Monday, January 26, 2009

Cheese and Chocolate

Switzerland is famous for two of our favorite things: cheese and chocolate. That fact alone guaranteed that our weekend in the of land neutrality would be wonderful. We arrived in the city of Geneva and headed to our hostel to drop off our bags. When we checked in, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that Geneva gives all its hotel and hostel guests free transportation within the city. What a deal!

We then hopped onto the tram and headed out to Botanical Gardens for a picnic lunch. The gardens (and conservatories) were free to the public. Even in the dead of winter and the middle of the work day, they were quite full of people. It seemed to be a popular running spot for locals. After enjoying our lunch in the warm tropical conservatory, we perused the gardens and noticed there was even a deer reserve in the gardens. I imagine this would be the perfect place to spend a warm spring afternoon when the flowers will be in full bloom.

Our next stop was the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. The permanent exhibit explained the founding, history, and role of the organization. While I believe the museum was cutting edge at one point, the 10 projectors needed to show a single 8-minute slide show seems a little out of date. I wonder what the return on investment would be to pay someone to create a movie with the slides verses the cost of running so many projectors. However, features like the large transparent, layered photographs of wars and natural disasters were visually compelling. One of the rooms contains all of the POW cards from WWI and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Also on display was the Nobel Peace Prize that Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross, was awarded in 1901. Dunant was the first recipient of the prize. The International Committee of the Red Cross has gone on to win 3 more Nobel Peace Prizes during the last century.

The highlight of the museum was actually the temporary exhibit Walls Between People. It was a look at 8 different walls that have been built to separate people. The photographs of the walls showed how people were separated, lives disrupted, and other effects of the wall. It was interesting to see the world/humanitarian view of the wall between Mexico and the US and how it wasn't depicted that much differently from the barbed wire enclaves of Spain in Morocco or the barbed wire line between Pakistan and India.

Our last stop for the day was the United Nations' Palace of the Nations - quite possibly the least inviting tour ever. Nowhere was their a tour schedule; water damaged directional signs pointed into locked doors and the one open door lead to workers sitting at their desks beneath signs that completely mislabeled their function. After the security check, badge issuing, and payment, we were directed to an obscure door #39 "past the parking lot and to the left." To our amazement, there were actually a lot of people behind the door, and we joined them for what was actually a pretty good tour.

The tour took us through the "old" and "new" buildings, a few conference rooms, temporary exhibits and past gifts from around the world. It was similar to the Peace Palace in The Hague, in that every part of the building was built with materials from around the world and decorated with gifts from visiting dignitaries.

As the sun set, we strolled along through the parks that follow the shoreline of Lake Geneva. The view of the lake and mountains was positively breathtaking.

The rest of the day's picture are on our Flickr site.

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