Category Archives: Switzerland

Montreax, Switzerland

Have you ever heard the song “Smoke on the Water“? It was inspired by an incident in Montreax as it clearly lays out in the first line. In 1971 during a Frank Zapra concert, the casion burnt down due to a fan with a flare. The band Deep Purple was nearby and was inspired to write the song. The casino was rebuilt with a recording studio in it.

The city is known for music, in particular its famous jazz festival held every summer in July, The city is decorated with various music notes, visible in the iron work around town.20170623_142015550_iOS - Copy

I took the cog railway up to Rochers de Naye. There were beautiful views over the lake and a historic hotel along the way. It made a number of stops on the way up to the top of the mountain.

Up at the top was a restaurant and a small gift shop of course. There were a number of hiking trails down and around which would have been interesting to take. I took a small hike around the area up to a radio tower and then in the opposite direction to visit an alpine garden. It was tucked in among the landscape and had plants from all over the world. In the distance you could see a lake with a dam. Also at the top were fenced in marmots for our viewing pleasure.

If you purchase your ticket online you can get a nice discount and also a credit at the restaurant.

On the way down there were paragliders! They came by too quick to snap a photo. There also was a bar at one stop with lots of hikers stopping to have a drink and take in the great outdoors.20170623_095556777_iOS - Copy

Montreax is also famous as the home of the former recording studio of Queen. A statue of Freddie Mercury is right on Lake Geneva. In 1978 they came to the studio to record after a tax law made it better to record outside of London and in Switzerland instead. The band originally formed in 1970. In 1979 Queen purchased the studio. They worked on a number of their albums there. The studio is and was a part of the casino and is right on the water.

The local surroundings and activities inspired some of Queen’s songs, including the Tour de France which inspired Bicycle Race and Fat-Bottomed Girls.

David Bowie lived nearby and worked on a track with Queen one day. You may have heard of it – Under Pressure.

Freddie Mercury apparently didn’t like the isolation of Montreax so much until he began his own health struggles with AIDS. After they finished their innuendo album the band did not tour and instead dove into making their next album to distract Freddie and best utilize him in his declining state of health at his request. Made in Heaven was the result although he never did get to hear the finished product. 20 million copies were sold worldwide and it was their fastest selling album.

Freddie died in 1991, the same day his publicist officially confirmed he had AIDS. The studio was sold in 1993. It now houses the Queen Studio Experience, which opened in 2013. Just outside is the Queen Tribute Wall as well.

The statue of Freddie on the lake was donated by Queen and the Freddie Mercury Estate.

The train ride there was beautiful with tiered vineyards and beautiful countryside.

This was one of the featured aerobic statues around town…

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ICRC (Red Cross)

The International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent/Diamond is one of the many international organizations located in Geneva.

They have an excellent museum. There are three main exhibits: Defending Human Dignity, Restoring Family Links, and Reducing Natural Risks.

1864 was the time of the original Geneva Convention. It was the founding document of international humanitarian law establishing the logo of the Red Cross as an easily recognizable emblem. The convention was designed to protect workers and the wounded during war tie. The Ottoman Empire asked for another emblem other than a cross as it gave offense to Muslim soldiers, thus the Red Crescent was born. In the 2000s the diamond was created for those that can’t identify with the cross or the crescent.

The Geneva Convention established priority for protection for wounded, civilians, Red Cross workers, hospital/medical centers, religious or cultural property, places that could cause a major disaster or cause a lasting effect on the people if hit (for example, a nuclear plant or dam), and natural resources.

In one section they had 6 million index cards to cover 2 million people during WWI. THe cards tell when they were taken captive, where they were held, and when/if they died.

There was one wall full of children’s photos in Rwanda. As children don’t always know their name or information they did photo tracing.20170620_151316822_iOS


United Nations

Geneva is one of two of the most important sites for the United Nations and home to many of its related organizations. Many of them aren’t available for public visits but some have visitor centers or actual tours available.

The UN had 51 states at its creation and currently had 193 nations. There are `95 flags flown though as two nations don’t have official status. These are The Holy See (The Vatican) and Palestine.20170619_134919795_iOS

There are 5 general parts to the UN including the General Assembly (one state, one vote) and the Security Council.

