Canton: Geneva / Genève / Genf
Interesting thing: the Jet d’Eau (above) is not just a cool, 140-metre water ejaculation, but actually served a purpose: to release pressure from the city’s hydraulic power network when it was first switched on in 1886. Nowadays, OK, it’s just a tourist attraction.
Special guests: all by myself!
It took me three attempts to see the Jet d’Eau in Geneva, probably the city’s most recognisable landmark and, arguably, one of Switzerland’s most well-known person-made structures. (Some Swiss-based friends and I were trying to think of others since the country lacks an Eiffel Tower / Tower Bridge / Statue of Liberty / Sydney Opera House / Prado Museum…).
Anyway, I arrived in Geneva early afternoon Friday but had an appointment with the Aussie consulate that kept me busy until nearly sunset, after which time I wandered down to the lakefront to find the jet already off. Next morning, I got up before sunrise and went for a 12km run on the lakeshore. I was hoping I might see the ‘switch-on’ but discovered that wasn’t until 10am. So I hoofed back down to see it after breakfast and almost missed my train. It was worth it though. Très impressive.
Geneva is interesting because the city seems to garner the most varied reaction from other Swiss-dwelling people I spoke to. There’s those who find it lovely: the most cosmopolitan city in Switzerland, prettily situated and with a great atmosphere. Others say it’s dull and claustrophobic (there’s less open space than Zurich and the public lakefront areas give way to private property after only a few kilometres). Some don’t like the vibe of a city full of people dining out on ‘company money’, diplomat-rich-types who aren’t the sort you’d choose to hobknob with. I’ve also heard crime rates for bag snatching and break-ins are quite high, for Switzerland. Others think the home of the UN, League of Nations and CERN is the most ‘international’ city Switzerland has to offer and a global seat of peacekeeping and academia.
I didn’t experience any crime, thank goodness. I felt safe there on my own, even during my early-morning jog, when it was pretty deserted. I couldn’t help but notice the conspicuous displays of wealth though, from the gated Chateaux along the lakefront to all the luxury brands displayed in neon around the lakefront, and the fancy five-star hotels. The city actually reminded me a bit of Luzern, which I’ve visited more often – both are situated at the top of a stunning lake with the mountains just across the water. But the feeling in Geneva is much more money, money, money.
It’s hard to judge atmosphere when you’re on your own. It was Friday night and I wasn’t out late. There was a bit of a buzz but where I was near the lakefront and main station was fairly subdued. If there’s sides to be chosen in a Geneva-Zurich rivalry thing, I guess I prefer Zurich but that might just be because I know it better. Plus my bad German is less-bad than my year 7 French!
Cantons visited / to go so far.
*I spent a night in Vaud en route to Geneva. Will write that up next!