GENEVA - L'Athenée - Palais des Nations - Mount Saleve - Rhone River - Chateau de Bossey - August 1 National Day)


In addition to my international travels, I am trying to get to know more and more of my country of adoption, Switzerland. The omnipresent mountains give it a three-dimensionality and beauty that is hard to match. It is the one country I have seen that looks like its postcards.

Switzerland is also a country of amazing diversity that is culturally very enriching, not only with its German, French, Italian and Romanch national languages and cultures, but also with people from around the world. I was amazed to learn that it is the first country of Europe for its level of immigration, well ahead of many countries where this has become a political issue. 24% of the people living in Switzerland were born somewhere else, and half of the foreigners in Switzerland are second generation immigrants born here. Assimilation has in general worked well. Geneva is really an international city, and its population has been about 30% immigrants for four hundred years. My own commune of Vernier is about half foreigners, another quarter Swiss from other cantons, and only a quarter Genevois. You can literally feel the diversity during the European football cup. When the Portuguese make a goal, a roar rises in my neighborhood and flags appear; then an Italian goal brings another roar, etc. It is easy to feel at home here. On the Swiss National Day in 2010, my municipality of Vernier chose Portugal as the guest of honour, with Portuguese music and dancing, to celebrate its diversity, since more than 10% of its population is Portuguese. In 2012, the national day celebrated Kosovo, from which one of the most recent waves of immigrants has come.


Le Jet d'Eau With its quays lining the end of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman), with the Alps and Jura mountains as a backdrop, Geneva is a beautiful city, rated at the top of world cities for its quality of life.


With my work with the United Nations and the international community, it is the perfect place to be.

The Jet d'Eau in the lake has become a symbol of Geneva.

The city is wrapped around the end of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman)
Quai de Mont-Blanc . Quai

Geneva centre    Geneva lake

Mouette . Jet d'eau
Le Jet d'Eau
Quai de Mont Blanc    paddlewheel steamer

Palais Wilson The Palais Wilson on the lakeside, was the first seat of the League of Nations. It is now the Human Rights House occupied by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. There had been plans to make it the Environment House where I should have had my office, but with the move of the Climate Change Convention to Bonn and the Biodiversity Convention to Montreal, the Secretary General decided to use if for human rights, and the Swiss Government purchased the present International Environment House in Chatelaine, where I was one of the first to move in for UN Environment.

Geneva is a city of parks and gardens, often very large for an urban area
Park    park

Clock in the English Garden Clock in the English Park

The lake empties into the Rhone River, which divides the city in two, with some islands such as Rousseau Island, named for the philosopher who was from Geneva.
Ile Rousseau Rousseau Island in the Rhone River - Ile Rousseau dans le Rhone

The Rue de Rhone is a main shopping street
rue de Rhone Rue du Rhone

The old town, up on a hill and formerly surrounded by walls, is dominated by the cathedral of St.Peter. There are also the main government buildings like the old Armory
Cathedral Cathedral   Armory Armory

The original building of the University is in the Bastions Park, where people often come to play chess
University University  chess in Parc des Bastions

In 2009 I took my Dutch intern Lieuwe Vinkhuyzen sightseeing in Geneva and up Mount Saleve
Lieuwe Vinkhuyzen at Palais des NationsLieuwe at Armory

In the 19th century, many beautiful homes were build along the lake shore, set in magnificent gardens. Today many of these homes have other functions as centres for international studies or the Museum of Science.
house     house

Museum of Science    View from museum
Museum of Science                                                              View from the museum across the lake

The lake is known for its swans, which nest along the shore
Swan nest     parents and babies

The lake is an important transport artery, with both paddlewheel steamers from a century ago, and modern boats for public transport
lake steamer     jet d'eau and steamer

Savoie La Savoie


ebbf - Ethical Business Building the Future, Geneva, held its commemoration of the bicentenary of the birth of Bahá'u'lláh in 2017 in the beautiful Salle des Abeilles (room of the bees) in the Athenée, the elegant home of the Geneva Society of Arts (see separate page)

Salle des Abeilles . Salle des Abeilles
Athenéé Salle des Abeilles, with its beautiful ceiling
Salle des Abeilles . Salle des Abeilles . Salle des Abeilles

Palais des Nations

The Palais des Nations, built in the 1930s to be the seat of the League of Nations, helps make Geneva the most important world centre for intergovernmental conferences.

