Being a frequent globetrotter for a number of years now, I have had the privilege of travelling to over a dozen countries and countless cities around the world. From the bustling urban centres of Dubai, Paris and London – considered like a second home after Lahore - to the thrilling waterfalls of Niagara on the US-Canadian border, I’ve certainly witnessed the exquisite beauty of this vast planet.
Long story short, this is my ever first travel diary and today I shall talk about my most recent trip to Switzerland that was made a couple of months ago. Having previously visited this land-locked European getaway a number of times, my first impression remained awestruck. During my last trip, I took a flight to Geneva from Venice while on an extended visit to Europe. As luck would have it, the aircraft on which I travelled was not like any contemporary one and was operated by Etihad Airway’s European partner. It was quite unique and very similar to a private jet- a SAAB 2000 to be precise-that had the comfiest seats for an all economy class configuration, which was certainly suitable for both short and long-term travelling.
Hovering over the French and Swiss Alps, my flight finally arrived in Geneva after a little more than an hour’s journey. Being my first time in this politically and historically important Swiss city bordering the Alps, I very much looked forward to explore my new destination. My hotel, Novotel, was situated just about 100 metres away from Lake Geneva, a crisp blue body of water stretching some 73 kilometres across the Swiss valley.
By the time I settled down, it was already evening and I decided to stroll along the lake for some time. The lake was surrounded by the city’s sprawling business and shopping district and people were busy taking their best shots and selfies.
The next morning, I woke up quite early and once again headed for the lake. This time the view was even better for I could clearly see the lush green mountains in the background that were covered in snow. It reminded me of my visits to Pakistani hill stations and mountains based in Murree and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) that are not only scenic but much higher than their Swiss counterparts.
Nevertheless, I remained busy in taking selfies and pictures at the lake and also witnessed the gushing of the ‘Jet d’Eau’, a large fountain considered one of the key highlights of the city. Soon afterwards, I went on to visit the historic ‘Palais des Nations’, the European headquarters of the United Nations (UN) that was formerly the global seat of the UN’s predecessor known as The League of Nations. One may not believe but I navigated there all the way on foot, which took me around an hour. This was due to the fact that I preferred enjoying witnessing the earth’s natural beauty in its true form-well, who doesn’t?
Since it was weekend, the palace was closed for general visitors and I could only take photos at the entrance. However, a small protest was indeed taking place outside the palace and to my utmost surprise, it was being held by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s supporters.
A spontaneous decision of visiting Lausanne, a small Swiss city some 60km away from Geneva, also took place during the day. I took a train from Geneva’s main train station for the town and reached in about 50 minutes. On the way, I was further awestruck by the countryside that was no less than being in heaven. By the time I reached Lausanne, it was early afternoon and already craving for lunch. Eventually, I settled for Vapiano, my favourite Italian eatery that I often visit in London. While the food was scrumptious, the average price of a three course meal was much higher when compared to London. This is unsurprising given how expensive Switzerland generally is.
For the rest of the day, I mainly roamed around Lake Geneva’s Lausanne side that had nothing but mountains shadowing the area. There were no words to describe the scenery and I am personally of the opinion that we often underappreciate our planet’s environment and take it for granted.
By evening, I returned to Geneva and had dinner at an upscale Middle Eastern restaurant where the food and service was superb. Since the trip to Switzerland only lasted for two days, I returned to London by an early morning flight from Geneva.
I would definitely recommend travel enthusiasts to visit Geneva and its surrounding areas given the right budget and time. For those wishing to further explore the Alps, I would also recommend them to visit the nearby French hill station of Chamonix for which I did not have time on this trip.
Until next time!
The author is a Daily Times staff member, with a special focus on Pakistan’s foreign and national security affairs. He tweets at @mhassankhan06 and can be reached at email@example.com