Known for its chocolate, watches, finance, technology and international organisations, Geneva, and Switzerland in general, is known globally for its high-end exports and position on the world stage. But Geneva is so much more than the city itself: the Canton of Geneva is filled to bursting with rural villages, forests, vineyards and rolling fields as far as the eye can see, framed by snow-topped mountains.
The city is built around the Lac Léman, which houses one of the most famous landmarks of Geneva, the Jet d’Eau. This powerful manmade fountain has become a symbol of the city and its presence attracts many tourists, keen to experience it in person. But don’t count on seeing it in the dead of winter, the fountain is often switched off when the temperature drops too low in order to avoid it freezing!
Despite the newer part of Geneva hugging the banks of the Lac Léman, the old city is built 25 metres higher than the level of the lake. It is packed with antique shops, galleries, libraries, museums and restaurants. The cobbled streets and the facades hark back to a rich history, from the site of the Roman market to the Reformation Wall portraying Calvin, Cromwell and Knox among others. The Vieille Ville (Old City) also showcases canons (that my sister and I would always climb on as children), Maison Tavel (the best museum to visit if you want to learn about the history of Geneva) and of course, the St Pierre Cathedral; which is not just historically interesting for its religious past, but also for the archaeological site beneath. Indeed, you can see the remains of the 4th century churches that the cathedral was built on, as well as indicators of how Geneva’s occupants used to live.
The Vieille Ville truly comes alive once a year during the celebration of l’Escalade(The Climbing) on December 12th. This event commemorates the Duke of Savoy’s failed attempt to take over the fortified city of Geneva in 1602. The story has many ins and outs and I truly recommend researching it, as it is a tale that people are still extremely proud of. In order to commemorate the people of Geneva’s fight and victory, there is a period costumed parade each year, as well as an organised run through the Vieille Ville.
My favourite part of the festivities though was the one involving chocolate of course! It’s customary for each family to purchase a chocolate cauldron, (Marmite de l’Escalade), available in every kind of size imaginable, fill it with marzipan vegetables and then the eldest and youngest in the room smash it with a hammer whilst saying, DzThus perished the enemies of the Republic.dz This originates from a woman known as Mère Royaume (Mother Kingdom), who having been awakened by the attack on Geneva poured the vegetable soup she was boiling over soldiers climbing the city’s walls.
Geneva is full of traditions but also technology and new developments: the CERN is a prime example of that. I could keep talking for hours, but now it’s your turn to go and experience the history, the innovation, the architecture, the scenery and the food. You won’t be disappointed!