Feb 29

Switzerland : Arrival in Geneva.

Dear readers,


I am back from Switzerland and WOW! what a trip it was! We spent 15 days touring and covering as much Swiss ground as we possibly could. We even popped across the border and spent a couple of days in the Lombardy region of Italy ~ Lake Como to be precise. More on that later. Had to put our beloved dog, Doopey, into kennel care. We got him from the animal shelter over Christmas and we were gutted that we could not get a doggie sitter for him. Least he made some new friends at the kennels ~ or so I am told.


Isn't he the cutest monster ever?


But what can I say about Switzerland, really? It’s gorgeous and unlike any nation I have ever been to. MOUNTAINS! Great hulking chunks of snow covered mountains everywhere you turn. If it is not mountains then its glacier blue bodies of water and quiet, picturesque villages. Just say the word ‘Switzerland’ and you associate several key icons with that name. For instance the Matterhorn, Cheri the Cow, Swiss cheese and fancy ski resorts. They are also super ‘Green’. Their efforts to leave a smaller carbon footprint on our environment extends not only to the everyday lives of its people but its public service facilities as well. Electric cars, electric trains, trams and buses, recycle bins everywhere. In the village of Zermatt all forms of fossil fuel burning vehicles are banned entirely. You can get around by electric taxi, horse-drawn sleigh, cable car or on foot.


Arriving in Geneva on the first day we took a stroll along the shores of Lake Geneva and I was totally amazed ~ it was the bluest and clearest lake I had ever seen. You could see right down to the bottom! It was a very cold day when we arrived; in fact it was snowing a little and the skies looked dull. We were not staying in Geneva, but we made the most of the few hours we had to see a few key features before heading off to Lausanne. But first things first: Purchase our Swiss Pass.


For those of you who have not been to Switzerland let me tell you it is NOT a cheap country to travel in. For example, a regular ham and cheese sandwich in a cafe will set you back CHF 8. A vanilla milkshake is CHF 7. A box of instant soup is CHF 5. We went to Burger King once during our visit, thinking it would be a cheaper option to eating in cafes and bistros ~ that was the first and last time we opted for fast food to save money. R ordered a cheeseburger, 2 large fries and a large Coke and got slapped with a CHF 21 bill. My Burger King meal cost me CHF 16. So what was meant to be a frugal lunch turned out to be almost forty bucks worth of fast food crap. I felt cheated, but I licked the wrapper clean. The same goes for local travel on all forms of public transport: EXPENSIVE!! A single ticket from Geneva to Lausanne, 30 mins away, is CHF 10.50. A ferry ride across the lake may be fun but not so much when you see how much it costs to do it. From Lausanne-Ouchy to the French shore of Evian-les-Bains (round trip) will cost you just as much in Swiss Francs as it does the time to get there, CHF 35. BUT, armed with a Swiss Pass you can enjoy all this for a whole lot less, and here is why. When you buy a Swiss Pass you pay according to the number of days you’d like the pass to be valid for and you pay the fee upfront. After that you get unlimited travel on all Swiss Transport networks. So in 15 days, we went everywhere on it. The pass also entitles you to a 50% discount on all mountain trains and cable car rides, and FREE admission to a majority of tourist attractions, museums and exhibitions. However you must use the Swiss Pass for consecutive day travel. The two days spent in Italy meant that we had to forfeit those days, and the pass still expired 15 days from the time it was activated.


Our passes cost a whopping CHF 800 for the pair of us lasting the fifteen days we plan on staying in the country. It can be bought in advance prior to your arrival in Switzerland by booking online or purchased at the sales office at the airport. You will need to provide passport details and these details will be printed onto the passes. Despite the initial cost of buying these passes we still saved heaps of money at the end so trust me on this ~ if you want to travel around Switzerland, do yourself (and your bank account) a favour and buy a Swiss Pass. The advantages far outweigh its initial jaw-dropping price tag. For starters you do not have to queue up to purchase a new ticket for each and every new destination. No juggling for coins and exact change to feed ticket machines. Just hop a train and enjoy the ride. You don’t have to think twice about visiting a museum or an art gallery. If you were not impressed with the exhibition, who cares?! Treat yourself to a new attraction … or three … at no extra cost.

