Anja Niedringhaus  /  AP
A mother relaxes with her child on a well at the Place du Marche in the heart of Carouge, a suburb of Geneva. Place du Marche is still used as a marketplace and starting point for random exploration of the quarter.
updated 4/17/2007 1:15:44 PM ET 2007-04-17T17:15:44

The fast-flowing River Arve separates the city of Geneva from its nearby neighbor, Carouge.

But the laidback town is a world away in terms of architecture, atmosphere and history.

"People come to Carouge, they still feel this difference," said Gianna Mestermann, a guide who runs tours of the area. "It's a little like going on vacation. As soon as you leave Geneva, you're surprised by the architecture and the artisans you see working."

In the 18th century, the Arve was actually an international frontier, marking a border between Carouge, which belonged to the Italian realm of Piedmont, and the city-state of Geneva, which at the time was still heavily influenced by the austere 16th-century Protestant preachings of John Calvin.

King Victor Amadeus III, a Catholic ruler whose domain included Carouge, wanted to develop the tiny settlement into a trading rival to Geneva. But he needed more people, traders and craftsmen to boost his ambitious project.

"He wanted to build a town just at the doors of Geneva and to compete with Geneva," explained Mestermann over a cup of coffee in her Carouge office, which looks out on the town.

Over time, Carouge became a place where Catholics, moderate Protestants from Geneva, and Jewish traders fleeing persecution around Europe were able to live together peacefully.

Carouge today is considered a suburb of Geneva, as well as a destination for artisans and fashionable young city dwellers.

On the street, visitors can find artists' workshops, specialty stores and a plethora of brasseries, cafes and bars - a holdover from the days when alcohol and dancing were banned in Geneva, and its inhabitants would sneak over the Arve for a good time.

Historically, said Mestermann, "the Protestants came to Carouge because they liked to have fun now and then."

And Carouge is still the place to party. It's easy to cross the river by tram, and on weekend evenings, the bars of Carouge are packed with carousing young Genevois, while on the other side of the river, the nightlife tends to be more sedate, often catering to the city's legions of international businessmen and diplomats.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

Carouge's unusual history is evident in its design. Architects from the Piedmontese capital, Turin, designed a chess board layout around a central market square. The tree-lined streets of the new town were lined with two- and three-story pastel-colored terraces, each one with regulation green shutters on its windows. The shutters can still be seen on many house fronts today.

Following the upheaval of the Napoleonic wars, Carouge was incorporated into Geneva, which joined Switzerland in 1816 - much to the displeasure of its inhabitants, who kept those green shutters closed on Swiss national day in protest.

Still, the town's independent atmosphere lingers. Those who take the short 10-minute tram ride from the center of Geneva find that Carouge's architecture, window boxes and relaxed atmosphere still evoke a quirky Mediterranean corner, particularly when compared to the austere buildings of Geneva's old town.

But the architecture in Carouge also conceals shady, private retreats - hidden courtyard gardens behind the facades.

"The idea was to build a garden town with the gardens on the interior," Mestermann said. "When you push a door, this is always a surprise."

The views are different, too. Without Geneva's lake, green parks or majestic views of the high Alps, Carouge huddles in the shadow of Mont Saleve's sheer face and lacks something of the spacious feel of the city center. But that seems to add to Carouge's close community, particularly in December when the narrow streets are thronged with shoppers at a traditional Christmas market.

"Carouge needs Geneva and Geneva needs Carouge," Mestermann summed up. "Geneva is the elegant lady already open to the world, and Carouge is the cheeky boy that everybody likes.

"They are both a complement to each other."

