An Exploration of Geneva
by Jessica McDonald -- June 1st, 2015
Bonjour! Comment ca-va? Unfortunately, the French language skills I gained while in high school need a lot of refreshing. I must apologize to Mrs. Luppinaci-Reed who was my amazing French teacher –> Je suis desolee Madame! Luckily I know enough to get by in the city, and I’ve had a wonderful time watching peoples’ expressions as I work through my broken French sentences.
Over the past week I have been very impressed by this historic, efficient, and multicultural city. As I was settling in and preparing for the start of my internship I had the opportunity to explore my new home for the summer. I want to share with you a little bit of what I’ve seen and experienced.
After obtaining my month-long transportation pass I immediately went to visit Le Palais des Nations, also known as the headquarters of the United Nations. I stood at the wrought iron gates surrounding the immense complex for quite a time watching the flags of the world’s countries blow furiously in the wind.
This is why I chose to intern in Geneva. I am interested in the UNFCCC’s multilateral climate negotiations, and this city is a global hub for international diplomacy. There are 35 international organizations with headquarters in Geneva including the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the World Trade Organization. The United Nations office at Geneva services more than 8,000 meetings every YEAR. There are also over 250 nongovernmental organizations located here, which act as advisors to the United Nations.
One fun fact is that this enormous amount of global participation has made Geneva the most international city in Europe, with over 40% of the 200,000 people living here coming from outside of Switzerland.
Right next to the Palais des Nations is a massive botanical garden called Les Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques. Situated adjacent to Lake Geneva this approximately 70 acre park comprises over 14,000 living plant species. I know I’ll be spending plenty of time this summer meandering through the cobblestone pathways that lead from exhibit to exhibit.
One lesson I have learned in the past week is that the Swiss love their quirky rules and customs. Sundays are particularly interesting because it’s forbidden to make a lot of noise. You can get fined for doing your laundry or even taking out your recycling. This is why I was very surprised to find a flea market spanning multiple city blocks on a Sunday. The sounds of a violin and an accordion filtered through the streets as people sold their no longer wanted items that ranged from old ACDC CDs to kitchen supplies.
It was after this market that my fellow Duke students and I spotted the famous Geneva fountain! Called the Jet d’Eau this fountain shoots water into the air at around 200 km/h, and at any one time there can be 7 tonnes of water in the air.
Since Geneva is situated very close to France I took the opportunity to visit Mount Saleve with a fellow Duke student. It took us only 20 minutes to reach the last bus stop before the French border, and then we took a cable car up over 3,500 feet in just about 5 minutes. From the top of the mountain we could see the entirety of the city, as well as the vastness of Lake Geneva.
To explore around the lake I traveled to the very quaint town of Montreux, which is an hour-long train ride from Geneva. The city follows the shape of the shoreline, and I could see the snowcaps of the Alps reflected in the crisp clear blue water of the lake. This is where the famous one thousand year old castle Chateux de Chillon is located.
I’ve had a wonderful time settling into this city and today I start my internship with ICTSD! As an intern for the BioRes Publications team I will be analyzing the multilateral negotiations impacting trade and the environment. With the climate change negotiations for COP 21 in Bonn starting today, the third financing for development conference in Ethiopia this July, and the Post -2015 sustainable development goals conference in New York in September this is bound to be an eventful summer.
Au Revoir for now!