Palais from Place de Nations . Place des Nations
Palais from Place des Nations                                  Place des Nations

Palais des Nations   Palais des Nations
Palais des Nations facade towards the lake

The Palais is set in beautiful gardens overlooking the lake and the Alps. On a clear day you can see Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe, in the distance.

Gardens  .  View 

Assembly     Secretariat
General Assembly Hall                                                  The Secretariat

Pas Perdues     Corridor
Salle des Pas Perdues                                                  Corridors to the conference rooms

Conference room There are many conference rooms

The Council Chamber is used for the most important diplomatic events. All the walls and even the ceiling are covered by murals symbolic of the roles of international diplomacy.

Council ceiling
Council Chamber    Council

One conference room was recently renovated by the Spanish government with a dramatic ceiling
Conference room ceilingceiling    

Mount Saleve

Geneva is dominated on the south-east by Mount Saleve, a favourite place for day outings. There is a telepherique (cable way) to the summit, with spectacular views over Geneva and its lake, and the Alps.

Telepherique . Telepherique telepherique

Views of Geneva and the lake are spectacular
Geneva . Geneva

Lake . lake

view southwest . view northeast
View southwest                                                       View northeast

golf golf course

The Rhone River below Geneva

The lake empties into the Rhone River which flows through France to the Mediterranean. The dam at Verbois is an important source of hydroelectricity for Geneva, which obtains 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. The river is also used to bring wastes to the big incinerator where it is burned to the highest environmental standards to produce electricity. At the same time, the natural ecology of the river is respected and habitats for wildlife are being restored. Fish are able to migrate up a fish ladder around the dam.
Rhone River     River shoreline

habitatNatural habitats like reed beds are being restored along the shores to provide nesting places for birds. Rafts have been added to give the sterns a safe place to nest away from predators. Shallow basins have been added to provide a haven for fish when the dam below has to be emptied of its accumulated sediment.

The waste incinerator is just above the dam

Verbois dam     Fish ladder
Verbois Dam and hydroelectric plant                                                   Fish ladder below the dam

The electric utility is developing solar power. Renewable energy sources provide all of the canton's electricity as of 2017.
Solar panels     Solar installation

Chateau de Bossey

The Chateau de Bossey in the countryside north of Geneva above the lake is now an Ecumenical Centre belonging to the World Council of Churches and the University of Geneva. The courses in Environmental Diplomacy that I coordinated for 5 years were held in this beautiful setting.

Chateau de Bosseychateau
Environmental Diplomacy course 2009
Environmental Diplomacy 2009   

Chateau de Bossey   Bossey terrace

Bossey     Bossey and pond

The Chateau is set in beautiful gardens with a view over the lake to the Alps beyond, including Mont Blanc


 view view in different light view

Trees    Trees and conference centre    

FarmBelow the chateau is a traditional Swiss farm producing milk and wine.


Cows Cows are after all a symbol of Switzerland, which has maintained its rural traditions in harmony with its advanced state of development.

Belle Ferme Belle Ferme

August 1 Swiss National Holiday

August 1 is the national holiday, commemorating more than 700 years of the Swiss nation. It is a time to listen to speeches, blow alp horns, toss flags, parade with cow bells, light bonfires, and celebrate all things Swiss.

Alp horns     Bells

Flag tossing    Flag tossing

Bonfire The celibration ends with a traditional bonfire and fireworks displays


I was invited to the alpine village of Grindelwald to speak at an AIESEC national seminar in June 2006. It was the perfect time of year to appreciate alpine meadows, farms and lakes nestled between the mountain peaks.

