When I searched Pinterest for ‘things to do in Geneva’ not a single listicle/travel blog or article mentioned CERN. This was strange because it was pretty much our main reason for visiting, but I guess Pinterest darlings who like photographing themselves in white trousers with armfuls of designer-label shopping bags aren’t the sort of people who like to look at science stuff. Either way, it was to our advantage because there was hardly anyone there.
To get to CERN you take a number 18 bus/tram for about half an hour from the city centre. The trams in Geneva are the longest carriages I’ve seen anywhere and thank god they were fairly well air conditioned because it was another stinking hot day.
When we arrived at CERN it looked like there was a big wooden sphere and not much else. I had read that there were several displays open to the public and so we went in and it was one big room with pod chairs that played audio on various science subjects, interactive things and other bits and pieces. While interesting I have to admit that I didn’t really understand much of it.
The room transformed into a cinema with a short projection about the beginning of the universe and the mission of the scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider.
I had promised to send blog-responders a postcard from CERN and there was no place selling anything on the premises. This was weird because I’d read online that they had a gift shop so we googled it and followed the directions to a rather plain and official building about 300 metres down the road. From there we were sent back to the building that was across the road from the wooden sphere. Not only did this have the gift shop (17 postcards acquired since I decided to get one for everyone who responded and not just the first 10. You’re welcome!) but it also had many more displays on the work being done at CERN. I even sort of understood some of them!
There was a full-sized composite image of the bit that opens up where the smashing of atoms happens (I’m pretty sure that’s how they refer to it) and it was amusing to see that there were ‘Don’t step on this’ stickers on this multi-billion dollar instrument.
Our visit took a couple of hours all up. CERN do offer guided tours (you do not get to see the LHC) and I had set a calendar alarm to book one but it hadn’t gone off and we missed out so I can’t tell you if it’s worth doing. I think CERN is certainly worth visiting if you’re in Geneva, even if it’s jut to buy postcards for your nerdy friends.
Speaking of which, if you do buy postcards wait until you’re out of Switzerland to buy stamps – France and the UK have cheaper postage. If you’re one of the people who asked for a card you might have to wait awhile. I haven’t sent them yet (writing out that many postcards takes time) and my last cards took SIX WEEKS to make it to their destinations. Ridiculous.
In my next post: we are underwhelmed by Geneva… or is it just that our apartment is crappy and the weather is boiling? Or both?