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Navigating Geneva

Published on 09 September 2011
Updated on 19 March 2024
photo by Aleksandra

Geneva welcomes us back from holidays with nice, crispy weather. Kids are back in school. The UN’s metabolism is accelerating after the summer lull. Every time I return to Geneva I start re-discovering new journeys through the city. Geneva always surprises me. I have not seen a city that is so different depending on how you move around.

If you walk, you get more of the street buzz including local corner shops, Shisha-smokers, street gamblers waiting for naive tourists, chess-players in the Bastion park. Time moves slowly.

If you are on a bike, you are in ‘globalisation rhythm’. Bikers are the most rational and pragmatic navigators of Geneva. Geneva is flat and you can easily reach any point within a maximum of 15 minutes. Bikers move with purpose.

Car navigation is the most mysterious. The city planners discourage people from driving cars (narrowing Rue des Lausanne). Drivers are usually people who are forced to use cars, either to transport children from school to other activities, or perhaps diplomats doing it out of protocol or the super-rich doing it for security reasons. You can see the frustrated expressions of people sitting in Rolls Royces caught in the traffic jam near Mont Blanc bridge. The frustration of waiting in million-dollar car when others are walking “free of charge” around the lake contrasts sharply near the bridge.

Public transport is probably the most representative of how the Geneva population moves. You have everything from lonely ageing people who use public transport to socialise, Roma musicians who play their way through, and bankers in their dark suits.

Last Sunday I navigated Geneva in my mind by visiting a few places linked to great philosophers. We can think of other tours of humanitarian Geneva, ‘the Geneva of prominent exiles’, … . Think of some other Geneva tour, be it imaginary or real ….

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