Posted in Places to Visit

On Tour

 – Part San (Japanese this time) and the final instalment of my Geneva adventure – 

Last Day. Recap time! (in the form of emojis!)              ✈ 🌇 🍫 🚶 🏰 🌒

What’s to come?                                                          🚋🔬🔭🔬🔭🔬🔭🔬😄

So, let’s get started! After a continental breakfast on the continent (much to the disappointment of our peers, who had anticipated a Full English!) we head into the city. Five minutes later, we merge with the daily commuters and locals crowding the tram platform. Here’s another thing to add to the list of why Geneva is just so awesome:

  1. The United Nations (If you have missed why these guys are awesome, read part two of my adventures!)
  2. Geneva’s public transport. Seriously, we have nothing on the sophistication, efficiency and overall awesomeness of their transport system.

There are no traffic jams or rush hours in Geneva – everyone uses public transport. There are actually conductors on the train. We should know (our group were fined if we couldn’t produce tickets). Nobody on the train home had to stand or sit on the floor (Sorry Corbyn!) because it was a DOUBLE DECKER TRAIN! British Government – please get some! But I’m getting ahead of myself. We are currently on a tram on our way to… CERN.

I first alerted the group, “we’re here” when I saw the globe of science & innovation. Otherwise, I’d never have known we were passing CERN. It’s front looks dated and all seems a bit too calm for a groundbreaking research centre. Inside reception, all is not calm – the small hall is filled with chatter and laughter in a dozen different languages from visitors, tour groups and staff.

We are lead away by our guide to a classroom where he teaches us the overall workings of the complex. It’s all very interesting: orbits of increasing diameter, accelerators, experiment zones, magnets to focus, magnets to curve…*

Then he tells us that we get to visit two regions of CERN. That we were very lucky as we were allowed to visit the CMS. Eek! Now  we’re herded into a minibus, cross the Swiss-French border without a second glance, and travel through kilometres of snowy picturesque landscapes. The CMS – compact muon detector – is one of four international research detectors dotted around the LHC, recording particle interactions as particles are accelerated and smashed together. (The Large Hadron Collider is simply a very long tube in a very long tunnel!) After being kitted out in helmets and lanyards, we are herded into the pressurised lift leading us 100km underground.

We are informed that in the event of an emergency, the lift’s shaft and the LHC are the safest places to go. I found this amusing – go to the place where you normally are told not to go in an emergency and the tunnel of radiation!

The Compact Muon Detector

We pass rooms filled with servers, emergency kits modelled by a creepy mannequin, retina scanners and a 5m concrete wall surrounding the CMS. Stood in front of the detector, even the non-scientist would get excited. A feat of wonderful engineering, designed to revolutionise particle research. Cue excited face – 😄

I realise that I have talked a lot about the CMS. I’m sorry. It’s just that when you’re told that you’re some of a limited number to have seen the detector in the last six years, you can’t help but feel honoured.

Our trip is closing to an end. After purchasing a Standard Model t-shirt (it had to be done), we decide to head back into town. A small group of us jump off the tram a little later than the stop for our hostel so we can wander around Lake Geneva as the sun sets. Stunning. In the evening, we dine in a traditional Swiss restaurant, entertained throughout by two gentlemen playing an assortment of Swiss instruments: cow bells, the alphorn, accordions, a pot with a small bearing in it, and of course, yodelling!

I loved my adventure in Geneva, and would easily recommend it to everyone. A beautiful city break filled with culture, science, food and friends – what more could you ask for?

* Maybe a future post on the mechanics of CERN?


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