There are a large number of conference rooms. The Emirates Room was just renovated by the UAE. They wanted to combine technology and tradition. The tables are white as it is an important color in the UAE. The carpet is like the deserts of Abu Dhabi with gentle rolling sand. The “sky” changes color based on the time of the day.20170619_121350932_iOS

The Chamber of Human Rights was designed by an artist from Mallorca with the ceiling looking like the bottom of the sea. It was absolutely spectacular!

The official languages of the UN are English, French,  Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian. The nameplates for countries are in French or English.

The Palais Nacion (one of the conference rooms) held the conference of disarmament. The League of Nations was dissolved in 1946. The Palais Nacion was originally built for this.20170619_124934361_iOS

Out in front of the main entrance (not the tourist entrance) is a broken chair with one leg mission. Three French doctors wanted to convince the nations to ratify legislation  on land mines issues.

In the General Assembly Hall two big meetings occur per year. It holds 2,000 seats. It will also hold special events, for instance when Angelina Jolie comes as a representative for UNICEF.20170619_130908959_iOS

I bought some souvenirs which I rarely do but they had a wall of map oriented items and I couldn’t help myself… And I was looking for a new luggage tag.

On my way out I spotted a beautiful peacock wandering through the parking lot.20170619_133821727_iOS


Geneva, Switzerland


Such a beautiful city! It reminds me of my hometown with the lake and lots of activity everywhere.20170618_162806927_iOS

On the lake are two must see (and it’s hard not to) attractions.

#1 – Le Jet d’eau de Geneve, a large jet stream of water in the middle of the lake. It shoots up 140m at 200 km/h, pumping 500 liters/sec. It was created in 1886 as a way to release excess pressure at a hydraulic plant. Due to its popularity it was moved to the harbor. It is lit up for various holidays.

#2 Bains des Paqui, a public swimming hole on a small jetty out in the middle of the lake. It’s a 2 CHF entrance fee and you can then take a dip in the lake. They have a wade in area, a diving area, and a nice cafe WITH coconut ice cream in a coconut shell that reminded me of being in Thailand it was that good. There isn’t a ton of shade but its a nice place to cool off for the evening.

Geneva is home to a large number of international organizations as one of the other homes of the United Nations (with NY being the other). More on that in other posts.20170619_134933673_iOS.jpg

Fun fact – if you stay in a hotel in Geneva they will give you a free transportation card!

One afternoon I wandered around the old town. The University of Geneve has a beautiful park like campus with a Reformation Wall. John Calvin, the founder of the University, played a major part in the Reformation as did the city of Geneva. The wall is a memorial to this past.20170622_134617999_iOS

Nearby you can walk into the walled parts of the city where St. Pierre Cathedral is. It is a rather beautiful place inside and sits in a semi-secluded area. I sat on a bench out front for awhile, enjoying the shade and peace and quiet.20170622_135442783_iOS

As you walk back to the lake, the famous flower clock is landscaped into a small hill in the park areas in front of the lake.20170622_143442223_iOS

European Rest Stops

Are quite different from U.S. rest stops…

Honestly I think that they are one of my favorite things about driving in Europe, especially as I tend to stay well hydrated.

They come in a wide variety but tend to have a couple of things in common: they’re large and they are clean. I’ve seen that span over the entire roadway, having been built over it.

One I stopped at along the way had a McDonald’s, another restaurant, a hotel, an erotic shop, toilets (obviously), an artisan cheese and meat shop, a small Swiss museum, and a general convenience store.

I stopped at the McDonald’s for a snack and was intrigued by some of the offerings. They had a large touch screen as well that I have seen a couple of times in the States. I should note that the only time I ever eat at a McDonald’s is overseas as I find there local offers intriguing. It’s fascinating what they come up with. In this case I had guacamole and salsa fries, a caprese chicken wrap and an apple pie (fried, not baked as is customary in other parts of the world). They also offered a quinoa curry burger. One nice thing about the touch screen is that it offers multiple languages.

Horgen, Switzerland

Passing through Switzerland I stopped in Horgen, a town on Lake Zurich.

I wandered around town and found one of the coolest cemeteries I have ever seen. It is higher up on the hill with a slight view of the lake. The church seems to have a dedicated gardener who grows all sorts of items.

The graves are laid side by side and then surrounded by various plants. It seemed to be that succulents were popular at the time.