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

Geneve!

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.

Liechtenstein

In the tourist information center of Vaduz, one can pay 3 Euro (or CHF) and receive a passport stamp. This was my first stop! I also picked up a map here.

Liechtenstein is a total of 62 square miles and has 11 communities. The lowest point is 1410.8 feet and the highest point 8,529.9 feet. It is run as a constitutional hereditary monarchy on a democratic and parliamentary basis. The official language is High German and the Swiss Franc is the official currency although the Euro is accepted in most places.

I first checked out the Cathedral which was small but beautiful.

There is a stamp/post museum, one of the things that the small country is famous for. The center of town is a nice pedestrian area which allows for the curious tourist to move around easily.

Above this pedestrian area is the castle, still occupied by the royal family. Up for a hike, I climbed up above the city. There are different infographics along the path with information about Liechtenstein. It does remind you both on the map and the route that there is not access to the castle. Signs are posted around the castle as well.

There are some nice views on the way up.

Nearby is the Prince’s winery. Unfortunately this had closed by the time I arrived which I knew would be the case. It would have been on my list to do otherwise.

Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau (Schwangau)

I drove from Munich to Schwengau through the beautiful German countryside.

Driving into Schwengau I caught glimpses of my true destination – Neuschwanstein. One of the inspirations to for Disney’s sleeping beauty castle. Built on the top of a rock, it was breathtaking. I pulled over a couple of times on the road in to admire its beauty as it came into view. The smell of cow manure made me feel right at home.20170616_151506040_iOS

I stayed right at the foot of the other castle in town – Hohenschwangau.

The town reminds me of Venice in that it closes up at night as tourists mainly come for a day trip. 20170617_103402139_iOS

I arrived in the evening and hiked up to Marienbrucke (St. Mary’s Bridge). It’s steep on the way up the non-road path but worth it, especially if you’re looking to stretch your legs after a drive. 20170616_171746890_iOS

Holy cow… the view… It leaves you breathless… There’s a view of the castle with the village and the lake behind. I was a little nervous on the bridge as the wooden planks shift under one’s weight. There were few people up there at night so I got to enjoy my view mainly by myself.

A path connects the bridge with the castle. You come out right at the base so can see some of the exterior carvings up close.

There’s another viewpoint at the castle where you can see the town and the church. You can hear cowbells from down below. 20170616_180548206_iOS

On the way down I made a deer friend who followed me for a bit.

The next day I took the more direct road path up. The hotel said it would take me 45 minutes and I made it in 20! There is the option for taking a horse carriage or a bus (to the bridge and then you have to walk over) although I believe it is quite fun to make the hike.

  • Ludwig II lived for 40 years. Construction on the castle began in 1869 and ended with his death in 1886. He liked Wagner and dedicated the castle to his works.
  • In the throne hall there was a chandelier that literally weighed a ton with a beautiful starburst on the ceiling.
  • The bedroom had a Tristan and Isolde theme. Ludwig’s favorite color was blue and this is reflected in the room. Right off the bedroom is an artificial drip cave with a winter garden attached.
  • There was running water on the upper floors. The king also had his own chapel.
  • The swan was featured a lot as it was Ludwig’s favorite animal.
  • The tour is fairly brief at only 30 minutes as the castle was barely finished before his death. It concludes at the Singer’s Hall were there were beautiful paintings all around. Then you enter into the unfinished parts of the castle. There is a balcony with a view of the bridge, a multimedia presentation about how it would have been finished, and a look into the modern kitchen.
  • King Ludwig only spent 170 days in the castle total over 6 months.
  • I found this guy on the way down. He was already positioned there when I noticed him. 20170617_094741741_iOS
  • These squirrels were enjoying the bird feeder (make sure you find both).20170617_081758911_iOS

Hohenschwangau

  • Maximilian and Mary married when they were 32 and 17, respectively. Their son, Ludwig, became the youngest Bavarian King at 18 when his dad died at 53.
  • His younger brother Otto fought in the various wars and came home with what would have now been diagnosed at PTSD. He was placed in a mental institution and therefore unfit to potentially rule.
  • When Ludwig died, his uncle took the throne and he lived until 1912. Ludwig’s mom died 3 years after Ludwig.
  • Electricity was put into the castle in 1910 when an elevator was put in at the request of Leopold who at age 90 requested it.
  • The Wittelsbach family (royal family) owns the cast but not Neuschwanstein. Some of their castle have been sold off and some they still own. There are 20 living members of the family left.
  • The bedroom is attached to a music room featuring a bust of Wagner. The bedroom had a lot of naked women painted on the walls. There’s a telescope in the dressing area to view the progress of Neuschwanstein. In the ceiling the stars and moon could be illuminated from the third floor.
  • Ludwig II stayed unmarried and childless. He was engaged for 8 months to the younger sister of Siss, the Empress of Austria, but he broke it off.
  • There are nice gardens around the castle, which is located right off the lake.