Saturday, August 29, 2009


In our never-ending quest to not spend a weekend at home, George and I took a day trip to Geneva, Switzerland this last Saturday. By train Geneva is only about 2 hours and 30 euros from Lyon, and hotels in the city are quite expensive, so we just decided on an early train in and a late train out. Geneva is not a very big city, but like London, all of its museums are free, so depending on what you want to do in the city, 1 day may not be enough. I would have liked to have more time to see more of the museums myself.

One of the many cool museums of Geneva

Geneva doesn't look all that different from most french cities. It has a small, ancient cobble-stoned picturesque city center surrounded by a slightly newer business and residential areas, all perched on the banks of Lake Geneva. Despite being one of the cities on the forefront of the protestant christian movements of the 1500s, it even still has the obligatory French catholic cathedral on a hill looking over the city.

Even though Geneva is a very French city in terms of architecture, language, and cuisine, it is also an extremely international city. Over half of the 500,000 residents hold foreign passports, and due to the presence of so many international organizations, there are even more temporary foreign residents to add to the international mix. I think Spanish was the language we heard the most on the streets, and English, Chinese, German and Italian were all common as well. And most importantly, the had reasonably priced Dr. Pepper and Pop-Tarts, and totally unreasonably priced, but very good Chinese food.

Geneva is a very expensive city. Some things, like soda, ice cream and most groceries were a bit cheaper than Lyon, but pretty much every thing else was quite a bit more. Restaurants are extremely expensive, and public transportation is expensive by French standards. Thumbing thru the real estate mags at the bus stop, I found real estate to be a bit high too. The Swiss pay less taxes than the French do though, so maybe it all evens out.

Geneva is also home to the European headquarters of the United Nations, and has been since its founding in 1945, which is quite strange considering that Switzerland didn't even join the UN until 2002. I suppose the UN guys just didn't want to waste all those empty League of Nations buildings, and the views of Lake Geneva probably contributed to the decision as well.

Entrance to the UN building

It's kind of hard to see in the picture above, but one of the chair legs has been broken off rather violently. This isn't just some expression of angst in modern art, but a symbol of the devastation that landmines are causing around the world--violently destroying a limb (or limbs) of about 50 people per day. Landmines are one of the most horrible devices man has ever created. They cost less than $10 to make, but absolutely destroy the lives of way too many people around the world, and countless livestock, pets, and wild animals. Landmines aren't actually designed to kill, but to maim. Killing the enemy is too easy, the enemy just buries their dead and moves on, but severely wounding the enemy affects the entire group--demoralizing the survivors, and slowing them down as they now need to care for a severely injured comrade. Despite this, about 50% of the people wounded by landmines die of their wounds, because landmines mostly plague the poorest countries which are the least equipped to deal with them.

There is simply no excuse for the continued use of landmines. All countries should sign the ban put forth by the international community in Ottawa. Over 150 nations have signed this treaty, but unfortunately the largest manufacturers and users of landmines refuse to sign. If you live in the USA, China, Russia, or India, please petition your government to sign this treaty and stop using these nightmarish devices.

For more pictures of Geneva (and less preaching), click here.


Anonymous said...

I wasn't aware the US hasn't signed... that is ridiculous.

michael said...

The treaty is currently being reviewed by the Obama administration, and rumors are that he will sign it.

We haven't actually used any landmines since initially refusing to sign the treaty, so technically we are in compliance with it anyway, but making it official sends a good message to the rest of the world, and is just the right thing to do.