My Visit to Switzerland

Although I have traveled significantly across the United States and am an advocate of learning the beauties of your own country (Glacier National Park, Montana; Boulder, Colorado; Letchworth State Park, New York; and Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, are my favorite places in the US). Lake View of GenevaMy all-time favorite place was Geneva, Switzerland.

I visited Switzerland in March 2008. It was my first visit to a country outside the U.S. (I do not really count crossing into Canada for a few hours), and although my trip got off to a rocky start (i.e. missing all of my connecting flights in the U.S. because of bad weather and getting stuck in Newark for a night), arriving in Geneva was everything I had expected and more. Flying in was beautiful, there were mountains as far as the eye could see. Considering that I have spent almost 22 years in Florida &mdash the flatest place on Earth &mdash mountains have always been my favorite land feature.

Switzerland may seem an odd destination for a first visit to Europe. Why not Paris, Rome, London? It is simple. My fiance, Nick, moved to Switzerland in January 2008. He is a physics graduate student at UF and is researching at the European Organiztaion of Nuclear Research, also known as CERN, which is a 17-mile long particle accelerator. CERN is on the border of Switzerland and France,and only a short distance from Geneva.

So, we got a hotel in downtown Geneva for a week and spent the time exploring the city by foot. Unfortunately, the majority of my week there it was over-cast skies, so my view of the mountains surrounding Geneva were covered. But, the skyline and the city were still beautiful. Near the middle of Lake Lemen resides the Jet d'Eau, one of the largest jets of water in the world. The Jet d'Eau We could see it from almost any part of the city, at times we could even see it over the tops of buildings.

Old Geneva was my favorite part of the city. I have always been fascinated by history and old buildings. Old Geneva had so much life still visible, even though it's thousand of years old. It also happens to have the most erratic street plan. We got lost in it more than once and searched for a specific restaurant for almost an hour and a half without finding it (we still did not find it until we stumbled upon it my last night in town, but by that time it was too late). My favorite part of Old Geneva was the cobblestone streets. I could not help imagining all the different people who traveled it over the centuries.

The most interesting aspect of Geneva was the culture. Maybe it is because I have no other country to compare it with but the United States, but the way of life was so different from here. Cars were not the majority of transportation used, but also motorcycles, bicycles and a combination of buses and trains. There was just as much bike and motorcycle parking throughout the city as car parking. The people were very friendly; almost everyone spoke French and the majority also spoke English. Also, there were not really any large department stores, malls or chain restaurants, but mainly family-owned stores.

Geneva was a wonderful experience. Even though I might change my mind when I travel elsewhere, I would like to think that I will always return there.