Entrance to the CERN building
We were really looking forward to visiting this interesting and internationally renowned city where 25 international organisations are based – the United Nations Office and many of its subsidiaries, medical, religious and scientific organisations plus many others. For us, the most interesting place which we had planned to visit was The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). This is the place known as the research entity trying to find the Higgs-Bosun Particle or ‘God atom’ ie. to discover how the universe came into being or what was there before the Big Bang?
The only train to Geneva left Montpelier in the afternoon so we had a bit of time to take closer look at parts of Montpelier itself. Sadly, we were not at all impressed with this city, especially having visited a lovely clean and interesting place the day before. The train left at 3pm and gradually introduced us to the beautiful countryside of the vineyards of S. France as we moved north-eastwards to Geneva. On arrival it was fascinating to get off a train and be faced with 2 options – go left to Switzerland and right to France.
Memorial to commemorate the Union of the Swiss Cantons
Although Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and so not a Schengen-visa country it was not necessary for us to have a separate visa. This has since been introduced for South Africans and other visitors which could impact us if we wish to visit our friends there again. It was 10pm when we arrived in Geneva and so the station was very quiet. Fortunately we found a cleaner who was able to direct us to the exit which led us to our hotel which turned out to be right across the road.
Our hotel in Geneva
We decided to visit CERN on the first of our 2 days in Geneva as it was the main reason we were here. Once again it was pleasing to find that the Eurail Pass can be used on the trams so there was no cost in travelling to CERN from the hotel. The tram station was right outside the hotel entrance and we had to make one connection on to a bus which stopped at CERN. It is not possible to book a tour for less than 10 persons in advance so we had to hope that enough others would turn up to have a tour. We were not disappointed.
Trevor in front of the icon of CERN
On arrival we were welcomed in a most friendly manner and advised to visit the museum downstairs, which really needed at least 3 hours. We had just 45mins before we were to meet to hear the story of CERN, which was first set up in 1954, and then to be taken on a tour. It is served by 20 member nations with the top scientists of the world being given the opportunity to work and study there.
A model of the Large Hedron Collider
We had seen a number of documentaries on TV showing, in particular, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) through which the particles are aimed at one another to arrange a collision using magnets. When we went into the initial briefing we were told that there was testing taking place on the LHC and we could not visit that area. That was blow but there was still plenty to see and we really enjoyed having had the opportunity to be there. We were taken on a tour of all other sections and shown some details of how some of the experiments were done. Also, it gave me an opportunity to buy Trevor his birthday present of a book on the whole project.
We learnt various other bits of interesting information unconnected with the foundation of the universe project. Of the 27kms of the circular underground proton collider, 24kms are in France and only 3 in Switzerland. It took just 3 months for the French to approve the project but the Swiss took nearly a year as they had to do so much consultation! 100% democratic are the Swiss. Besides all this, complicated and high level physics taking place at CERN we learnt that the World Wide Web was designed and invented there too. This took place so that scientists around the globe could connect and discuss information with one another without having the added cost of travel or long conference calls . Another result of research developed at CERN, the creation of particle detectors, has advanced techniques used for medical diagnosis.
It is rather like space exploration and developments in motor sports. So much of what is created and discovered in these eventually also directly and indirectly affect our daily lives in various ways.
Including the travelling it took the full day to visit CERN so we went to a small restaurant for supper before returning to the hotel.