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Interesting Facts about Geneva

1. Geneva is a city and a canton which was created in 1815. However, Switzerland was not a confederation until 1848.

2. The canton comprises 15,264 sq miles located on the shore of the largest lake of Europe, called Lake Geneva in the English-speaking world. This is an interesting fact because the official name of the lake is Lac Leman.

3. Visitors to Geneva are prone to ask: "Where are the Swiss?" Out of the population of about 460,000 nearly 40% are foreigners and you're more likely to hear English than the official regional language, French.

4. One reason for English usage is the proliferation of so many international organizations in Geneva such as the United Nations, The International Red Cross, The World Health Organization, The World Trade Organization, The World Economic Forum, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the World Wide Web Virtual Library.

5. Tim Berners Lee was living in Geneva working at CERN laboratories when he created the World Wide Web.

6. Just a random fact is that you can't turn right at a red light after stopping in Geneva.

7. The wristwatch was invented in Geneva by Patek Philippe in 1868.

8. Prostitution is legal in Calvinist Geneva. However, it's highly regulated.

9. A middle manager with a bachelor's degree and 10 years of experience earns about $10,460 a month in Geneva.
10. Being a landlocked country, it is a weird fact that Geneva's yacht club won the America's Cup in 2007.

11. Some fun facts concern Geneva's current celebrity residents which include Phil Collins, singer; Yoko Ono, pacifist and artist; Nana Mouskouri, singer; and Isabelle Adjani, actor.

12. Some of Geneva's former celebrity residents include Jean-Jacques Rousseau , 18th century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, 19th century philosopher, Mary Shelley, 19th century author of 'Frankenstein', Peter Tchaikovsky, 19th century composer, Lord George Byron, early 19th century poet, William Wordsworth, early 19th century writer, and Scott Fitzgerald, 20th century writer.

Things to See in Geneva

  1. St. Pierre Cathedral
  2. Airport
  3. Palais des Nations
  4. Bourg-de-Four

Geneva History

Geneva is, and always was, an international city. Marauding barbarians, Roman conquerors, exiled religious leaders, immigrant workers and refugees have left their traces on the area. Some visitors, such as the Duke of Savoy, came with swords and were repelled, (the annual Escalade celebration in the old city commemorates this). Politicians with the horrors of the First World War fresh in their minds arrived to establish the League of Nations (now the United Nations).

Visitors have a tendency to pass through the city without discovering the richness of its past. Those willing to dig deeper will find 2000 years of fascinating history.

Evidence of human settlement in the Geneva area dates back to about 3000BC. However, it was not until 500BC that the Allobroges—a tribe of Celtic origin, established a permanent village in what is now the Old City.

The first written reference to Geneva appears in Julius Caesar's comments about the Gallic wars (De Bello Gallico), which detail the Roman army's victory over an advancing Helvetii tribe in 58 BC. Romans had occupied the town (known as Genua), having driven the Celts out in about 120 BC. The town continued to flourish over the following centuries and, at the height of the Roman Empire, a bishopric was created, commanding a large diocese (400 AD).

The following six centuries can be best described as a period of "chaotic fermentation" with several migrating tribes controlling the city in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire. Throughout this time, the area gradually gained stature as an independent territory, resistant to the imperialistic intentions of threatening kingdoms.

By the Middle Ages Geneva had developed into an internationally recognized trade center. Wealth generated from the fairs held in the city naturally attracted attention from nearby aristocracy, seeking a piece of the action. From the 13th to the 17th century, the princes of Savoy attempted and failed to control the city's autonomy. At crucial moments, however, Geneva found allies in the Swiss cantons of Bern and Fribourg.

Geneva was declared a republic in 1535 and, shortly afterwards, Jean Calvin arrived to guide the city's religious and intellectual forces. Persecuted Protestants from Italy and France found sanctuary in the city. Following Louis XIV's revocation of Protestantism in 1685, Geneva witnessed another huge wave of refuge seekers. The massive influx created a boom for the city and the famously important watchmaking and banking industries were established.

The Reformation was also responsible for creating Geneva's motto: "Post Tenebras Lux" (after darkness, the light). In the context of Calvinism, the biblical references are all too clear.

Commerce, banking and watchmaking all flourished, and in 1792 the aristocratic rulers of the city were overthrown and a Republic was declared with political equality for all. Geneva was annexed by France in 1798.

Following the defeat of Napoleon in 1813, Geneva regained its freedom. Aware that it was vulnerable to foreign attack, Restoration leaders applied for the city to join the Swiss Confederation. This was granted in 1815. In the same year, participants at the Congress of Vienna officially recognized Switzerland's permanent neutrality.

In 1846, James Fazy led a revolution to overthrow the Restoration leaders and, subsequently, established the constitution now honored in the canton of Geneva.

A Genevan businessman, Henri Dunant, shaped the Geneva Convention of 1864, setting down for the first time rules for conduct in war. This led to the creation of the International Red Cross, designed to help soldiers or civilians caught up in war or natural disasters. After World War I, Geneva was chosen as seat of the League of Nations and later as the European headquarters of the United Nations. Since then, the city has looked outwards for inspiration, away from the rest of Switzerland and towards the international community.

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