A - Z 2020 Switzerland - International Organizations

Palace of the Nations at Ariana Park 

Welcome back to A - Z, all things Swiss. I is for International Organizations. 

Due to our neutrality (I'll talk about it when it's the letter N's turn in a few days), about 40  international organizations such as the U
nited Nations, the Red Cross, Médecins sans Frontières, the International Olympic Committee, IATA,  WHO, you name them - they're located in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Roughly 25,000 people are employed by these organisations and keep doing their important work. 

More than 175 UN member states are represented in Geneva - this alone accounts for a good 4,000 staff members. Every year, 4,000 heads of state, government and otherwise high-ranking officials, travel to Geneva to attend more than 3,500 meetings (sounds like there's almost one meeting per person?) 

All these international folks visiting, living and working in Geneva make for a super diverse population, and you can tell everywhere you go in Geneva: on the streets, in the trams, in the restaurants, you meet people from literally everywhere!  (Can you tell - I love it!)

I guess we have to thank this fact that the first Five Guys Restaurant in Switzerland was not opened in Zurich (largest city), not in Bern (capital), but in Geneva! 

My son and I think that those are hands down the best burgers!

Speaking of food: do you know the difference between a macron, a macaron and a macaroon?

Emmanuel Macron is the President of France, our neighbour country to our West.

macaron is a confection made up of two round, flat, almond-flour-based cookies sandwiching an emulsified filling like ganache or jam. Any variation in color or flavor is simply a variation in the filling, plus some food coloring added to the shells. 

macaroon is a mounded cookie made with shredded coconut and often dipped in chocolate. 

Now, what may be the difference macaron and macaron?

I swear, I'm not pulling your leg. The answer is Swiss French part specific: Geneva, Lausanne, Vevey, Fribourg, Neuchâtel,...

The first macaron, as we have learned, is the  yummy meringue based, filled cookie that you may purchase at two Ladurée locations in the city of Geneva.

The second macaron is the monthly or annual parking permit that locals pay for, allowing them to leave their car within their place of residency or business for an unlimited time as opposed to visitors who have to use the parking meter and are usually restricted to half an hour. I assume the "K" represents the district the permit is valid for.

May we finally go and explore the city now..? 

I'm sure you're dying to hear about the most famous landmark, the Jet d'Eau, the large water fountain situated at the point where Lake Geneva empties into the Rhône, that is jetting 500 liters (130 gallons) of water to an altitude of 140 meters (460 feet). Back in the day it was used as a safety valve for a hydraulic power network

On your way to see the Jet d'Eau at close range you'll take a leisurely stroll along the river Rhône and the lake on your left hand side...

...and the English Garden on your right. It is especially pretty in spring. I took these pictures two years ago, you know the good old times, you were allowed to go out and explore?

Does anybody know what time it is..?

Upon preparing for said trip a while ago, I did some research, and I came across the Broken Chair, Paul Vermeulen's sculpture on the Place des Nations. It is an enduring symbol of the world’s opposition to land mines and cluster bombs. The Ban Land Mine Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, with its 162 signatories (the U.S., Russia, China and India are not among them?!) remains a noteworthy example of how civil society, NGOs, international organizations and governments can take decisive action for a safer, more peaceful world.

Another sightseeing tip I got from the internet (hey, it's fun to be a tourist in your own country!) is the neighborhood right in the main train station's backyard, the bohemian Grottes quarter. I've never left Gare Cornavin at its north side, because the south side is the one leading to the lake and the shopping area, so I was in for a surprise! Look who welcomed me!

From the 1960s the Grottes was the home of anarchist communes and squats, and although it has been gentrified in recent years, it is still a very affordable place to live considering the center is so close.

I was lucky to explore the city on such a gorgeous day, and I didn't even visit the Botanical Gardens, but even if it were raining, there'd be more than enough museums to choose from: 
  • Patek Philippe Museum Home to the prestigious creations of the Geneva-based firm of master watchmakers which was founded in 1839. 
  • International Museum of the Reformation In the 16th century, John Calvin set out to turn Geneva into a model for a new way of living the Christian life, to serve as an example to the world.
  • Art and History Museum Among other things they display Ancient Greek, Roman and Egypt stuff: Sphinx, pharaohs and their tombs, vases, the works. History was not my favorite subject at school for this exact reason: no matter if in primary, middle or high school: every time you would go back in time and talk about the Romans, the Greeks and the Egyptians, and by the time you graduated, you barely made it to WW I. 
  • Natural History Museum I understand it features a live two-headed turtle and lots of stuffed preserved animals. 
  • If you're into China, as in porcelain, ceramics, pottery and glassware, you ought to check out Musée Ariana
  • We wouldn't be in Geneva if there wasn't the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum Now this sounds like something I might actually visit! Even if it was just to take a break at their roof top restaurant! Kidding.
I intended to take the tram to the suburb of Meyrin, to check out CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire = European Organization for Nuclear Research). Not sure if you need a PHD to even set foot on the campus? 

Alone reading about the 27-mile ring of superconducting magnets somewhere beneath our feet which is accelerating particles at the speed of light, makes my head spin! And yes, regular people like you and me are welcome to visit, evidently.

But I was running out of time.

And sure enough my ride home wasn't as painless as in the morning. Not only did I hit some rush hour traffic jam, I also got pulled over... 

But that's a story for another day!

I hope you've enjoyed this virtual day trip to Geneva, and you'll be back tomorrow.  You guys democratically voted that I'll cover Switzerland's justice system, and I'll try to keep it somewhat fun :-)

Today I'm also participating in a writing challenge called Use Your Words. Today's post is about coping with the lockdown situation. Check it out!


  1. Yes for sure there is a little difference betwenn Macron and a macaron ;)) Beautiful gardens, and these Grottes look wonderful buildings. Oh, too bad, nobody vote for soccer? ;D

  2. Thanks for the tour! Someday I'll have a proper visit to Europe!

  3. I am enjoying your daily posts and learning so much about your culture. The macaron cookie shoppe looks so inviting. I love those pretty boxes in the cases.

  4. I love cities that get an influx of people from all over the world. It's so great to get differing perspective on things. I'm sure I would enjoy exploring Geneva although I don't think I'd make the trip to CERN. It's a little too intimidating there.

    We have a Five Guys near us too - they are the best burgers!

    Weekends In Maine

  5. Loved the tour of your city. I have visited the UN in New York befoe they stopped public tours. It was my dream to work for the UN in their development aid programmes. But maybe that dream will have to wait for another lifetime now.

  6. Awesome tour of Geneva! I am going to bookmark this page for when I visit so I can have some reference points and reminders of all the wonderful things to see when visiting your country. Thank you for sharing! Sending love. Jaime


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