the wandering bean – one night in Geneva
One of the best things about travelling solo is that you’re free. You can do what you want, when you want. It forces you to be a bit more creative with your time, especially when things don’t go as planned. Changes of plan are hella daunting when you’re travelling on your own, but they can also be a blessing. When I ended up stranded in Barcelona for an extra night (I know, so terrible) I made the snap decision to change part of my trip completely.
Instead of travelling on to Marseilles like I was supposed to, I found myself a bed in a hostel in Geneva. Looking back, I’m not sure why I didn’t see this part of the journey when I was staring at the Interrail map months earlier. Being forced to reevaluate my journey made me look at that map a bit differently.
I’ve been to France before. Not Marseilles specifically, but I have seen a whole lot of the country on various school trips. I wanted to see somewhere different, to see a new country and sample its culture. The stop in Marseilles was a bit of a go-between anyway between Barcelona and Milan, so it was no great loss to me. I’m sure it’s a lovely place, but it wasn’t at the top of my “must see” list. So when I realised I could logically change the route and pop up to Geneva for a night, it was pretty much a done deal.
Unfortunately my time in Geneva was short – only an evening and a morning – but I managed to fit in a lot of looking around. The place is as clean and tidy and its reputation suggests. There are beautiful views from pretty much everywhere. And of course I found the most beautiful park. The home of the Palace of Nations also held significance to this Politics graduate.
Festival of Geneva & Lake Geneva
I arrived at my hostel in the afternoon after a long train ride desperately needing a shower and nap. The place was easy enough to find, so I headed straight there, hardly paying attention to the city around me. I had a bed at Geneva Hostel, which is a lovely place – I wad delighted to find a dorm full of friendly ladies, no weirdos in sight. With a comfy bed at my disposal, I made myself at home and had a rest before venturing out.
The hostel was about five minutes from the lake, so I decided to spend my evening strolling beside the water taking in the sights. I was surprised when I turned at the end of the road to be met with crowds of people and bright lights.
Turns out I was lucky enough to arrive in Geneva while the annual Festival was going on. The lake is amazing enough on its own, but lined with pop-up bars, food places and entertainment it was just spectacular. What I can only assume is usually a quiet lakeside street on a normal Sunday night was a bustling and vibrant scene. I wish I’d had more money – I would have tried food from every single food stand.
The Jet d’Eau (literally jet of water) is beautiful, especially at sunset when I went and saw it. It also acts as a really good way of knowing where you are. Geneva is typically known for being a financial place, but it was the scenery that really struck me. Once you leave the hustle and bustle of the main streets the city is truly stunning.
Mon Repos Park and the Botanical Gardens
Parks are my fave, and this one has got to be my favourite one from the entire trip. The best park in Europe, as chosen by the spicy bean. If you stroll deep enough into the park there’s even a mini zoo! I had a few hours to explore before my train left, so I decided to walk to the United Nations building via the parks. The Palace of Nations is only a half an hour walk from the Geneva Hostel, but I easily made it last a couple of hours.
Coming from the place where we don’t get to have nice things, it amazed me that the parks were so unspoilt. Everything was clean, there were water fountains dotted around, doggy poo bags that you could just take. In my hometown the fountains would have wee on them and the poo bags would be littered across the park! I was seriously impressed at how the public seem to look after their shared spaces in Geneva.
The other thing – it’s all completely free to explore. I filled basically a whole morning here and I didn’t spend a penny. Even the greenhouses at the botanical gardens, housing thousands of plant species (cacti are my fave though), and the mini zoo were all open for exploring.
Palace of Nations
As a politics graduate I HAD to see the Palace of Nations. This place was the home of the League of Nations back in the day, and whatever your opinion of the LoN it’s still pretty awesome to be in the place where history happened. Loads of important international politics stuff happens here, and it exudes a sense of importance. Being near a hub for many major NGOs and the UN made me momentarily want to take up politics again. Don’t worry, that idea soon passed.
The big chair is a wooden monument, actually called the Broken Chair (big chair doesn’t quite have the same symbolism I suppose). You can’t see very well from my photo, but one of the legs is missing. It symbolises the devastation caused by landmines and cluster bombs, and serves as a reminder to all the bigwigs visiting the Palace of Nations that war is bad and peace is good. If only they’d actually pay attention to that message, eh?