Geneva: A Tour of the United Nations and a Taste of the World Cup

There’s no better way to see a city than being shown around by a local, so imagine my luck when I learned my sister would be spending her summer living in Geneva, Switzerland. I shared our first day’s adventure last week, in which we took a cable car to the top of nearby Mont Saleve, France for magnificent views. The second day of the trip, however, had two primary missions: touring the United Nations and watching the Swiss national soccer team take on Cyprus in a World Cup qualifying match.

United Nations, Geneva

Flags on flags on flags at the UN

Geneva’s United Nations office is one of the four major sites of the UN and the second largest after the headquarters in New York City. It is located within the Palace of Nations, which was originally built between 1929 and 1936 to house the League of Nations. The Palace of Nations and its buildings make up the second largest building complex in Europe (can you name #1?) and, in 2012 alone, over 10,000 intergovernmental meetings were held there. Needless to say, it was quite a fascinating building to explore.

United Nations, Geneva

Important world decisions AND a seriously cool ceiling. What more could you need?

Our guided tour of the Palace of Nations detailed its history, architecture, art, and recent events as we toured the grounds and saw the rooms in which some of the world’s most important events have taken place. Did you know that, although American President Woodrow Wilson was key in establishing and promoting the League of Nations, the U.S. was not a member? Or that, despite the building’s location, Switzerland did not join the UN until 2002?

United Nations, Geneva

Look where I am!

We left the UN just a bit more worldly and headed to Lake Geneva to cross it by ferry and then circle its shores, viewing the iconic Jet d’Eau fountain and checking out life around the city’s centerpoint.

Jet d'Eau, Geneva, Switzerland

The Jet d’Eau on a sunnier day I spent there in 2008. Switzerland was co-hosting the UEFA Euro that year, hence the soccer ball and flags.

The highlight for the evening, though, was a FIFA World Cup qualifying match between Switzerland and Cyprus. Neither team was known at the time for its soccer prowess (although Switzerland ended up impressing in the 2014 World Cup!), but I’m always down for an international soccer match. We got into the spirit of the game by dressing in red and getting our faces painted outside the stadium, and then in we went to cheer on La Suisse.

Switzerland World Cup Qualifying Match, Geneva

(CH)eering on our new team

We had to brave the rain to watch the match, but we had fantastic seats only rows from the field, and the crowd’s enthusiasm was contagious. The game remained tied at 0-0 until Switzerland scored a winning goal at the 90th minute, giving them a four-point lead at the top of their World Cup qualifying group, which would send them to Brazil the next year…and give them the fourth seed in my personal hierarchy of favorite teams.

Switzerland-Cyprus World Cup Qualifying Match

The victors

Back to Madrid we had to go early the next morning, having wrapped up our weekend in Geneva with a bit of Swiss pride and international education. Overall, I have to admit I’m not head over heels in love with Geneva: it’s pricey, lacks a bit of soul, and doesn’t offer as much natural beauty as much of Switzerland. However, it’s still a lovely place to spend a few days, especially when you have a temporary local (like my sister) playing host. Vive la Suisse!

7 Responses

  1. Craig says:

    Great article. Shame you didn’t fall in love with Geneva, I always expect Switzerland to be very expensive. At least you got to watch the football 🙂

  2. I’ve always thought of Geneva as being this beautiful crown gem of diplomacy and politics… so sad to have the stars knocked out of my eyes. I’m glad you managed to catch a game though, sounds like that was well worth the trip!

  3. Woodrow_4Lyfe says:

    Hello Venga!

    I’m a long-time reader, but first-time commenter.

    I’m really glad that you mention Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations and give proper credit to this truly great man who developed the forerunner for the United Nations.

    So many people erroneously attribute the UN to Roosevelt, which is both non-factual and personally upsetting to me. The whitewashing of history by FDR-fans is a huge problem and as an amateur historian, I feel the need to remind people of the horrendous things that this man did while he was the leader of the free world.

    Mainly, I’m referring to the scandalous telegraph scandal.

    I have copied the relevant details from the Wikipedia article for your readers:

    According to his political opponents, the President deployed thousands of census takers nationwide to obtain the contact information for attractive women who were married to soldiers fighting overseas. He would then send salacious telegraphs to many of these women with thinly-veiled sexual suggestions.

    Messages such as “you can make this crippled man rise up from his chair” and “I’m running for president of your pantyhose” became an embarrassment for FDR and caused a national uproar. In congressional testimony by White House aides, it was revealed that between 1941 and 1944 the President sent thousands of these messages and was often observed in the early hours of the morning tapping frantically on his telegraph machine.

    When confronted by the media with damning evidence, Roosevelt claimed executive privilege and that the telegraphs were related to national security… “of brassieres,” he added wryly.

    • Hi Woodrow,

      Thanks for your message and for your prime usage of HTML tags and attributes. I also need to thank you for bringing to light the truth about a president as highly regarded and exalted as Franklin. While I admire his wit and thorough understanding of the female psyche, I do have to agree – as T. Woodrow Wilson knew full well – that the White House is NO house from which to send these words of devotion.

      I hope you’ll continue to remind my readers of even the darkest of truths about our glorious nation’s history.

  4. David says:

    Kirstie, I just got back from Geneva a few weeks ago and I must say I fell in love with the UN building.
    That photo with the flags is to die for.

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