I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed with Geneva. Aside from the lake, it felt like just about any other big Western European city to me, but you have to consider where I had just been. I had just arrived after five days in Zermatt, which is a nature lovers paradise in the Alps, so I think any big city would have disappointed me at the time. In any case, I made the most of my short time there by going on a day tour of the city and later visiting Lake Geneva. Besides the typical rich history of most European cities, with many museums, cathedrals and galleries, Geneva is probably best known for being global peacekeepers and for having Western Europe’s largest Lake.
The United Nations
Geneva is the city with the highest number of international organizations in the world. It is home to the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization. It is host to one of the four global offices of the United Nations and is of course where the Geneva Convention was signed. Geneva has a reputation for diplomacy and in fact has a refugee welcome center near the heart of the city. Perhaps that is why the people are so warm and inviting. I think it’s the nature of the Swiss people.
The Red Cross
Geneva is also the birthplace of the International Committee of the Red Cross and home to the organization’s world headquarters. Directly following the establishment of the Geneva Convention, the first national relief societies for wounded soldiers were founded in Belgium, Denmark, France, Oldenburg, Prussia, Spain, and Württemberg. In 1876, these committee adopted the name “International Committee of the Red Cross” (ICRC). About five years later, the American red Cross was founded due in large part to the hard work of founder, Clara Barton.
The first thing you notice about Lake Geneva is its sheer size. At 73 kilometers, long and 14 kilometers wide, it is truly massive! It is also a pretty blue color and appears to be quite clean. There is a small beach area where people swim and lay in the sun, but mostly it is full of boaters, paddle boarders, jet skis, tour boats, and people enjoying water sports of all kinds. The lake is home of the world’s highest fountain, Jet d’Eau. It shoots 500 liters of water per second high into the air, achieving an impressive height of 140 meters (460 feet)! There are many marinas on the lake too, and on one side there are huge mansions belonging to the rich and famous, dignitaries and celebrities.
Geneva is the second largest city in Switzerland, and gateway to the Alps and many other European countries. The lake district was my favorite part of the city. It has beautiful views of the mountains and a lot of entertainment and restaurants along its banks. If you are in the mood for cultural events, delicious cheese, decadent chocolate or a Swiss army knife or watch, Geneva is the city for you. However, if you prefer the great outdoors, skip Geneva and head to Zermatt instead.