Do you think that applies to all clocks, or just flower clocks?

We started our day in a very diplomatic way. The Palace of Nations was built between 1929 and 1936 to serve as headquarters of the League of Nations. The League of Nations crumbled leading up to WWII but following the end of the war the more successful United Nations was formed. The initial purpose of the United Nations was to stop wars between countries and to provide a platform for dialogue. Today there are only 2 soverign states in the world who are not members. The first is the internationally recognized Vatican City and the second is Palestine, which is working hard to gain international status and has applied for UN membership. The UN has used these buildings since 1945 (though interestingly, Switzerland didn’t join the UN until 2002).
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Today the main UN headquarters can be found in New York…it is there that the more political and major issues are discussed and debated. The UN offices in Geneva focus more on Human Rights.

A regular person cannot just wander about the UN headquarters unattended, so we had to go on the guided tour. It took a little over a hour and was very interesting. We saw a lot of very big rooms where very important people who represent the entire world discuss very influential issues.
At one point we stopped to overlook the Palace of Nations garden. It is quite lovely, but is regulated by strict security so we couldn’t actually go in it. At the center sits a really interesting sculpture. It is in the shape of a globe but is a projection of what you would see in the sky from any point at one specific time. All of the constellations weave in and out of each other upon it. This sculpture was dedicated to Woodrow Wilson, as he was the man who first came up with the idea of the League of Nations.
The last room on the tour was also the newest in the Palace. It was only completed a few years ago and is now used for meetings related to human rights. It is circular shaped, to encourage discussion, and made entirely with materials donated by Spain. The most interesting part of the room has to be the ceiling. It was created by a Spanish artist to look like the bottom of the sea projected onto the roof. Justine totally guessed what it was before we were told, saying “I can imagine a piece of the Titanic in the middle of it.” Apparently the ceiling consists of a light, moldable plaster substance and 35 tons of paint! That’s one heavy roof art display!
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Knowing that we had plenty of time in our day we skipped the trams and walked from the UN to Old Town. This is pretty much the two opposite corners of a tourist’s Geneva so it was a long walk. Along the way we had some intelligent discussions on world issues…apparently we were inspired by our visit. In Old Town we headed to Bastions Park. This is where we could find the Reformation Wall, but first we stopped off at a few other interesting things in the area. We spotted a man pushing a snow shovel over a smooth white surface and were immediately drawn over to it. Sure enough it was an outdoor skating rink. We really miss skating! No one was on it but we sat & stared for awhile anyways. Then we stopped off in a corner filled with giant chess & checker boards. There a couple of empty ones so we struck up a game. Kristin was all set to win until we gained a spectator who took it upon himself to tell Justine what to do. We guess, in the end, neither of us won…the random dude did. Finally we actually saw what we had came to the park to see: The Reformation Wall. This wall honors many of the main individuals, events and documents of the Protestant Reformation which began in Geneva in 1536.

Our afternoon/evening involved a large quantitiy of nothing. It was relaxed & random and will only warrent a very short paragraph. We walked through some more of Old Town, had a blog-writing break at Starbucks, walked along the water in multiple directions and finally went for dinner. We went to the same pasta place as yesterday as we hadn’t located a place that could beat it’s prices. The Pasta du Jour was Mediterraneenne (so many crazy letters going on there!) which consisted of the house tomato sauce, tuna, olives and fresh basil. Yummy!

Love, Luck & League of Nations,

*Gasp* I wish that was my house!

Hello folks! We are on Day 3 of Switzerland and have now hit up our second city. It’s only a short ride from Bern to Geneva so we were in no hurry in the morning. Still we were at the station with plenty of time to catch the 10 o’clock train. An hour and 45 minutes later we were in Geneva and walking to our hostel. Unfortunately we got there just after noon and the reception staff takes a lunch break from 12 till 1. After a few minutes sitting on the street someone left the building and we snuck in. The common area was a comfy enough place to wait out the next hour. We’d had some trouble finding somewhere to stay in Geneva and had ended up having to book a double room…it cost a bit more, but in the end it’s nice to have our own space sometimes!

