What is traveler’s luck?
Was it when we roamed around Prague in trams for two days without a ticket and didn’t get caught (because we couldn’t figure out where to get them)?
Or was it being in the center of London, walking around, and coming across a small makeshift stage where Jamie Cullum ended up performing a couple of his songs?
How about when we decided to spend a day in Geneva on the very day they were having a festival across the city which involved free performances by various artists in cafes, parks, squares, and streets?
I’d say, definitely.
Geneva might not be the capital of Switzerland, but it still remains one of the most important and influential cities of the world. It’s prime location – having Lac Leman on one side and scenic mountains on the other, is quite stunning.
The money that flows through the city is evident by the big names and brands whose signboards decorate large buildings; From watch makers to fashion breakers and from influential financial to political institutions, you’re likely to find their offices in the city that oozes a certain Swiss-French charm making it as accessible as hard to get.
Geneva in a nutshell is a conundrum; it’s “available” to the most modest of tourists, but at the same time it is the epitome of luxury and opulence.
Our day long excursion in the city started in the most touristy fashion possible as we made our way to the Jet d’Eau visible from a distance emitting water that reach dizzying heights of 400+ feet at times. However, as we made our way, we first took time to pay homage to the literary contribution of Switzerland to the world by visiting Rousseau’s Island. At the time, my knowledge about Rousseau was limited but reading about him on return I found out that he is one of the most influential political and literary writers ever and that the Swiss celebrate him is proof enough of the love that they hold towards culture, knowledge, and democracy.
A short hop across Mont Blanc Bridge, so named because on a clear day one can view the famed mountain from this spot, we passed through a number of ferry stations where boats leave for cruises and day trips in the lake.
When the wind blows in the right direction and even if you’re far away from the Jet d’Eau, you can still feel droplets of water hit your face. However, when it blows at high speeds, as it was at time we headed towards it, the jet is often switched off momentarily. I guess this could be the reverse of traveler’s luck.
With boats taking tours occupying most of the lake in this area, we next made our way towards the English Garden – Jardin Anglais on the opposite side of the lake. The Swiss love nature and it is only apt that they would have a beautiful spread of green that compliments both the lake it is situated next to and the city that has developed around it.
The perfect spot for a romantic stroll, running around with the kids, a picnic on the bench next to a stunning fountain, or a toy-train ride, Jardin Anglais is a place to sit, relax, have a snack, and ponder about the beauty of life.
Walking around, taking in the fresh air, admiring the beauty of all the blooming flowers, we made way to the famous “Flower Clock” of Geneva. Now, while the Swiss are known for their precision time keeping, this watch, because of its weight, loses a few seconds every day and has to be reset as a result on a daily basis. But Shhhhh… we don’t really mind that, especially when it is kept in such an immaculate condition and the flowers are changed with the seasons giving the clock a new colorful face every few months.
Obligatory photos in-front of the clock done, we left it behind as we took an uphill road towards Old Town Geneva. A few turns, bewildered glances at Google Maps, hesitant walks into alleyways and it seemed that the Geneva we had just experienced with its big buildings and even bigger names was a distant memory. The old part of the city is a passage into the charm of tiny Swiss villages with little surprises that popup without any fanfare and mix into the architecture in a subtle fashion.
We then slowly made our way to La Place du Bourg-de-Four which is the “oldest square in Geneva”. The architecture that at first look might seem colorless in this part of the town is actually full of details and the lines make for some rather interesting perceptions. There’s art everywhere you look; sculptures and fountains at the most unexpected of places and as you go further up, the views only get more scenic.
Old Town in Geneva is every architecture student’s wet dream come true; beautiful buildings, arches, a mixture of styles, Cathedral St. Pierre that is almost hidden, small squares and tiny lanes that take you up or down culminating into attractive scenes and sights. Small cafes and restaurants come up when you least expect them too and being a cultural weekend, there was sound of music and dance that reverberated through these streets, pulling us by the ears towards the source.
And then we got lost, but it wasn’t the type where one gets anxious for there was something to see around every corner. We all turned into flâneurs for a little while, walking aimlessness, not really bothered about trying to figure out how to make our way to the next “tourist spot”.
Eventually, travelling with children took its toll and the dream to walk along without a destination soon turned into a mission to head towards the Reformation Wall. When in doubt, follow the crowd… and eventually we reached the park where the wall stands majestically.
As the children played in the water at the foot of the wall, I went about exploring the park where locals and visitors had assembled to celebrate the weekend with street performers every few steps, food stalls, a large stage with musical performances, and a joyous atmosphere all around.
The walk had tired our aging legs and so we sat down and enjoyed some Raclette and Chips with a glass of refreshing Swiss wine, of course, as the bands plays music nearby and people chatted away in visual merriment, each engulfed in their own story of life.
Replenished and re-energized we made our final travel – a couple of bus changes – to the Broken Chair outside the United Nations. A symbol of loss and hope, of war and peace, a reminder that no good ever comes from conflict as I sat there pondering and taking a few photos, I couldn’t help but wonder if the countless people smiling, holding up the chair from the broken leg, posing, really understood the meaning of it all or if the chair had just become another tourist attraction, a sculpture that people came to see because it was there?
A somber end to our visit as we sat there, finishing the last few pieces of sandwiches that we had packed for the day, before finally heading back to catch our train that would once again take us through the Terraced Vineyards that line the lake to our abode in the beautiful village of Corseaux.
Geneva is a city that exudes luxury but also incorporates everything that is arty and classic in it. Our time in the city was limited but for those that give the city the importance it deserves, there is a lot more to see and experience in the form of museums and activities that are spread out and cater to all kinds of interests and tastes.
Moreover, while the buildings hold banners of the most expensive brands of the world, there is a sense of vintage in the air, an aura that behind all this wealth that is on show in Geneva, there is culture, history, and tradition that forms the soul of this international city.