View from Grindelwald    Swiss farm

Old Swiss farm     Swiss farm

lake     Lakeside


Valley above Walensee In June 2006, I spoke at an International Peace Education Seminar at Walenstadt on the Walensee, another alpine area in eastern Switzerland near Liechtenstein, with mountains surrounding a beautiful lake.

Mountain    Looking down on Walensee

Walensee     Walensee


At the end of March 2012, AIESEC again invited me to speak at their national conference, this time in Leysin above Aigle, in the Valais, the upper watershed of the Rhone River. From Aigle, a cog railway winds up the steep valley side to the ski resort of Leysin.

view down to Aigle . vinyards below the railway
View down to Aigle in the Valais; looking down from the railway carriage on the steep vinyards below


In July 2012, I was invited to the Caux Forum on Human Security, at Mountain House, the conference centre in the village of Caux in the mountains high above Montreux at the eastern end of Lake Geneva, and reached by a funicular railway. It was built over a hundred years ago as one of the world's most luxurious hotels, the Caux Palace, but since the end of World War II it has been run by Initiatives of Change as a meeting centre for peace and reconciliation. The view is spectacular.
Rhone River Valley, Valais . Lake Geneva . Montreux-Vevey
The views from my room of the valley of the upper Rhone River in Valais, Lake Geneva and the towns of Montreux and Vevey

Rhone River valley, Valais . Caux Palace/Mountain House . Lake Geneva at night
The mountainside at Caux, Mountain House, the 110 year old conference centre, now a registered monument, and the view at night

Main Hall . Panel . audience
The main hall during the conference, with two spectacular fireplaces at either end


The Jura mountains form the western border between Switzerland and France. They are not as high or dramatic as the Alps, but are covered with forest with longitudinal valleys. The Joux Valley in the Canton of Vaud has a large lake in its centre. Steel was made there in the past using charcoal from the forests, and watch-making is still important in some towns.

Le Pont . Joux Lake . Joux Lake
The town of Le Pont at the southern end of the long narrow Joux Lake

Lac du Joux . Lac du Joux . Joux Lake
  Joux Lake, with a statue of Pegasus


Schwyz is one of the founding cantons of Switzerland over 700 years ago, and Einsiedeln (850m) is both a mid-altitude winter sports centre and a pilgrimage centre on the route to Saint-John of Compostella, with an imposing Benedictine Monastery. We held Swiss Baha'i Winter Schools there in 2012 and 2013.

First snowfall . Hotel Allegro . view
Views from the hotel; view towards the lake Sihlsee

view . view . view
Views from around the town
Einsiedeln . Einsiedeln . Einsiedeln
Ski jumps beyond the town; the town centre; views of Alpine peaks

Einsiedeln Monastery . Einsiedeln Monastery . Einsiedeln Monastery

The Benedictine Monastery


Basel is in the north of Switzerland on the Rhine River in the corner between Switzerland, Germany and France, with near suburbs in both countries. It is the main port city of Switzerland, wth access to the sea down the Rhine River. It is an important industrial city (chemicals) and is famous for the arts. The painter Mark Tobey lived there the last sixteen years of his life. In June 2017, I visited an exhibition of his work at a gallery in the old town (see separate page).
Basel old town . main square . cathedral on main square
Basel old town; central square in front of the cathedral; cathedral

Rhine River . Rhine River
Rhine River from the cathedral overlook

cathedral . cathedral . cathedral
Basel Cathedral

cathedral cloister . cathedral cloister . cathedral
Cathedral cloisters with sculptures

Kunstmuseum . Rodin: Burghers of Calais
Kunstmuseum (public art museum); Rodin's The Burghers of Calais

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Last updated 17 November 2017

Photographs copyright © Arthur Lyon Dahl 2006 - 2017