With the whole afternoon ahead of us we set out to see some of Geneva’s attractions. Geneva is the second largest city in Switzerland and one of the world’s major centers of international diplomacy. The League of Nations was based in Geneva, followed by the United Nations after the Second World War. While the UN headquarters are now in New York, the organization still retains a large presence in Geneva. Geneva is a French speaking city and constantly ranked near the top of the ‘Most Expensive Cities to Live In’ list. We would describe the city as very nice, clean & wealthy looking. It seems like a place that would be wonderful to live in (other than the exorbitant prices!)…safe, comfortable and like it might have a good local pulse below it’s surface. But as a quick-visit traveller it lacks some of the character & initial pull that makes you want to explore further. In other words, it’s a lovely place but if you’re only hitting one place in Siwtzerland make it Bern. Bern feels like Switzerland, Geneva seems like a nice big city.

The first main and extremely obvious sight we happened upon was the Jet d’Eau. In the simplest of terms, it’s a huge column of water shooting into the air. But let’s do a more detailed description…This fountain of water is pumped 140m into the air! The spectacle was once an occasional pressure release for hydropower generation on the Rhône River, but people liked it so much that in 1981 the city created the permanent fountain. We were glad we saw it when we first started our walk because when we were walking home it was turned off. We don’t know what the rules or hours of operation or whatever are for the fountain, but it’s a cool sight to make sure you catch.

Immediately beside the main bridge over the lake is another of Geneva’s world famous & really random attractions. This one is a large clock…made of flowers. The Geneva flower clock is a symbol if the internationally known Swiss watch industry. This clock from 1955 is considered a technological and floral art masterpiece. It reminded us of Alice in Wonderland so we came to the conclusion that we liked it.

The St. Pierre Cathedral is the highest point on old town. The Cathedral, originally Catholic, now symbolizes the high points of the Protestant Reformation. We walked up to slanty streets until we could have a good look at it. The styles were a little mismatched and the front looked more like a civic building than a church with all of those columns. The nicest part had to be the big spire in the center…we could only imagine how nice it would have been when it was still shiny copper, as opposed to the current green.
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The view from the church area was quite nice, but in a different way than our “up high” views normally are. This look-out was only at roof level, as opposed to above it.

We were unsure what to do for supper. Restaurant prices were still ridiculously high and we hadn’t located a ready-made place like we frequented in Bern. Then, as we passed the train station on our way back to the hostel, Justine spotted a sign. A fast food pasta place that had a Pasta of the Day for a great price for cheap folks like us! We ended up with a large bowl of penne carbonara that was extremely satisfying. Fun fact: Before we went to the restaurant we hit the Migros (which is our favorite grocery store) and bought breakfast foods and mini fondues & bread. These purchases included milk that we pulled out and poured ourselves glasses of in the middle of the pasta restaurant…you can see it in the corner of the photo below…
After supper we relaxed, ate a fondue (we really need to get out of Switzerland soon as fondue every night is going to make us weight a zillion pounds), and watched old episodes of Glee.

Love, Luck & Lake Leman,

If the Asians can go in We can!

Bern is the 4th largest and capital city of Switzerland. The city was founded in 1191 by Duke Berthold Von Zähringen. During the middle ages it was the largest independent city state north of the Alps. Bern became the Swiss capital in 1848. The historic old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Bern was ranked among the world’s top ten cities for quality of life in 2010.

We started our day at the Bear Pits. According to legend, the city’s founder named the city after the first animal to be caught here. The saga lives on in the form of the real live Bear Pits and the heraldic bear in the Bernese coat of arms. When we first arrived there were three of the cuddly-looking creatures right up against the wall. They look so cute that you just want to hug them & bury your face in their fur…however that would probably end badly so we stayed safely behind the walls & fences.
We did get a chance to meet these bears though (once the hoard of Asian tourists had finished with them):
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Walking back into the town center we glanced into shops and enjoyed the street vendors under the covered arcades. The city has over 4 miles of arcaded walkways along the streets. We only window shopped as we didn’t want to even tempt ourselves into buying anything. It would be the worst to find something you really wanted but not be able to buy it because everything here is astronomically expensive. We were drawn into one department store by their Christmas chocolate display and then further into the shop by their Christmas decorations. Inevitably we ended up exploring the toy section 😉

