After a snowy night in Bern, we got ready for the last leg of our Swiss adventure. We took the train back to Geneva (where we flew into and would be flying out of) for a day of exploring the city. Our connection between the two was seamless and the snow that had covered the countryside overnight made it extra fun.
Thankfully, Geneva hadn't gotten as much snow as Bern (it was still plenty chilly, though!), so we got straight to it. We dropped off our bags at our Airbnb and walked to the United Nations Office. The headquarters of the UN are in New York City, but there are three regional offices around the world, one of which is in Geneva. The site in Geneva is the second-largest after the NYC offices, and hosts thousands of inter-governmental meetings a year (over 10,000 in 2012, for example!). We weren't able to take a tour of the UN as they're only offered on weekdays, and we visited on a Saturday, which was disappointing for me, but now that I know more, as well as the other locations (NYC, Vienna, and Nairobi), hopefully we'll be able to take one in the future.
Visiting the UN, even if it was just the outside of the campus, was really meaningful for me, especially in light of the current US political climate. I believe in so much of what the United Nations does and works towards, the spirit of coming together and promoting international cooperation. I felt hopeful as I saw the flags of almost every country in the world waving together in the breeze - things might be hard in the US (and really, in so many other countries right now too), but I'm so thankful that there are a lot of people working towards peace and human rights and willing to stand up for what's right.
Adjacent to the UN Headquarters is the Jardin Botanique/Botanical Garden. The paths were quiet and we warmed up in all of the different greenhouses as we walked along. We exited by walking on a path under the road and continuing along Lake Geneva. This was our third city we visited that sits along the lake - we began in Lausanne where we hardly saw any of it due to the weather and our time being cut short thanks to a changed flight time, and then went on to Montreux, where we got to see the lake and the Alps together as the clouds cleared a bit one afternoon. The Geneva portion of the lake is famous for the Jet d'Eau. Literally translating to "water jet," it's a fountain that shoots a powerful stream of water 140m/460 ft high into the air all day long, year round.
D - The greenhouses weren't the most fascinating places I've ever visited (perhaps I'm just not that into botany) but it was good to warm up inside. Additionally, they were practically empty, so it was nice to have them almost to ourselves.
This was our last shot at Christmas markets for a little bit (I've yet to find a good Spanish one - Zaragoza's is the best so far, but still, not great) so we walked down Rue du Mont Blanc in search of feasts for either the eyes or the stomach, but preferably both and were kind of disappointed. Okay, really disappointed. Out of the four Swiss cities we visited and stayed in (Lausanne, Montreux, Bern, and Geneva), Montreux without a doubt had the best markets (both for food and goods) and overall Christmas cheer.
Our next stop was Cathedrale de St-Pierre/St. Pierre Cathedral, considered the adopted home church of John Calvin (the International Museum of the Reformation is also located in Geneva, if that's your thing). We intended to climb the north tower for views over the city and lake, but before we could even visit the church, we heard some really loud booms that sounded a lot like gunfire. Then, we came upon soldiers, both on foot and on horseback, and big crowds of people. Now before you get too excited, I'm not talking about soldiers in modern camouflage uniforms, I'm talking about people dressed like soldiers from the 1600s. After asking around (and observing the historical garb, obviously), we figured out that an important anniversary of the city was being marked with various reenactments, pony rides (not pictured, sorry), and excitement. We joined in by listening to a concert taking place in the church, waiting in line with the crowds to summit the north tower (for free! thanks to the special day), and appreciating how well the costumed folks fit into their surroundings.
D - While it was exciting to see ye olden cosplayers, as someone who isn't a big fan of crowds (at least when I'm trying to get somewhere) and who is easily discombobulated by loud noises (like drumlines, rifle fire, and cannons), it wasn't really my favorite part of the trip. Still, it was interesting to see a traditional celebration from another culture. Looking back now, it has me thinking that maybe it would be cool if people across America dressed up as Revolutionary War Soldiers on the 4th of July. Then again, you can't really beat hot dogs, hamburgers, and fireworks, can you? If you're interested in learning more about the celebration we witnessed, you can just Google "l'Escalade Geneva."
We ate dinner that evening near our Airbnb and the train station, and tried to turn in early, as we had a 7:30am flight back to Madrid the next morning.
We arrived in Geneva by 11am on Saturday, so we had a good bit of the day to get out and see the city. Aside from the United Nations tour, which was unfortunately impossible for us to do since we were only around on the weekend, we saw everything I wanted to. The old part of town is classically beautiful and really fun to walk around, and I'm sure the unexpected surprise of the military reenactment only added to the fun. As I talked about in our post on Bern, we were on a fairly tight budget in terms of both time and money when in Switzerland so there were a few other interesting looking museums that we didn't go to, such as the International Red Cross Museum and the Tavel House, that are worth checking into. I'd also love to get out of the city and go up Mont Salève, which is possible to reach via bus and cable car from Geneva.