Knie, the Swiss National Circus comes to Geneva

Sign? What sign? These elephants are too hard to resist!

I don't know if American children still dream of running away from home to join the circus, but there's a good chance that Swiss children do when Knie, the Swiss National Circus, comes to town. Their arrival is one of the signs of fall in the French speaking part of Switzerland and is eagerly anticipated by the children just as the "vendange", the harvesting of the grapes to make wine, is by the adults.

Even though I didn't have time to escape to the magical world of the circus, I decided to visit their zoo. Watching the children (and the adults!) marvel over the size of the elephants, the antics of the  pygmy goats and the huge horns on the Watusi cows was entertainment enough for me.

Knie will be in Geneva until September 15 when it will pack the big top tent and continue on its annual tour of the country. One of my favorite memories of the circus was seeing the elephants out for their daily stroll next to the lake when we lived near Vevey. It made for a most interesting sight!

Wondering how much it costs to watch the acrobats, the tightrope walkers and the clowns? Ticket prices range from CHF 20-75 (US$ 23-87). In the morning, it's possible to watch the animals rehearse and to visit the zoo for CHF 6 (US$ 7).

Circus Knie

Perched up high
Staying in line
Close encounters
This bark is delicious!

Captivated by the Watusi cow
Watching the humans - they do such strange things!
The big top tent is in town.
Knie, Swiss National Circus


  1. I still want to run off and join the circus. Maybe I'd settle just for visiting one these days. I should put it on my radar. They seem to be coming around again as a fun event, rather than a sordid affair, maybe due to the success of Cirque de Soliel.

    And does the last photo illustrate with a pun the correct pronunciation of the circus name?

  2. Hi Joseph
    "Knie" is in fact the German equivalent for "knee". The pronunciation is like in English except that the first sound, the k, is very strong - even more than in "kitchen". Does that make any sense to you?
    I'm planning to go and see Circus Knie when it's in our area (which is usually one of their last stops of the season). I'm very much looking forward to it!

  3. Often enough, when we talk about our first days together, my wife reminds me that she decided to marry me when she saw how efficiently I could put up our camping tent. So I am always somewhat nervous when she approaches Knie, especially when I am not with her because one of the most amazing performances of the circus is how fast they can erect this "chapiteau" in just a few hours and in the middle of the night too....

  4. Joseph, Thanks for commenting about "Knie" and "knee" - I didn't even make the connection! I'm glad that Heidi was able to answer your question.

    Heidi, Have fun at the circus! I didn't know about the possibility to go to the training sessions in the morning until I did a bit of research for this post. I bet that it would be interesting to see one.

    Anonymous (a.k.a. Stephane!) Since I'm the wife to whom you are referring and would recognize your story about the tent anywhere, I can assure you that I've never seen how quickly Knie puts up the big top tent. As you probably know, I don't normally wander the streets of Geneva in the middle of the night, not even when you're in Paris! ;-)

  5. I worked with Knie in 1968 .I fulfilled an ambition to Join a circus to see what it was really like .I stayed with them until the end of the year and sadly had to return to Ireland ...and reality .I cherish those days because they were magic for me and my friend.We had a wonderful time ,met lots of interestng people and got to see all of Switzerland .
    I fulfilled part of my "bucket list" in 2009 when I returned to Switzerland and Knie .
    What a great trip that was down memory lane .
    I hope to return again some day .
    Joe Enright

  6. Joe,

    What a great story. I've always wondered if it's as magical working for a circus as we imagine it to be or if it's a lot of hard work and long hours. It sounds as if you had a very good experience. There must have been a lot of excitement when the circus came to town in 1968.

    My fingers are crossed that you're able to make a return trip to Switzerland and to the Knie Circus.


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