From Lausanne I ventured westward along the lake, by train to the beautiful city of Geneva. Geneva is famously known for being home to Palais des Nations (United Nations) as well as many other international organizations (World Health Organization, International Red Cross, International Labour Organization…) Basically an incredibly important international city and European hub. Although New York is the official headquarters for the UN, the office in Geneva is the second largest and host many conferences. Originally the buildings were built to house the League of Nations which was formed post World War I. Unfortunately, the League of Nations didn’t succeed as a world organization when it was unable to prevent the second World War. They shut off the lights and left the building (literally). Later, the United Nations formed, with similar ideals as the League of Nations, in hopes to secure world peace and moved into the buildings.
The one hour tour was impressive as the informative tour guide takes you from the history to the current challenges the UN is undertaking to try and better the world in many ways. Just remember to bring your passport and be prepared to wait to cross security (they print out a temporary badge for each visitor). What you see on the tour varies depending on what conferences or meetings are taking place during the day. The tour only entered empty conference rooms and even though there was nothing going on when we visited, I was a little bit in awe sitting in the seats and picturing an actual conference taking place.Sea of Harmony by Miquel Barcelò in a conference roomOn the tour we were able to some of the following: Assembly Hall (largest room in the Palasis des Nations), Council Chamber (where many important negotiations have taken place), rotating artwork from various countries, different gifts presented by countries who have visited the UN Offices at Geneva.
If you take the tram to or from the UN Headquarters, the first thing you will see is a large broken chair monument with a water fountain on the other side. This chair is a symbol of peace to raise awareness of those disabled from land mines and bombs.
I continued into town, crossed the bridge with the colourful Swiss flags, and walked towards the Jet d’Eau. I would say it’s the most photographed spot in Geneva as the water pumping 160 feet in the air is hard to miss. I even saw the jet of water from the train ride from Lausanne.
(A strand of my hair decided to try and look like the Jet d’Eau)There’s a walkway you can cross to see the Jet d’Eau but you can’t avoid getting sprayed with water!
Around the park and along the water was very nice – there seemed to be a lot going from festivals to food stands, it was a very lively scene. I would definitely recommend picking up a bite to eat at one of these stalls for cheaper food, and it’s more fun! Next I walked through the Jardin Anglais with a famous Flower Clock. This area also known as the spot to buy watches. Geneva remains a world leader for quality watches, dating back to the mid 1600’s.
The Old Town was steps away from the garden. I unfortunately only had one day in Geneva and I was exhausted at that point so I didn’t do too much walking. Surprisingly the heart of the shopping wasn’t in downtown Geneva but in the Old Town. Which to me seemed a little strange having an Omega store close to a cathedral (first world problems). I don’t particularly like shopping so I was just browsing the streets and enjoying the cobblestoned roads.
I would completely understand why travellers on a budget would skip Switzerland, and skip Geneva, everything is really expensive. I easily spent the most money in this country, but everything from the Swiss Alps, chocolate, cheese, convenient trains and friendly people won me over. You can’t put a price on the picturesque views (OK so you sort of can..) but I had such an incredible experience here – even my
empty slimming wallet couldn’t steal my joy!