Mention of parks always evokes the mental association i have with the city of Geneva.
During travel, we mostly pack into the itinerary the sightseeing spots the place is known for. Geneva is the only place where we spent most of our time roaming through parks,parks and more parks, after doing the mandatory rounds almost prefunctorily.
This predominantly french speaking Swiss city, within the Canton of Geneva, is so blessed with good weather that the whole place is like a perpetual Flower Show. So, visiting parks becomes a fatal attraction - fatal to other plans.
The famous Lake Front , with its merry promenades, exotic flower beds, lively quays with waterfowl and sail boats, is verily the pride of its citizens . Visiting the place is like stepping into a picture post card. The famous Jet d'eau ( that shoots 500 litres of water per second to a height of 140 metres at a speed of 200 km per hour) is suitably awesome. And to think that this grand spectacle was originally only a security valve to release built up pressure of a hydraulic factory ! In its second life as an enchanting fountain, it has become the most identifiable symbol of the city.Close to the Lake Front is the Brunswick Monument, a very ornate tomb of a duke who is said to have willed all his fortune to the city, with the proviso that a grand cenotaph be built for him at city center !
On the left bank is the English Garden, the first of the many parks we visited, the centre piece of which is the huge Flower Clock, once just a pretty arrangement of plants , but now with modern technology, a real working time piece. Being excellent watchmakers, the Swiss have also installed a huge Solar cum Laser clock in another park right across from this floral clock. Elsewhere in the city is another popular - and entertaining- musical clock, The Malbuisson,with small figures and chariots doing a parade at the strike of every hour, recreating an historical event. And in a hotel stands the biggest pendulum clock in the world (30 meters or 9 stories high).
Geneva is a nice place to walk. Hence, walking tours galore ! Specialised walkabouts dedicated to all that the Swiss are famous for : Cheesemaking, chocolatemaking, watchmaking ,moneymaking ( banking history) and of course, Peacekeeping ( The UNO headquarters in The Palais des Nations area.).
We took the "Old Town "walkabout which included the Old Arsenal ( 17th. Cent. with some canons and murals. Today it houses the State Archives), St. Peter's Cathedral ( a magnificent 12th. century shrine with brilliant stained glass windows and a humongous bell), the Town Hall ( 16th Cent.) and some charming old courtyards and cobbled lanes maintained in old style.
Of course, the UNO part could not be missed. A swish place with all those manicured lawns , mood setting sculptures, fluttering flags , the mandatory Globe, hundred year old trees and free-roaming peacocks (donated by Japan and India)...........and all this within a park called Ariana Park. Which overlooks Lake Geneva and the French Alps.
The Botanical Garden, called a Living Museum, with well demarcated specialised areas like medicinal plants, geenhouse, arboretum,rockery is too vast to be covered in a hurry. Our stroll was more like a toe-dip. Its Conservatory, with a Herbarium of 5 Million plants is so precious we are told, that only Scientists are allowed in on special appointment.
Bastions Park : An ideal place for spending time for everyone. There's amusement, education, healthy exercise everything to be had here. Right in the heart of the city, it encloses The University, long shady avenues, fountains, a life size chess board set on ground, a restaurant and The Reformation Wall . This last, a huge wall built upon part of the ancient defensive city wall, is a splendid monument to the spirit of Reformation . The central piece is the impressive group of four 5 meter high statues of Jean Calvin( the head of reformers),Guillame Farrel (first Protestant preacher in Geneva),Theodore Beze and John Knox. Behind these figures is carved the reformist motto: "Post Tenebras Lux"( After the Darkness, the Light); on either side of the group are other figures enacting the crucial events of the movement. Quite an impressive and illuminating sight.
Le Grange Park is the spawling landscaped garden devoted , exclusively , to roses ! The unofficial estimate is one rose bush per square meter.
The Treille Promenade : though strictly not a park, is a 16th. Century pathway lined with chestnut trees. One of these trees is The Official Herald of Spring. Though climate and other factors now play havoc with seasons and there's no longer any connection between seasons and life patterns, the city of Geneva still maintains an Official to check for the first bud appearing on it, after winter and put out a formal notice about arrival of spring ! Traditions !