The other top attraction of Bern is Einstein’s house. This was a really interesting place as neither of us knew much about Einstein besides the simple things like he was a genius and came up with much of both modern atomic theory and the theory of relativity (you know: e = m * c^2). There were many displays to read (thankfully they were in both German & English) and a very informative 20 minute video. Albert Einstein rented this small flat with his wife when his family moved to Bern in the early 1900’s. It was here he began work on the special and general theories of relativity. After his theories were proven and he became famous in the physics world, Einstein split his time in Zurich, Berlin and eventually Princeton.

Bern’s streets feature 15 fountains. They sit literally in the middle of the road and are all powered by this crazy current of water that you can see running right under the street. There are portions open to it that we fear we may fall into one day if we are not on top of our game. The fountains are quite ornate, usually topped with a carved figure. One of the most famous is right by our hostel: the Ogre fountain. Can you pick out which on it is?
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We also checked out the clock tower, zytglogge. This tower was built in the early 13th century and has served the city as guard tower, prison and clock tower, center of urban life and civic memorial. The clock tower today still features the 15th century astronomical clock. It wasn’t our first view of the structure as our hostel is on a side street right beside it, but we afforded it a more detailed look this time. There’s quite a lot going on on that tower.

At this point it seemed time for hot beverages. It is such a common part of our regular lives that we were willing to splurge for the inflated prices of Starbucks here in Switzerland. Plus they have their Christmas drinks in and the cold weather here has put us in the holiday spirit. The fact that the city workers were hard at work putting up Bern’s street decorations today didn’t help deter us either. We sat in the peaceful warm sipping Gingerbread latte/steamed milks and enjoyed the joyful soundtrack of Christmas music they had playing in the store. Starbucks just has the greatest cds, especially holiday ones!

We consulted the map to see what other high points there were to see in Bern. The church was said to be rather nice so we headed in it’s direction. Construction on the Münster Cathedral began in 1421. It’s 330 ft tower (largest in Switzerland) wasn’t completed until 1893. Both inside and out it was very reminiscent to the gothic-style churches we have seen before. The outside had a darker feel and was covered in carvings & statues…and scaffolding, but we’ve gotten so used to important buildings being restored that this didn’t even phase us. The interior was bright & spatious with high gothic arches and stained glass windows. The windows behind the altar were quite detailed & beautiful, while the side windows only had stained glass on a few of the panes. This was the first time we’d seen this style so we are not sure if that’s what it’s always like or if the full window is undergoing restoration. The ceiling was the most interesting part. It was covered in a pattern that reminded us of lace.
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While sitting in the church, taking it all in as we always do, the organist began to play. It started out very simple but incredible dark & ominous. It was the kind of music that made you apprehensive to look behind you because it sounded like a horror movie soundtrack. The music built and as it did we became more & more entranced…literally! It wasn’t until the final bars sounded that Kristin shook her head and got Justine’s attention so we could leave. It was a very odd but cool experience.

We munched on a hot dog as a late lunch on our way to the Parliament buildings. They are quite nice, but not as impressive as one would expect for the main government buildings of such a rich country. The best part were the cliff side parks that ran behind it. We walked for quite awhile through the fall colors looking out over the river valley.
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The rest of our day was pretty boring…walking around town, organizing & packing our belongings, buying supper, etc. Eventually we settled into the common area at the hostel and grabbed the Scrabble board. Kristin won her pride back with two wins in today’s games.
We had a similar supper to yesterday in that we bought it at the grocery store and warmed it up in the hostel kitchen. Tonight’s feast consisted of spätzel, the cheapest (but still delicious) stroganoff they had and toast…and of course milk in a wine glass as that is the life we have become accustomed to 😉
And of course we did a post-dinner mini cheese fondue! fondue! fondue!

Love, Luck & Little Bear,