Geneva on an Olympus OM-1

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Geneva is the largest French-speaking city in Switzerland and the second-largest overall behind Zurich. Situated on Lake Leman (or Lake Geneva), it is nearly surrounded entirely by French territory: if you drive to the east, west or south you will be in France within half an hour.

Mountains rise up from the lakeshore to create a permanent backdrop to daily life. But it is the that lake dominates the city: the beaches and lakeside bars provide entertainment throughout the summer, iconic hotels and watch-makers border the northern shore, and the Jet D’Eau is an evergreen tourist attraction.

The city began meaningful life as a key Roman border town in 121BC so its history is long and varied – with fortifications, monuments and a cathedral to match.

Despite the cafes, the language and the styles of Paris, Geneva is undoubtedly a Swiss city. Shops close at 7pm on weekdays and never open on Sundays. Democracy is operated bottom-up, with referendum posters more common on roadside advertising than commercial messages. Protestantism is prominent and celebrated – with the added significance of being the place where John Calvin personally headed the local Reformation in the 1540s.

In the face of all these impressive constructions – both natural and man-made – I find capturing photographs of the iconic Geneva landmarks difficult. Partly that’s because of the typical modern city issues: tram lines and telegraph wires criss-crossing in front of every building, old streets dragged into the modern era with roadsigns and painted lines, shops and restaurants occupying historic squares.

And partly it’s down to how cramped the city can feel: 2,000 years of history and 200,000 people fitted into an area that you can comfortably traverse under an hour.

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