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: A European tour

loading photos...
  1. Venice, Italy

    Gondolas line the bank near Venice's grand canal with the San Giorgio Maggiore church in the background. (Peter Deilmann Cruises via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Rome, Italy

    The Colosseum is one of the best-known attractions in all of Italy, and is the largest elliptical amphitheater built in the Roman empire. (Tiziana Fabi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. London, England

    The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben clock tower, located along the River Thames, are seen at dusk from Westminster Bridge. (George Rose / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Berlin, Germany

    Tourists take pictures of themselves at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The memorial, designed by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman and inaugurated in May 2005, is made up of more than 2,700 concrete steles that form a curved landscape in the heart of Germany's capital. (Barbara Sax / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Granada, Spain

    The Alhambra palace in Granada, although one of 21 finalists, missed out on being named one of the new seven wonders of the world. (Jose Luis Roca / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Paris, France

    This bird's-eye view of Paris at dusk, with the Eiffel Tower and L'Hotel des Invalides prominent, show why the capital's nickname is the "City of Light." (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Lindos, Greece

    The ancient town of Lindos is famous for its Acropolis, which stands on a 380-foot-high hill overlooking Lindos and the Aegean Sea and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Eyeswideopen / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Dublin, Ireland

    People walk past The Temple Bar, which should not be confused with its neighborhood, also called Temple Bar, in central Dublin. Ireland's capital has been voted one of the top 25 cities of the world to live in. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Lisbon, Portugal

    Belém Tower was built in the early 16th century as a ceremonial gateway to the city, and to serve as a defense at the mouth of the Tagus River. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Sebastiano Scattolin / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Barcelona, Spain

    Columns and arches of the Sagrada Familia rise high in this Roman Catholic church, which has been under construction since 1882 and remains incomplete. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Florence, Italy

    A woman looks over Florence from the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction on the city's cathedral church began in 1296 and finished in 1462. (Guido Cozzi / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. County Mayo, Ireland

    Ashford Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and sits on 350 acres of manicured gardens and land, now ranks among the finest hotels in Ireland. About a two-hour drive from Dublin, the castle has played host to myriad high-profile events, including actor Pierce Brosnan's wedding. (Tourism Ireland via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Kaag, Netherlands

    A cyclist pedals along rows of tulips near the village of Kaag, outside of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The Dutch often use cycling to get around, and Amsterdam is considered one of the most bike-friendly large cities in the world. (Peter Dejong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Amsterdam, Netherlands

    A tourist smokes at a coffeeshop "de Dampkring," or "Atmosphere," where a part of the "Ocean's Twelve" movie was filmed, in the center of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The city is famous for its nightlife, cultural activities and red-light district. (Peter Dejong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Stockholm, Sweden

    Boats line up on the shoreline in Stockholm, the capital and largest city in Sweden. The city is built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Krakow, Poland

    The Church of St. Mary of the Assumption in Krakow, Poland, is one of the most well-known tourist spots in the city and noted for its gothic, medieval architecture. However, most people come to Krakow because of its proximity to Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi's concentration camps, which is now a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. (Jon Hicks / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Nice, France

    Hundreds of people enjoy sunbathing on the beach in Nice on the French Riviera. (Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Brussels, Belgium

    The Grand Place in the heart of Old Town in Brussels, Belguim, is marked by many 17th-century buildings and flower markets. (Jean-Pierre Lescourret / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Greek islands

    Oia, on the island of Santorini, Greece, is on a clifftop village filled with white structures and gorgeous sunsets. Santorini offers seaside tavernas, cliffside paths, black volcanic rocks and of course, sunshine and the Aegean Sea. (Saundra Virtanen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Pamplona, Spain

    Revelers hold up their red scarves during the start of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain. The annual festival is best known for its daily running of the bulls. (Susana Vera / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Prague, Czech Republic

    The buildings in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, are constructed in many architectural styles from Romanesque to gothic to art nouveau and modern. (Michal Cizek / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Reykjavik, Iceland

    Tourists stand in the Blue Lagoon outside Reykjavik, Iceland. The Blue Lagoon's waters come from natural hot water springs flowing through rocks of lava. Many also believe the mineral-rich waters may have health benefits. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. St. Petersburg, Russia

    The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is seen on the bank of the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Dmitry Lovetsky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments