I was only supposed to write 3 posts about Switzerland, but it felt like a waste if I wouldn’t share a little bit about Geneva which served as our home base. Perhaps like many people out there, I was thinking, Geneva is so boring, there isn’t much to say. But that wouldn’t be true. My sister had been living in this city for the last 3 years, and she likes telling people it’s the most boring place on Earth. But boring is in the eye of the beholder, I think, because I thought the same thing while languishing in the sands of Boracay Beach in the Philippines. When we visited her for a month, I got to learn so many facts about Geneva and learned to love how easy it was to live in that multi-cultural, modern meets genteel cosmopolitan city.
Fascinating Fact # 1: Geneva is an expensive city to live in, and yes, even to visit. However, it is also considered as one of the top 5 best in quality of life cities in the world. It was easy to see why: it boasts of having the shortest commuting time in the world, city planning is enforced and implemented, parks and leisure facilities are free, and crime rate is very low. This brings me to the next fascinating fact about Geneva…
Photo credit to Bakersfield Blondes, Fetes de Geneve
Fascinating Fact # 2: The highest number of reported incidents in the city does not involve robberies or murder. It’s Dog Poop. People are so obsessed with hygiene that dog poop is a matter for the police. So if you bring a pet to Geneva, make sure you pick up after your animal companion. Geneva, and the whole of Switzerland for that matter, also enforces a dog tax. I presume it funds half the police force’s salary, ha!
Fascinating Fact #3: Geneva is the birthplace of the internet as we know it. The internet was actually developed inside CERN (or the European Organization for Nuclear Research), which is the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. A number of nerdy tourists visit CERN in Route de Meyrin, Geneva because this is also where the largest Hadron Collider could be found. Not everyone will be interested about CERN, but if you love your FB and Insta accounts, you owe Geneva a lot.
Fascinating Fact #4: Every visitor in Geneva who stays in a hotel, inn or guest house will be given the Geneva Transport Card for free. This allows you to ride all types of public transportation going anywhere in the city. This is no light matter because we had to pay at least 4Euros each way to ride the tram or the bus. We were staying at my sister’s house so we were not able to access this freebie. But judging by the cost of hotel rooms, I think we still cut a huge discount by staying at my sister’s house and paying for our transport instead.
Fascinating Fact #5: In Geneva, 10% of the population are actually employees of international organizations (which I realize includes my sister). Walking around Geneva will allow you to see a hodgepodge of different nationalities, and hear a confusing mix of different languages. Riding a tram one day, I was seated next to an African woman in a business suit talking in French to a Japanese woman wearing a German-brand running gear. Your head will spin, but in a good way.
REALLY Fascinating Fact #6: Houses, buildings and facilities in Geneva (and the whole of Switzerland) have emergency bunkers made of metal walls and doors. They have a law enforcing this policy, and they are even mandated to have supplies put aside good for 4 months for all inhabitants of the house/building. Being a neutral country right smack in the midst of aggressive countries who all featured in both World Wars, Switzerland has instituted a National Redoubt Plan which was developed in 1880s and still functions until today, but perhaps less obsessively. Being right next to Germany and France can make you very paranoid, and the Swiss has developed an ingenious method of making would-be aggressors rethink their plan to infiltrate Swiss borders. The National Redoubt Plan includes planting bombs in bridges leading in and out of the country which could be triggered from an undisclosed Swiss facility. They have booby-trapped their mountain ranges, and disguised tanks and military supply units as farm houses or huge boulders. As for the citizens, they are aware that at the first threat of a nuclear attack, they should head for their bunkers and remain there for up to 4 months. They are so well-prepared that 100% of Switzerland’s population can fit in the existing bunkers, with extra space to boot. There is a calculated 10% excess of bunkers, which means they have the capacity to take in a number of refugees as well. How fascinating is that, right? I know where I want to be if ever World War 3 ever crops up (but let’s hope that never happens).
Jet d'Eau and the longest wooden bench in the world.
Fascinating Fact #7: For what is perceived to be a boring city, Geneva could be quite surprising! Lake Leman (Lake Geneva) is the largest lake in Europe and the harbor commands attention starting with the Jet d’Eau (literally means Jet of Water, the Swiss call it as it is) which spouts a single powerful spray of water 140 meters up in the air. It’s even taller than the Statue of Liberty! They also have the longest wooden bench in the world which totals to 120 meters in length. I don’t know how that happened, who woke up one morning under the Genevan sunshine and said, let’s build a really, really long bench. But the purpose was clear: the sunrise and sunset view from the Marronnier de la Traille is awesome. Maybe someone just wanted to share the view with 540 of their friends and relatives, and said, why not?
Around Lake Geneva and a late Sunday afternoon cruise
Other fascinating features in Geneva includes:
The World’s Largest Flower Clock
(Wasn't able to take a better pic because that man stood there forever, sigh)
The Broken Chair, which represents opposition to land mines and bombs, stands dignified in front of Palais de Nations.
Found this whimsical street at Carouge, and there are a number of more interesting streets scattered all over Geneva as well.
Bookstores, bakeries, local color and mountain views... I can learn to love this place.
Le Petit Electronique around Montblanc Bridge
Chowing down at the Sunday Market at Plainpalais. Guess who ate the most? (Clue: he can barely move)
We are planning to return to Geneva next year, for Christmas. We’re hoping we would find more amazing things to love about the place, and Bee and Baby will share it with you, promise!
Smell ya later,