We just took off from Geneva airport headed to Hamburg to board our ship back to the United States. The view from the plane as we left and took off toward the Alps was indescribably beautiful. As we turned slowly towards the Jura Mountains, we could see Geneva with it's famous jet d'eau and Mont Blanc In the background.
One interesting factoid we picked up about the Geneva airport is that when taking off, the runway crosses through two countries. It seems some years back Geneva needed to expand the runway, however, there was nowhere to build, except by extending into France. An agreement was worked out (knowing the Swiss and the French. . .that took some doing), and today it even has it's own custom's office. Fortunately, they don't stop you as you cross into the other country.
Customs is something that you do have to deal with. Not so much to get into the country, but to get out. . . with the money owed back to you by the government for the value added tax (VAT) you have paid when making purchases. Most of the goods bought in Europe include a VAT. I guess the theory is that since as a foreigner you don't benefit from the tax, you should get it back. This however is not an easy feat.
First of all, it seems that shop owners don't have a common way of handling this process. Some fill out paperwork requiring that you get it stamped by customs as you leave, and a private company returns your money (minus a handling charge). Others require that you give them your credit card, which they imprint but don't charge, but require you get the paperwork stamped and returned to them. At this point, your charge form will be destroyed. If you fail to return the document within 30 days, they charge your card.
Jan is convinced the entire scheme has been worked out to provide jobs to a large number of people who deal with processing the paperwork. All I know is that it makes for a real hassle, and of course, the customs officer wants to see the goods purchased, so you have to open suitcases to get the items out. Even though Jan had this relatively organized with all the purchases packed in one location, Swiss customs is different (since they are not a member of the EU) so we will have to go through the process one more time when we dock in South Hampton for our purchases made in Italy and France.. Since the tax is around 7% of the total purchased, where the seller was willing to deal with the paperwork, it makes sense to undergo the hassle. Now, all we have to do is wait for our refund. Tick, tock . . .