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Curiosities in the Eaux-Vives Cité district

The Eaux-Vives Cité district is home to numerous curiosities, many of which are emblematic of Geneva and its history.

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The Jet d'eau: the main attraction in Geneva

A tourist attraction for more than a century and the very emblem of Geneva and the Eaux-Vives district, the Jet d’eau was initially created for practical reasons. From 1886 onwards, it served as a safety valve in the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in la Coulouvrenière and measured no more than 30 m.

In 1891, it was moved to the bay for the 600th anniversary of the Confederation and transformed into a luminescent column of water 90 m high. Today, it can reach up to 140 m in calm weather, the water gushing from the outlet at a speed of 200 km/h. Did you know that it is hollow at the centre? It is a circle of water filled with air!

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The chestnut tree in the city’s employ on the Promenade de la Treille

On the ramparts of the old town, the pleasant and shady Promenade de la Treille offers sweeping views over the parks and monuments surrounding the former fortified town. This is where the official chestnut tree of la Treille is planted, used by the city authorities to indicate the arrival of spring: since 1818, the bailiff of the Republic observes the opening of the first bud to announce the official arrival of spring.

In the 18th century, this esplanade became the place to be seen for anyone who was anyone. The crowd was so dense that it was decided to install a huge bench, 120 metres long. It is supposed to be the longest wooden bench in the world.

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The Pierres du Niton: a former place of worship where the level of the water is measured 

Off the Port Noir, two rocky mounds poke from the water: these are les Pierres du Niton, or Neptune’s stones. According to legend, the giant, Gargantua, threw them into the bay from the Salève mountain when playing shuffle-board. They may have been a place of worship in prehistoric times. Two Bronze-Age axes were discovered at the base of the largest stone. Some also believe that “Niton” is a deformation of the Gaulish god Neith or the Roman God of the waters, Neptune. The site may have been a place where offerings were left for the god.

From 1820, the stones were used to determine the average level of the waters of Lake Geneva, measured at 373.6 m above sea level. They were subsequently used as a reference point to calculate the level of the land throughout Switzerland.

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The Horloge fleurie: thousands of plants to tell the time

Created in 1955, the horloge fleurie, or flower clock, perfectly combines Geneva’s watchmaking and botanical expertise. On average, more than 20,000 flowers are used to tell the time in the Jardin anglais every year. A genuine showcase for the City of Geneva, this floral creation is renewed four times a year through the tireless work of a team specialising in carpet bedding – the art of creating shapes by combining different plants.

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The mascaron of la Corraterie: a heroine of l’Escalade

Whose is the female head, wearing a headdress and collar, overhanging the entrance to building no.7 of la Corraterie? According to tradition, it is la Mère Royaume who etched her name in the history of Geneva by knocking a Savoyard soldier unconscious with a tin pot during the Escalade of 1602. Every 12 December, in memory of this 60-year-old mother-of-16 from Lyon, the confectioners of Geneva produce thousands of chocolate pots filled with marzipan vegetables. 

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The market in Rive: when the country comes to town

On the occasion of the marché Helvétique, the region’s farmers meet every Wednesday and Saturday at the very heart of the city on Boulevard Helvétique, which suddenly abounds with fruit, vegetables and local products. The sector of Rive, home to numerous office blocks, swaps its three-piece suits for the aprons of market gardeners, butchers and cheesemakers.

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The Neptune: a testimony to 2,000 years of navigation on Lake Geneva

Classified a historical monument in 1993, the Neptune belongs to the family of large flat-bottomed boats and Lateen sales that could be seen on Lake Geneva as early as the 13th century. Some 27 metres long and 8.5 metres wide, they were initially used to transport stones from Meillerie and other construction materials. In 1971, having reached the end of its service life, it was saved from demolition by the state of Geneva, which bought it and restored it to its former glory. This testimony to almost 2,000 years of commercial shipping on Lake Geneva requires a major overhaul every 25 years. It can now be hired for all types of event.

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Some works, monuments and tourist sites in Eaux-Vives Cité

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Sources:

  • André Klopmann, Marcel Malherbe, Genève Lumières, Genève : Slatkine, 2003
  • Christian Vellas, Genève insolite et secrète, Tours: Jonglez, 2010
  • Ville de Genève, sous la dir. De Rafael Matos-Wasem, Genève à pied. 10 parcours à thèmes, Genève : Editions Slatkine, 2008
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Article modifié le 02.03.2020 à 10:15