It was another work trip – a short action-packed 3-day trip – to Geneva, Switzerland. Ever since I took up cycling, I’d always wanted to ride in Europe – a continent that very actively promotes cycling. Most cities in Europe have dedicated cycling tracks, parking spaces, sensitive vehicle drivers and not to forget a climate that makes the ride even more joyous. I had missed doing this the last time around but I was not going to miss it this time.
I landed on a Monday morning and spent the day in office. I checked with my colleagues for bike stores, strangely no one had a clue. However, my hotel concierge came to my rescue and helped me with this information. I was told that the city offered bikes for free to anyone wanting to ride. Every year from 29th April - that's when summers begin in Europe - one can hire a bike for free from small arcades around Lake Geneva. Alas, I was there a week before the 29th!!
So I took the other option – Geneveroule – that was suggested by the concierge. Geneveroule is an association that promotes the use of bikes in Geneva. They have a big store opposite Gare de Cornavin, which is Geneva’s main railway station. One can rent a bike throughout the year between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm.
Knowing fully well how punctual Swiss people were, I left office early to reach the place safely before 6:00 pm. The experience was extremely pleasant. They offered me a bike with a frame size that was appropriate for my height, a helmet for my safety and gloves. I was amazed to see their collection of some of the best road, cross-country and daily commuting bikes. I paid a total of CHF 28 of which CHF 20 was a refundable deposit so the ride costed me no more than CHF 8 or approx. INR 480. A very good deal indeed !!
I was a bit hesitant initially to ride in the midst of traffic, but the passion took over soon and I was rolling like it was my backyard. Geneva is beautiful and I had been there before but this time it was simply prettier. I was able to explore the smaller lanes that took me to the picturesque cityscape, I had never seen before. I rode in the botanical gardens, did the uphill climbs, rode through the parks and around the lake, on the bridges and what not.
After a 2 hour ride much to my surprise, I read names like Chamonix, Evian des Bains… was I at the French Border? INDEED…… I so wished I had kept riding that night and entered France but I was on a work trip and had to go back to report to work the next morning :(. However, I promised myself that I would come back again and see the entire country on the two wheels, I would ride up the Alps and reach the highest peak Santis on the northeastern side of the Switzerland and see all 6 countries from the peak: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France and Italy (but of course, weather permitting)
On my way back, I picked up a meal from McDonalds and sat in a park relishing it. I decided not to return the bike that evening and rode back to my Hotel, placed the bike safely in the garage and went off to sleep. There could not have been anything better than waking up early and witnessing the sunrise. Despite the fatigue, I woke up at 3:00 am, rode to lake Geneva and sat down to watch the sun awaken the whole city.
The sun-kissed Geneva looked even more delightful. I saw the city waking up, met some riders, sipped coffee with them by the lake, shared my story and then returned the bike by 8:10 am as I had promised.
I reported to work at sharp 9:15 am. The rest of the working day was uneventful as I worked through it but something extra ordinary had indeed happened. Something that had made me happier this time around. This trip certainly was more meaningful and productive than any other. I felt closer to Geneva than I had ever before. I felt as though I knew the city better and probably (hopefully) the city got to know me too. :)