Geneva, Switzerland's Jet d'Eau (water jet) is visible throughout the city. It's one of the world's largest water fountains and erupts from the nozzle at a speed of 200 km. per hour, spewing out about 500 litres of water per second to an altitude of approximately 140 metres. It's located where Lake Geneva empties into the Rhone River, and it's quite a remarkable sight! Visitors can get their very own up close and personal viewing via a stone jetty on the left bank of the lake but if there's a sudden wind change, these visitors may also get unexpectedly drenched. Therefore, the fountain is shut off when it's particularly windy or cold. It's also shut off overnight. It does, however, operate in the evenings, too, between spring and autumn and is illuminated by several coloured lights (somewhat like our own Niagara Falls). On a sunny day, the water jet is often accompanied by an exquisite rainbow. The original purpose of the Jet d'Eau was to produce electricity for Geneva's watchmakers, and the first installation took place in 1886. It soon became apparent that this was also a very popular tourist attraction, so it was moved a little further upstream, to its present site in 1891, where the latest upgraded version was erected in a partially submerged pumping station in 1951.
And now that I've mentioned watchmakers in the previous paragraph, it's probably not a surprise to you that Geneva is also known as "the birthplace of watchmaking". There are a lot of watches made here and a plethora of watchmakers' shops. I was told there are about 30 million watches exported yearly and that Rolex alone employs more than 4,000 workers. I even discovered that my hotel, the Hotel Cornavin, had the largest mechanical clock in the world right in its lobby and it's listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. I also learned that Geneva Tourism (www.geneva-tourism.ch) even puts out a "Geneva Watch Tour" brochure, and I covered much of this pedestrian route on my trek with my English-speaking guide, Sandrina Palomera.
Sandrina and I strolled to Geneva's famous Flower Clock, with its 6500 flowers in the dial and the world's longest seconds-hand. We also passed by the Cite de Temps (an iconic site for Swatch fans), the Piaget Time Gallery with its historical timepieces, the Patek Philippe Museum depicting 500 years of watchmaking history, and the Museum of Clocks & Mechanical Instruments with its collection of antique clocks and watches. In addition to these timely sites, we also visited many of Geneva's other major attractions, including Old Town, perched on a hillside, with its maze of cobblestone streets, Maison Tavel, the oldest house in the city, Town Hall, where the League of Nations and Red Cross were founded, and St. Peter's Cathedral, built in the 12th century on top of archaeological sites that date back to the first century and transformed from a Roman Catholic church to a Protestant place of worship in the 16th century. We also visited the Promenade de la Treille with its long wooden bench and spectacular overview of the city framed by old chestnut trees, Reformation Wall with its large statues of the major participants in the Protestant Reformation including John Calvin and John Knox, the tomb of the Duke of Brunswick, who bequeathed his fortune to this city in exchange for this impressive mausoleum that was built in 1879 in neo-gothic style, and the statue of Sisi, the Empress of Austria and the Queen of Hungary who was murdered while visiting in Geneva.
After my walking tour, I still wanted to do some more exploring, so I used my transportation pass from the hotel to take a ferry across the lake. Later, I used this same pass to hop on a bus to check out Palais des Nations, now the European headquarters of the United Nations, the famous giant 'Broken Chair' monument erected by Handicap International, and the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent which showcases the activities of this humanitarian movement.
Geneva is a very cosmopolitan destination, with a rich cultural life. There are lots of high-end shops, wonderful parks, and a great variety of restaurant choices. It's located in southwest Switzerland near the French border on beautiful Lake Geneva at the foot of the Jura Mountains and it's very close to the Alps. The setting is spectacular, but it's that water jet, in particular, that immediately reminds me of my whereabouts and it's that Jet d'Eau that's most often featured in the promotional photos of this enticing destination.
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