Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 14: Gallivanting in Geneva again!

Geneva was a day’s stopover but before we could leave this amazing city, and we still to visit a couple of places. So we packed our bags, left them at the reception and were off to the United Nations. We rode the tram. Super fun!

It was a long walk into the UN headquarters, with almost 3 levels of security screenings. We walked about the gardens before we actually entered the premises. With heavy security all around, it kinda makes you wanna act stupid. Unfortunately I could'nt act my obnoxious self as I was sure if the guards didn’t shoot me, Tan sure would.

The UN office or Palais des Nations is a massive and impressive structure. The Palais stands in the 45-hectre Ariana Park which is full of trees over 100 years old. It is said that the park was gifted by the last descendant of the Revilliod de Rive family to the UN on one condition that the peacocks roam the grounds freely. Also beneath the foundation stone of the Palais des Nations laid on 7 September 1929 lies a casket containing a document listing the names of the League of Nations Member States, a copy of the Covenant of the League and specimen coins of all the countries represented at its Tenth Assembly.

The Palais houses various agencies of the UN such as WHO, UNFPA, ECE, etc. This centre is always buzzing with activity around the year, with different agencies conducting meets and diplomats from representing countries lending their opinions. What’s amazing about this structure is the fact that most of the elements in this building were built from items gifted by representing countries. Our tour guide, an impeccable French man, told us that India gifted the peacocks, which can still be seen roaming around in full splendor.

We got to see the conference rooms, even sat in the seats that the diplomats do. Many treaties were signed in this very premise. It’s a place so full of history! It was almost as if all my history lessons had come alive.

Our tour around the building ended at the library cum gift shop and I ended up buying souvenirs for my family. A woolen shawl for Mama, a key chain for Papa and a digital clock calculator for Lovell. The proceeds of these go to different organizations of the UN, so i did not feel the pinch on my pocket much.

From the UN we walked to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), private humanitarian institution based in Geneva.
With the Red Cross flag billowing in the wind, you cannot miss it. Enter this area and you are faced with the recuperation's of war. The pain, the suffering and also hope. The ICRC houses various mandates made to protect the victims of international and internal armed conflicts, and also the medicines and medical treatments administered to victims’ of war. Founded by Henry Dunant, you can see a chronological series of developments in caring for victim from the world wars.

I don’t know how long we spent here, but I was sure glad to get out. 

From here we made a mad dash back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and hurrried to the station - Geneva's Gare de Cornavin. This time on we had to go through the international transit as we were leaving Switzerland. Our train tickets cost us zilch! Thanks to our Eurail passes. After clearing the customs, we had to wait an hour for the train. Bye bye Switzerland, I enjoyed every moment in this beautiful country.

Lyons, France

France baby France. Foot down on French soil. We disembark at Gare de Lyon Part Dieu and the place was like Churchgate station. So damn crowded. Oh God and people only speak French. With my little knowledge of it, it was not helpful. We got off on the wrong side of the station and spent the next half hour being lost, yet again. Thankfully we finally managed to ask someone who knew little English for directions and found the hotel easily. Luckily it was just walking distance on the other side of the station.

After a quick shower, we head down to the restaurant to savour authentic French cuisine. I had some fancy beef dish, and it was gross! My fault actually. Anyway it was a long day. After hanging out in the garden after dinner, we finally called it a night.

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