Touring The Palais des Nations, The United Nations In Geneva

You know it’s the UN because if you squint, you can see the UN flag on top

We recently had some visitors in town (yippee).  They were the perfect excuse to tour the United Nations in Geneva, the Palais des Nations.  Guides update visitors on the current activities of the United Nations, tell its history and answer loads of questions.

The United Nations in New York hosts the legislative body.  Geneva host tons of meetings.  I’m guessing it may be easier for diplomats and delegates from certain countries to get into Switzerland than in the US.  They have hundreds of meeting rooms to host over 2700 meetings they host every year.  Many of them look like the one above.   All proceedings are translated into the six official languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) using state of the art 70’s technology like this.

Miquel Barcelò massive sculptural installation decorates the domed ceiling of the Chamber XX of Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room. Although it was controversial for its $23 million price tag footed by Spain, everyone seemed to think it looked pretty sweet.  I wanted it for our apartment.

The Assembly Hall, the largest room in the Palais des Nations.  You can watch it on TV.  You are probably still more familiar with the large hall at the United Nations in New York from television and movies.

The Council Chamber, formerly housed the League of Nations and has stunning murals by José Maria Sert.  Many important negotiations have taken place in this room.  This room was home to the League of Nations and has hosted many tense negotiations.  It has two separate entrances so antagonistic negotiants can enter and leave at the same time.  They can also move the furniture around into a “V” formation (the tables in the other rooms are bolted into the floors) so that necociants don’t have to look at each other.

Go figure. Patek Philippe is the official clock of the UN in Geneva.

The gift shop is really cool and worth a visit.  I bought a board game about Switzerland in French and English!  You can also purchase and mail post cards from there (they will go out with the official UN stamp).

Gifts presented by various countries to the United Nations Office at Geneva are on display.  They are pretty sweet.  Germany gave this Günther Uecker picture made from nails.

Out in front of the building (at the Nations TPG public transit stop) is the famous Broken Chair sculpture by Daniel Berset.  The chair’s fourth leg is broken off, leaving shards of jagged wood, yet it doesn’t tip.  The damaged leg symbolizes the suffering of land mine victims.    I run by there often.  Between the chair, the fountain and the demonstrators that are usually around, it’s always interesting.

Advertisements

We’re Surrounded!

map

We are surrounded by France, literally. The yellow spot at the bottom of the lake is the city of Geneva. The dark green area surrounding it is the Canton of Geneva (like a state). As you can see, it is wrapped in shamrock green. That shamrock green is France!

To us, that means it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to spend money in a cheaper currency, the Euro. In other eras, it’s meant something quite different.

We met our nice neighbor who has lived in our building since 1938.  When France was occupied by Nazi Germany during WWII, Geneva was virtually surrounded by it. Germany had drawn up plans to invade Switzerland, but never acted upon them. The RAF even bombed Geneva once on accident!

 

International Run in Geneva

I found a running group that meets several times a week.  I went for a run yesterday morning and it was delightful. It was also VERY international.  I ran with people from Haiti, the UK, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Hungary, the states and Switzerland.  I’m sure there were more nationalities present, I just didn’t have time to talk to everyone about where they were from.The run was a very nice and varied run through different parts of the city.  We started at the lake, went through a park, passed fields with cows, ran around the UN (as usual, protests were in full swing), in front of embassies, by the train station and back to the lake.  It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning.

It is becoming clear that just by virtue of living here, we will be exposed to and have the opportunity to be enriched by people and things from all over the world.

 

First Time For Everything

We have been to Geneva‘s airport, train station and absolutely nowhere else in the city.  Essentially, we committed to move city sight unseen.  Thanks to the magic of the internet, we have learned a lot about the city.  Here are some basics about our soon to be new home:
  • Geneva is the second largest city in Switzerland behind Zurich and the most international city in Europe with over 40% of its population coming from outside Switzerland.
  • French is the predominant language spoken in Geneva, but most citizens speak at least one other language. English is spoken by about a quarter of the local population and by the majority of foreigners.
  • It sprawls on the banks of Lac Leman (sometimes referred to as Lake Geneva) and forms a peninsula  that is surrounded by France.
  • Geneva has the shortest commuting time of any major city in the world.
  • It has the third highest quality of life of any city in the world.
  • Dog droppings are listed as the top complaint of citizens in Geneva, annually.  How nice is it that dog droppings are the city’s biggest problem?
  • Its most famous landmark is the Jet d’Eau (the world’s tallest fountain situated in the lake). If you keep checking this blog, I am sure you will see lots of pictures of it in the future.
  • Oh yeah, and it is the 4th most expensive city in the world. Wowzers.