Wrestling with the Republic

If one reads the Rough Guide to Switzerland one suspects that it is not the greatest fan of Geneva:

“Geneva is an anomaly, the nearest thing the world has to a truly international city, and yet with nothing of the pizzazz such a description might suggest.”

Yes, it is a special city, though certainly not the only international city in the world, (Toronto, Singapore, New York City and many others qualify.) and as for pizzazz it might not have the tension of Manhattan or the sensuality of Paris, but rather it has the steady pulse of a rumbling motor, with discos open from 11 pm to 5 am and everything else running full throttle from 6 am on.

“From its profile in world events, you’d imagine a megalopolis on the scale of London or New York, but Geneva is little more than town-sized.”

Try walking around town and you will soon realize that Geneva is no mere town but rather it is a city with many streets, a lot of traffic, a complicated transit system and like New York or London is a real challenge finding gainful employment or reasonably priced accommodation in.

“From its demographic diversity – 38% of the population are non-Swiss – you’d imagine its streets to be thronged with the nationalities of the world, but…you’d be hard pushed to spot a non-white face or eavesdrop on a conversation that wasn’t in French or US-accented English.”

That has not been my experience at all.

“It’s a curiously unsatisfying place to spend more than a few days.”

I disagree.

I could live in Lausanne, but I could love in Geneva.

It has the serendipity of London, the cachet of New York City, the passion of Paris, the sensibility and conservatism of Zurich.

I’ve only been here a day and already I feel its promise and potential.

This Protestant Rome, this Republic and Canton of Geneve, reveals herself slowly to me.

She tells me that her charms will take time and patience before they are displayed in total splendor.

She is most beautiful, centred around a point where the Rhone River flows out of Lac Leman, surrounded by Jura ridges and Savoy alpine peaks.

She is expensive, a high-maintenance kind of girl, but…

She’s worth it.

The whole world knocks on her door.

Over 200 governmental and non-governmental international organizations are based here.

She sleeps in posh accommodation, feasts on exotic cuisine, wears expensive jewellery and bathes in chocolate.

But her true colors are in my preferred neighborhood, the Paquis quarter, where the locals gather with attitude, where working girls offer comfort to lonesome hardened souls, where spirits are raised and consumed with Gallic flair and Teutonic force, where trains meet trams and consumers meet commuters.

She is joyful all year-round with Xmas markets, sauna bars and fondue cuisine.

Ski hills beckon, boats caress the lake, couples stroll.

Drink on the waterfront, dip in the waters, converse in the cafes, picnic in the parks, shop til you drop, indulge your inner culture vulture in the many museums.

She is Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal combined.

She is Paris, New York and Chicago stirred but unshaken.

She is elan and flair with sense and sensibility.

She may not be easy but she will be rewarding.

Geneva: surrounded by France yet uniquely Swiss.

Come for the day.

Remember her always.


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