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Visiting Geneva, Switzerland and its Mont Blanc Bridge: panorama point and coming together
A focal point at an historic city
There is an old Welsh saying, Byd ben, byd bont : If you want to lead, be a bridge. Metaphorically, the rôle of Genevans as quiet and efficient, international mediators is certainly comparable to building bridges.
But even from a physical point of view, the bridges of Geneva (French: Genève ) are a very important part of its essential locale.
Views of the water jet
The biggest of these bridges, the Mont Blanc Bridge (Pont du Mont-Blanc ), is remarkable from a number of perspectives. It is an ideal point from which to view the famous water jet (French: Jet d'eau ) on Lake Geneva, known in French as le lac Léman , which, near the Mont Blanc Bridge, narrows into the Rhone River (le Rhône ). This water jet has become one of the most famous sights of the city, and even of Switzerland as a whole.
Originally the water jet at Geneva was created in about 1886. With its citizens being eminently practical people, the original water jet at Geneva was at a different location and served a practical purpose, as a hydraulic safety valve.
1891 was the 600th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation (but bear in mind that Geneva joined Switzerland only in 1815). In 1891, to mark this event, the water jet was moved to its present location and began to be regarded as a landscape enhancement.
Canadians will doubtless wonder if the similar water jet at Peterborough, Ontario, was built with the Geneva water jet in mind.
Flag displays on the bridge
Geneva's Mont-Blanc bridge is also well known for its flag displays: whether that of the canton of Geneva, or the national Swiss flag, or other other cantons, or maybe of some other entity which has come to temporary prominence. Swiss people are great vexicololgists, and this bridge acts as a kind of tribune where local and national loyalties are asserted in this most colourful manner.
By way of metaphorical application, it may be asserted that Swiss people
have long been adept at internal bridge-building in their country. Americans, with their Federal system of government, and Canadians, with Confederation, will readily appreciate the balanced manner in which such displays simultaneously celebrate both the Cantonal and Federal flags of the Swiss Confederation.
Among the many things for which Geneva is justly memorable, the Mont Blanc bridge is truly a spot which will be retained in the visitor's memory for a long time to come. (So may also the mountain for which it is named. Look up, and you may see it!)
Also worth seeing
The cultural sites and treasures of Geneva (and beyond) are too numerous to mention here, but a few of these include:
The Old Town , with St Peter's parish church (Paroisse de Saint-Pierre , distance: approx. 2.7 kilometres), often referred to as the Cathedral (la Cathédrale ), and memories of John Calvin (1509-1564), is an architectural gem containing numerous historic buildings.
The Promemade des bastions in the Parc des Bastions (distance: approx. 2.6 kilometres) contains the International Monument of the Reformation (Monument international de la Réformation ). As well as the sculpted figures of Farel , Calvin , Beza and Knox , in the centre of the monument, North Americans may be interested to see a stone relief of Roger Williams , founder of Rhode Island, counted at the Monument among noted, Protestant, historical figures. Opposite the monument area is the University of Geneva, which, amidst its many faculties, has a specialism in the study of Protestant and religious history. The monument was inaugurated in 1909, which marked the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Academy of Geneva, in which the university has its origins.
The Palace of Nations (French: Palais des nations ; distance: approx. 3.1 kilometres), home of the United Nations Office at Geneva, and previously, headquarters of the League of Nations. This huge building in classical style was built in 1929-1938, and is situated in Ariana park (Parc de l'Ariana ), where peacocks may be seen to roam. In front of the Palace of Nations is the Celestial (or Armillary) Square (La sphère armillaire ) memorial to Woodrow Wilson, presented by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. This monument is the creation of American sculptor Paul Manship (1885-1966). Ariana Park also contains the Swiss Museum of Ceramics and Glass (Musée suisse de la céramique et du verre ). Originally the park was a gift to the City of Geneva by a wealthy citizen, Gustave Revilliod (1817-1890). The purpose to which the Palace of Nations is put may thus be described as bridge-building par excellence (see above)! Or so runs the narrative.
Ferney-Voltaire , France (distance: 7.9 kilometres) contains the castle in which the philosopher Voltaire (François Marie Arouet, 1694-1778) lived, which may be visited, but early bookings are advised.
How to get there: Continental Airlines flies from New York, Newark to Geneva International Airport (Aéroport International de Genève ) at Grand-Saconnex, where car rental is available. The Swiss railroad company CFF maintains a service between Geneva Airport and the Downtown station of Genève-Cornavin . Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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