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Geneva in another light

04.02.2021 – Stéphane Herzog

Which guidebook would suggest you look for a hidden text on a statue in Geneva? Edited by the German publishing house Emons, “111 Places in Geneva that you must not miss” does just that. This guidebook offers a mixture of useful tips and cultural information. The search for a text mentioned above is found under the 90th entry, “Plainpalais roundabout: a veritable centre”. It is about art and the statue of a woman walking with books under her arm. A point to note: the three authors of this guide, an Italian, a German and a native Genevan, were also the instigators of the project. They contacted the publishing house at the end of 2018 to suggest writing a “111 Places” guide for Geneva. The work was based on a wealth of recommendations from local friends. The entries inform the reader whilst inviting them to visit the locations. Take entry 37, for example, which recalls that Geneva was a leading light during the European Enlightenment. The guide takes the visitor to 38 rue Étienne-Dumont, formerly rue des Belles-Filles, at the heart of the old town. “The imposing door looks as though it won’t let you through, but don’t hesitate to push it open,” suggest the authors. You will find a building connecting Bourg-de-Four square with promenade Saint-Antoine. It is there that the Encyclopedia of Diderot and d’Alembert was printed, while Voltaire also came here regularly to supervise the printing of his own work. Even the Genevans are amazed by it.

“111 Places in Geneva” also provides a view of the more cult places, those perhaps a little more exciting than the Flower Clock. The guide invites us to the Bains des Pâquis, an address favoured by Genevans for its view of the city and the lake. It takes us to the Salève, the most Swiss of all French mountains. We discover that a Buddhist monastery set not far from the cable car is open to guests should you wish to spend the night there. There is also room for less glamourous sites. For instance, the authors take us to a location set below a building in the Servette neighbourhood, the “passage Luserna”: in their opinion it is “the most melancholy shopping arcade in the world”. “On the veranda of the Ris Sol, you hear Greek, Portuguese, Arabic and Serbian, and families sit around the square tables to swap stories,” according to the guide. Readers will be curious to check it out. And what does all this tell us about Geneva? An insulated city-state, Geneva is both a place of nostalgia and a place of integration for exiles from around the world.

AMBROISE TIÈCHE, KATHARINA HOHMANN, FRITZ VON KLINGGRÄFF

«111 Orte in Genf, die man gesehen haben muss»
«111 Lieux à Genève à ne pas manquer»

[111 Places in Geneva that you must not miss], Emons Verlag, 240 pages, CHF 20

The Emons Verlag publishing house has released a series of “111 Places” guidebooks in German on the following Swiss cities, regions and cantons: Aargau, Basel, Baselland, Berne, Bernese Oberland, Biel/Bienne, Engadine, Glarus, Graubünden, Lucerne, Nidwalden, Säntis, Schwyz, Solothurn, Winterthur, Zurich (including a Zurich guidebook for children).

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