Jonction – Where all the Colors Bleed into One

 If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, then Jonction may be the right place to start searching. Litte known to tourists and locals alike, Geneva boasts one of the most breathtakingly beautiful spectacular sights in the world: the confluence – “junction” –  of the Arve and the Rhône. The best view is from atop the railway bridge on a sunny day. The Rhône river carries crystal-clear water from the infinitely beautiful ocean-like lake of Geneva. Depending on the weather, it looks either mystically dark-blue or mystically dark green, while at the same time the water is so translucent that you can see the surface of the riverbed. The Arve river couldn’t be more opposite – its water is muddy, giving it a light brown, opaque texture.

The miracle occurs when the muddy waters of the Arve pour into the clear water of the Rhône: both rivers merge into a magnificently intense turquoise that sparkles in the sun.:

Google Satellite View offers a vague idea of the colors at play, with the green arrow pointing at the best place to experience the real magic when you’re there:

Größere Kartenansicht

The myriad of ever-changing shades of blue, green, brown, and many more nuances of colors flowing into each other makes Jonction truly the place, where “all the colours bleed into one” – and thus enables you to experience the promise that U2 refer to in their biblical lyrics.

U2 – I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (1987):

Given the unique natural scenery created by the intersection of the two rivers, you may be worried that the paths leading to the sight are well-guarded by people trying to make money off the sight, either by charging an entrance fee or by stands thrusting ice-cream upon you. Neither is the case.

Instead, the politicians of Geneva have wisely decided to locate the central bus garage of the local public transport authorities at this natural heritage site. The enormous rooftops that you can see on the google map at the corner of the two rivers are covering hundreds and hundreds of busses so that the busses can enjoy the beautiful landscape to the fullest – unperturbed by annoying people.

As a matter of fact, the only restaurant, the Café de la Tour on the hillside along the Southern bank of the Arve, gives you an astounding view upon the georgeous garages, carefully blocking off the view upon the two rivers flowing into each other so that no distraction troubles your indulgence in public busses.

North of the Rhône, facing the stunning colors of the rivers, is an enormous grey building harboring a hydro power plant. Its outer walls are made of the greyest industrial raw concrete that you can imagine, and are appropriately covered and covered with graffiti. There’s no Banksy among the tags, instead the depiction of a girl with red cheeks veiled in black towers prominently above all other graffiti. Perhaps as a tribute to the internationality of Geneva, one cannot tell, if the girl is a Christian nun wearing a veil, or a Muslim woman wearing a hijab. The same girl features also beneath one of the arches of the impressive railway bridge. (Perhaps that’s the message: one of the two artworks is Christian and the other is Muslim, and yet they are indistinguishable?)

Also, the best (and only) viewing point itself in fact is located on a narrow pedestrian path on the bridge, squashed between electrocuting railway lines and a thin fence to protect you from plummeting into the abyss of the rivers far below. Thus, the large amount of space used by the railway tracks obstructs your view on most of the turquoise part of the merged rivers.

But don’t be disappointed about the seemingly inappropriate clustering of ugly buildings and the apparent mis-utilization of public space filled up with industrial infrastructure, instead of being used as a recreational area celebrating nature. Alternatively, try to appreciate the whole ensemble as a majestic piece of art, raising deep questions about the superstar-status allocated to certain natural sights such as the nearby lake of Geneva – is that really the appropriate way of thinking about nature? Also, the interplay between natural beauty and man-made ugliness is perhaps symbolic for the environmental cause that is so significant for our time. In this case, you can choose to see the glass as half-full: by keeping the outskirts of Jonction ugly on purpose and by not telling anybody about this sight, it is the best thing that society can do to preserve this irreplacable natural beauty. Like this, the few people who do stumble upon the scenery by coincidence can concentrate on the nature – and not on the loads of plastic wrappers that most likely would be flowing in the river, if the sight were better known. You can, however, also consider the glass as being half-empty, and only see how even such environmentally friendly things such as hydropower and public transportation are able to grotesquely pierce into natural beauty.

A final word of warning: If you get lost on your journey to Jonction be careful when asking people for the way. La Jonction is not only the name of the confluence of the Rhône and the Arve, but is also the name of the entire city quarter surrounding that place. Thus, most people will assume that you are searching for the city quarter, so it’s better to ask directly for the rivers and hope that the passer-by your asking has seen their intersection before.

The fact that only very few people know the origins of the name is what Jonction has in common with Tuxedo Junction. In my opinion, the only valid explanation for this jazz standard title should be that it’s a place where people wearing tuxedos cross each other. I think my theory makes perfect sense, because it adequately captures the atmosphere of the music. Unfortunately, wikipedia claims that the piece is actually named after a bar that was once located at a street junction at a building called “Tuxedo Building” somewhere in Alabama.

Glenn Miller Orchestra – Tuxedo Junction (1939, here a 1940 recording):

Which just proves that the internet is no substitute for reality: just as wikipedia’s theory only gives a very incomplete picture of the Tuxedo Junction song, the google map above only gives a very incomplete picture of Jonction. If you really want to find what you’re looking for, it’s not enough to simply surf the internet – you’ll have to go there for yourself.

Find out what’s around the river bend this week!

(Pocahontas – Just around the river bend (1995):)


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