Notes from a Food and Peace Travel Diary – Part II

 After I left Munich, I headed to Geneva on a night bus to visit a friend who works there. I hadn’t seen her in over five years, so I was quite excited. I also was curious about the famous city of Geneva. I’ve been to Switzerland before – once when I was studying in Germany and another time when I was nanny in southern Germany and my host family took a vacation there. We went hiking in the Alps – it was so beautiful! But I’d never made it to Geneva, it was just a bit too far west and out of the way.

  Geneva is quite an international city as its home to the headquarters of many multinational companies, some 130 companies have headquarters or offices there. It’s also home to many United Nations agencies, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Health Organization. I did some research before I left and found out that the very first European organization for peace was founded in Geneva by a man named Jean-Jacques de Sellon in 1830 – almost 200 years ago. I wondered if this is why Geneva is home to many organizations hoping and working for world peace today (at the core of the UN’s mission is world peace and harmony).


Palais des Nations, Geneva

     Ideas live on. Jean-Jacques de Sellon was a wealthy man who also built a Peace Temple with the words “Blessed are the Peacemakers” on it. Unfortunately the temple was destroyed in a storm in 1946. Today the castle that de Sellon built is privately owned, and as far as I know the temple has not yet been reconstructed.

     Something else I was curious about in Geneva, was, of course, the food!! I tried two different cafés / restaurants , first the classic La Vouivre on the corner of Ruie Pâquis and Rue de Zurich, a which lured me with it’s antique decor and classical music, one of the only kinds of music I can listen to while writing. I fell in love with the tea room’s (cafes are often called ‘tea rooms’ in Geneva) charm, the mid-range prices (for Geneva that is) and the petit, yet decadent array of pastries such as brioche and tiny dark chocolate tarts.



     This cafe was so good that I decided I would go back the next day, when my eyes were instantly drawn to a “pretzel croissant”. To me this baked good/ pastry mirrors Swiss culture all too perfectly: a marriage between German, the pretzel bakers, and French, the croissant fanatics, cultures. I ordered one. Unsurprisingly, I sat down and bit into something that was rightly named, it tasted like a salty, buttery croissant. This delicious savory item would likely please those without a sweet tooth.


A pretzel croissant – a pastry item symbolic of Swiss culture

     While spending time at the pleasant La Vouivre, I embarked on a conversation with a man sitting in the corner next to me. My constant photo snapping snapping of the cafe like it was kind of exotic whale species seemed to grab his attention. He told me he’s a cultural writer in Geneva and runs a site called GeneveActive (Active Geneva), and how he’d even written about the lovely cafe we were sitting in. “I know of another great cafe,” he said. “An Italian one with great pastries – would you like to go? I can show you it.”

     I didn’t know if I could handle anymore caffeine or pastries, but on the spur of the moment I agreed to go, knowing that you don’t meet locals very often who are keen to show you things right on the spot like that.

     We so we headed to the Sicilian Mafalda Tavola Calda on the quiet Rue des Etuves. My new friend writer friend Jacques, who also happened to be very into food, ordered me an espresso and a sgofiatella, an intricate flaky pastry in the shape of scaly sea shell filled with a creamy almond cream! It was pure delicious daintiness that I would have never found on my own.



food-and-peace-sfogliatella-geneva (2).JPG

     From there  headed to the Pont du Mont-Blanc, a bridge in the centre of the city that crosses Lake Geneva right where it meets the Rhone River. Normally, this is where’d you’d see Geneva’s famous Water Jet, likely the city’s most well-known landmark. Jacques told me how the Jet D’Eau wasn’t working right now before pointing to the Mont Blanc, or White Mountain, behind rows of beautiful buildings across the sparkling water.


     I asked Jacques if people hike up the mountains and he told me yes, they do. Oui, bien sûr. There are many trails, he tells me, but you have to be careful. He also tells me that the waterfront is one of the most popular areas in the city and becomes packed with people, tourists and locals alike, in  summer.

     I was very happy to have had the chance to explore this Geneva – the food and all. Expect to spend a lot if you travel here – once you convert prices to Swiss Francs  you may be quite surprised. But if you go with the flow and pick and choose what you’d like to enjoy (if you must), Geneva is surely bound to impress.



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