Anyway, things I wanted to see whilst on a limited time schedule in Geneva were the Jet d’Eau, the United Nations Headquarters and Cathedral de St Pierre. Out of those three I only got to see one. The famous jet of water was not in service during the winter months as everything on the lake was frozen. DOH! We then spent a considerable time shoe shopping. Yes, you heard me … shoe shopping … and it wasn’t for me either. R was not feeling all too comfortable in his hiking shoes which he was wearing. The cold was cutting right thru them and was causing quite a lot of grief to his toes. By the time we located a decently priced shoe store that sold men’s footwear an hour had gone by. So we said screw the UN HQ and went straight to the cathedral and had a pretty decent time of it.


A very wintery Geneva.







Cathédrale de SaintPierre, Genève.

Address : Cours St-Pierre 6, 1204 Geneva, Switzerland

Entrance Fee : Church is free. Archaeological site below – CHF 8

Opening Hours : Daily 10:00 – 17:00 hrs


The church, built in the Romanesque and Gothic style (c. 1150 and 1230)


I think the best bit of this cathedral lies below around its foundations. In 1976 the cathedral’s foundations were kinda falling apart and a team went down there to check things out and guess what they found? Extensive remains of at least two early Christian sanctuaries dating back to the 4th century A.D. Pottery shards, rooms, chambers and even a mosaic floor from Roman times. Mind boggling! I mean these rooms were once used during the Roman era! My mind cannot even fathom what it must have been like back then, in all its glory. There is even a baptismal fountain amongst the ruins, and pipes!


The church itself sits on a hill in the centre of Geneva’s old town. It is lovely walking along the cobble stoned streets, taking in the many murals and the old architecture. But be aware and prepared for some serious hill climbing. Switzerland is like the total opposite of the Netherlands and I think R and I have been spoilt with its flatness of terrain. We got a good workout just trying to make it to this church.


Once down in the “dungeons” and you buy your ticket ~ in our case, just present Swiss Pass for free entry ~ you will be offered an audio guide device in the language of your choice. I was kind of interested for the first 20 mins, but then the warm temperatures down there started getting to me. I was dressed very sensibly for the Swiss weather in Feb, but the archaeological site was climate controlled. A.k.a ‘Stiffling’ in winter clothing. R enjoyed it more than I did. He likes looking at rocks and dust piles. I must say however the site has been very well preserved and very well presented to the public with walkways all throughout and lots of explanation boards in different languages. There is also evidence of human habitation at the site that pre-dates Christianity more than 2,000 years ago. Fascinating!  


Back upstairs I could finally breathe comfortably again. The church itself was immense, but very practically decorated; none of the frou-frouness of Paris cathedrals. The cathedral is famous for being the adoptive home church of pastor and reformist, John Calvin (1509 – 1564), who fled France during the Protestant Reformation and who later went on to develope the Christian theology of Calvinism. Hmmm … I learnt of him back in school but I never paid much attention to my religious history class then. The church still houses the very chair Calvin sat in for many years. After all those years, I find it fascinating that a piece of furniture like that still exists and in such good shape too.


So that was it really … our very short stint in Geneva. Geneva city itself I found to be very generic, for want of a better word. Just like any other big city with shopping boutiques and big banks. I believe the most attractive feature for me was the River Rhone running right through the city and also the old antique shops in the old quarter.









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  1. Switzerland : Lausanne » Food Flurries

    […] is a continuation from an earlier post about my Switzerland winter holiday, starting in Geneva. We didn’t stay long in Geneva and by 4 p.m we were on a train heading to Lausanne. Got to […]

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