist drawer. It is a gothic maze of cobblestones dotted with significant buildings such as the St. Pierre’s Cathedral, the Town Hall known for being the birthplace of the League of Nations and the Red Cross and numerous ritzy shops and restaurants. Again, a mixture of old and new. New world built in an old world. The buildings in the old town will remind you of Geneva’s glorious past.

An undeniable part of Geneva’s history is the Protestant Reformation. To make sure that this is not forgotten, the International Monument to the Reformation was built. Also called the Reformation Wall, it is remarkable to see as it stretches 100 meters and features noteworthy European protestant figures.

The-Reformation-Wall
The famous Reformation Wall which shows the most popular Protestant Reformation figures in history.

The tram trip will take you from the United Nations headquarters to as far as Carouge, a small suburb with a Mediterranean feel to it lined with trendy boutiques and cafes and quaint curiosa shops. This is where the Genevese spend those lazy Sunday mornings.

To-Carouge
A volunteer tram conductor changing the tram’s location.

Geneva is but a small city. But its history, relevance and promise more than suffices for what could be seen as its lack of size. Which I never felt when we were there though. Besides, strolling the streets of Geneva is like strolling the streets of the world.#

Passport
How to get there
Hundreds of flights come in and out of Geneva International Airport every day. You may check the airport website to see if you can fly directly to Geneva.

In and Around
It is easy to get around the city. Trams and buses ride every 5-10 minutes. Trains come in and out of Geneva very frequently too. From the airport, you can go straight to the center with the train. Any train goes to Gare Cornavin, where the center of Geneva can be found. Get your free ticket for the train at the machines before you leave the airport baggage hall and your free public transport card to get around the city from the hotel where you are checked in.

Where to stay
I stayed in three different accommodations when I was in Geneva – a high-end hotel, a middle-class one and a B&B. The one I enjoyed most is the B&B. Here you can find a list of B&Bs.

What to take home with you
the innovative Swiss knife
the classic Swiss watch
delectable Swiss chocolates
a cow perhaps? ;p

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