Geneva is a cosmopolitan and international city that reserves many surprises: it is, in fact, the capital of luxury watchmaking but also the seat of numerous international organizations including the UN and the Red Cross.
A small big city
Of course, one day is not enough to visit its many museums and art galleries but it is enough for a tour in the old part of the city that is tailor-made for those who like to stroll through narrow streets and squares with fountains adorned with flowers in the center.
Our tour started from the lakefront that runs along the water mirror symbol of Geneva and is crossed by boats that connect France and Switzerland and are the ideal opportunity for suggestive cruises on its waters, and from the Mouettes, water taxis that allow to move quickly from one side to the other.
At the point where the waters of the lake Lemano converge in those of the Rhone rises one of the symbols of Geneva: it is the Jet d’eau, the highest fountain in Europe, whose jet rises for 140 meters at the speed of 200 km hours, with a flow rate of 500 liters of water per second. The Jet d’eau is visible from all over the city and was created to alleviate water pressure following the construction of a nearby hydroelectric plant; it has been moved several times and has found its definitive position in 1891.
Another undisputed symbol of the city of Geneva together with the Jet d’eau is the Flower Clock in the Jardin Anglais, composed of thousands of colored flowers, whose look varies every year : a tribute to the Geneva watch industry. Inevitable the photo with the background of Lake Geneva and with this decoration as beautiful as unique, with the watch from the diameter of almost 5 meters and the second hand reaches 2.5 meters.
Across the street, however, the attention is captured by the huge luminous signs of luxury watchmakers, such as Rolex, Cartier, Patek Philippe on top of the buildings. Entering the historic center, the destination is the impressive St. Pierre Cathedral which was erected in the eleventh century in Gothic style at the highest point of the old city. In 1536 the church passed to the Protestant cult and was later remodeled by adding a classical facade dating back to the eighteenth century. The interior is sober and bare and the only note of color are the windows: here Giovanni Calvino, one of the leading exponents of the Reformation, has read and commented on the Holy Scriptures for 23 years.
The center of the old city is the medieval Place Borg-de-Four, on which stands a fountain of the ‘700. Pleasant even in winter, in the sunniest days, stop at the outdoor tables of the bars that overlook this open space, originally a Roman forum, which is the oldest square in Geneva.
A few steps from the Cathedral, there is the Parc des Bastions that at the entrance on the side of the Place Neuve houses several life-size chess boards where you can play chess or checkers with other people.
Towards the middle of the Promenade, a majestic 100-meter wall stands before the Monument de la Réformation built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Calvino’s birth, with statues of up to 5 meters high, celebrating the main exponents of the Reformation. together with other famous protagonists linked to Geneva.
At the center, the Calvinists Teodoro di Beza, Giovanni Calvino, Guglielmo Farel, John Knox. On the sides, prominent figures such as William I of Orange and Oliver Cromwell. The inscription that runs along the wall is the motto of the Protestant Reformation and also of Geneva itself: Post Tenebras Lux (After darkness the light).
Entering the residential streets of the district of Tranchées, home to many of the diplomatic representations of Geneva, the gaze is captured by five golden domes that emerge in the midst of the austere nineteenth-century buildings. It is the Cathédrale de l’Exaltation de la Sainte Croix, more commonly called the Eglise Russe. The construction of this church dates back to 1862, when the municipality of Geneva donated to the Orthodox community the land where the church was then built with funds from Russia and, it is said, thanks also to the contribution of the Tsar Nicholas II family.
For purchases we had no doubts: delicious chocolates as well as precious pavés glacés of Auer, rather expensive but very good.
Last note, practical, on the toilets: remember that in the city are all paid and especially with machines in front of the door that only accept Swiss francs. So get some change on the spot for all eventualities!