Among the nicest things that it has to offer are the lovely lakeside stretches of greenery, such as the quite centrally located English Garden, which is a popular gathering spot for young locals, and also attracts many tourists, who are drawn by the famous but perhaps overrated Flower Clock. As the name suggests, a colourful and pleasantly arranged flowerbed makes up the face of the timepiece, which is as precise and accurate as most other things in Switzerland.
Nearby is another enduring and well-known symbol of the city, the Jet d'Eau, which fires many gallons of water upwards into the air to a height of almost 500 feet, and is therefore considered to be the world’s largest fountain. Given that it generally does not function during the winter months, seeing the huge man-made geyser in operation was a wonderful surprise on New Year's Day, which raised spirits that were then suffering due to the celebrations of the night before. One thing that is worth noting is that depending on the direction of the wind, going for a closer look can result in a soggy reminder of Newton's supposed saying, "What goes up must come down"!
Another fine place to spend some time when the weather is good is Bastions Park, which lies at the foot of the old fortifications. Dominating the gardens is an absolutely massive and rather epic early 20th century monument that commemorates the Reformation. However, the giant statues of Calvin and his counterparts are not the only oversized things found in the gardens. Several chessboards complete with large pieces are marked on the ground in one place, and watching the games that are invariably taking place there is a surprisingly entertaining activity.
There are also many interesting cultural sights in the vicinity, including several on the beautiful Place Neuve, such as the stately neo-baroque Grand Theatre and the Rath Museum, which hosts well-regarded temporary exhibitions. Meanwhile, seeing the so-called Little Palace’s private collection of 20th century artwork was a tempting option, but sadly it was not open at the time of my visit.
However, the half million items on show in the Museum of Art and History should provide more than adequate compensation for any such disappointments. Among the classical antiquities, medieval artefacts, and works by Cézanne, Picasso, Rodin, and many others was one particularly unusual and fascinating piece by Konrad Witz. Although his biblical scene of Christ astounding the fishermen by walking on water is familiar, the setting is recognisably but oddly the local lake.
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London, United Kingdom
May 19, 2004
From journal Geneva - A truly international city
by Re Carroll
Abbotsford, British Columbia
August 18, 2003
Geneva’s most recognized landmark is Jet d’Eau, a giant water fountain that is located near the middle of Lac Leman. The fountain operates continually or so I thought, but when I arrived in town early in the morning, there was no gigantic plume of water in sight. A woman at the waterfront told me it wasn’t always turned on during inclement weather, but the water fountain -- God took pity on me -- was gushing water into the sky within half an hour.
It is definitely something that you can’t miss as 500 liters of water per second pours straight up, almost 140 meters into the air. It came into being in a very mundane way in the late 1800s. Engineers needed a pressure release valve for a nearby hydraulic plant to get rid of its excess water. The resulting geyser of water created such a stir among locals and tourists that
the city planners decided to promote it as one of Geneva’s major sights and it has been revamped and enlarged over the years.
Walking from Jet D’Eau to Old Town, I passed by the Jardins Anglais (English Garden) created in 1854. Inside the park is a 19th-century bandstand, a large bronze fountain and statues of Swiss artists. The main sight in the garden is the floral clock which commemorates Geneva as the birthplace of Switzerland’s watch making industry. The clock is made up of thousands of plants and in keeping with the tradition of all Swiss timepieces, keeps accurate time to the second.
Just a few blocks from the crowds and traffic congestion near the clock, I found myself in Old Town. The narrow cobbled streets and tall 16th- to 18th-century buildings blocked much of the noise from the waterfront and I spent a pleasant few hours wandering the tree lined back streets and lanes. Many of the buildings house interesting little shops and cafes. Climbing up hill I found partially hidden courtyards that offered roof top views of town as well as a peaceful and relaxing spot to soak up the ambience of Old Town Geneva.
From journal One Day Highlights