The only European city that’s more expensive, says the WEF in its 2017 Worldwide Cost of Living Report, is Zurich - which tells you a lot about holidaying in Switzerland.
Many years ago, a group of journalists were sitting around a kitchen table in Windhoek, Namibia, discussing the unemployment rates of our countries. One of the reporters, who worked for Swiss television, said brusquely, “Fifteen.”
“Fifteen percent? That’s quite high for a wealthy nation,” someone responded.
“No. Fifteen people and we know their names.”
I don’t know if Markus was pulling our legs (though the Swiss, like their German neighbours, are not renowned for their sense of humour), but the only bums on benches I saw while working on a labour relations programme in Geneva were those in posh hotels.
Actually, the police took a close look at me and my camera maestro while we sat drinking beer and eating pizza in a park on the banks of Lake Geneva, so probably we epitomised sloth.
They couldn’t do anything, though, because drinking beer in public is legal. Drunkenness isn’t, because the Swiss would never dream of being inebriated in public at midday (when we were drinking).
Maybe it’s because fewer than 400000 people live in the city, with the average purchasing power each of around R690000 a year.
Purchasing power is defined as “the financial ability to buy products and services”, and the average will not be significantly diminished if all of Markus’s 15 jobless layabouts skive off in Geneva, which I seriously doubt.
Flippancy aside, Switzerland is, as the latest Lonely Planet guide to Europe puts it, “so outrageously beautiful it simply must be seen to be believed” - and Geneva does nothing to dispute or diminish this contention.
Geneva lies in the west of the country on the border with France. It is surrounded by snow-tipped mountains with the highest peak in the Alps and Western Europe, Mont Blanc, visible from the city.
The focal point of the city is Lake Geneva. The largest body of water in Switzerland, this glacial lake lies on the Rhône River and is plied constantly by yachts, speed boats, ferries and sightseeing vessels.
What catches the eye is the 140m-high fountain known as the Jet d’Eau.
Water is ejected from the nozzle of the fountain at around 200km/* and, at any time, seven tons of water spurts spectacularly into the air.
Floodlit at night, on sunny days the plume creates its own permanent rainbow.
Spray from the fountain drifts across the nearby pier, where children play on carousels or feed the ducks and adults sip their coffees at any one of a myriad cafés, or dine on floating restaurants.
Next to the pier is the Jardin Anglais (English Garden), a 160-year-old urban park famed for a floral clock crafted from 6500 flowers. It was in this park that we were sitting with our Heinekens and pizza when we attracted the attention of the gendarmerie.
The previous evening, having finished filming at the International Labour Organisation and United Nations on the other side of the city, we’d returned to our hotel, the five-star Metropole Geneva.
Being far ahead of our shooting schedule, we felt we deserved a drink and ordered two double Jameson whiskeys. These cost us 88 euros (about R1300 at the time).
Geneva’s beer, bought in a bar, is notorious for being the most expensive in the world at around R80 for a can that you can buy in a supermarket for a quarter of the price and savour in the sun on a park bench overlooking the lake.