Sunday, October 22, 2006

Red Cross & Botanical Gardens

I keep meaning to write some sort of analytical post about Geneva, praising its transport system, cursing its dullness, generally something that will make me remember in years hence what it was actually like; the feeling of being there, the mood - not just what it looked like. However, I'm getting obsessed with recording what I do on a daily basis, even though this will seem insignificant when I read this later. A real record of my time here should probably consist of my personal attitude towards the place, more than just some sort of tourist guide that will be useless to me if the point of all this is posterity.

On that note, here is what I did today! Yeah, really. I can't bring myself to ignore the daily goings-on of my time here. I know if I don't record this stuff now, it will be lost for good. I don't have a very good memory for small details.

So on to my day: Another Sunday, and happily another Sunday that was put to good purpose: sightseeing. We had heard that the Red Cross museum was one of the best in Europe, so off we went to find out for ourselves. The Red Cross museum (and headquarters, I assume) is in the 'Nations' area, home to various UN offices, a terrifying Russian embassy of some sort (I have a picture of the razor wire in my first post), and many other international organisations. The area is pretty unimpressive, however. (The UN European Headquarters looks architecturally interesting, what little you can see of it through the fences and walls) I suppose the need for security - which results in high, ugly gates and walls - is more important that anything else. I didn't get a sense of importance getting off the tram, that's for sure. Maybe it's because a lot of these organisations have outlived there purpose; they are a product of their time (the post-war era), and are a bit ineffectual now that period is over. But I digress...

The international conference centre, in the 'Nations' area of Geneva. About the most impressive building there.

So in we went to the Red Cross museum. In the entrance courtyard there is a striking sculpture; a group of bound and hooded figures. The effect they have is chilling - especially looking back on the pictures now:

I must say I'm quite fond of this 'putting captions on stuff' malarkey. These were taken in the entrance courtyard to the ICRC Museum.

This sculpture is a good symbol for the rest of the museum: sombre but not overbearing, emotional yet meaningful. The museum traces the creation of the Red Cross and the Geneva conventions, through fantastic alingual (I have no idea if that's a word, but what can you do?) multimedia displays, and an impressive collection of original items, from medical equipment to original drafts of the Geneva convention. The nature of the organisation, a real working one, means that it's not purely historical. It has a message to tell, about the importance of humanitarianism, which it puts across without preaching or pushing you in a particular direction. Just being there, looking at the various installations on things from landmines to 3rd world street children, tells you something about the world but lets you come to your own conclusion. One thing that dissapointed me, to be expected I suppose, was that it doesn't really comment on its less than perfect record during the Second World War (including one Red Cross delegate calling the concentration camps in Germany 'Strict but fair'.

The Red Cross organisation interests me, and while it does good work I think that sadly its original reason, dealing with prisoners of war, has fallen to the wayside. Unfortunately this is not because we have seen the end of war, but rather a stark change in they way it is 'practised'. I fail to see how the Red Cross can adapt do a global society which treats prisoners of war as illegal combatents with no rights; one in which Governments get around torture by changing its definition. The Red Cross and the Geneva convention was conceived in a time which may have been fairly savage and brutal, but which at the very least was willing to adhere to strict rules regarding engagement. I think the same problem afflicts the UN.

After the Red Cross museum, we went to the Botanical Gardens, something I was looking forward to because of the oppurtunities to take photographs. I think it would be much more impressive in Spring or Summer; there wasn't much colour around and the conservatory was closed. Not really much more to explain about this, I'll just throw up a couple of photos I like:

There was some good opportunites for shooting little critters. If only they'd sit still for a little longer!

I'd love to catch a bumblebee in flight, but I think it's an impossible task. They seem to move slowly but they really don't.

Somebody's dog. Seemed to love the camera but for some reason I couldn't get a shot of his face.

One of the few instances of colour in the whole place, unfortunately.

Another of the vast number of waterspouts throughout Geneva.

I'm sorry about all the bees.

Really, I am. It's my phantom hands making me put them here.

I don't know what this is, but it was impressive. Its wings moved really fast, and it was over and inch long and quite fat.

Another of this weird insect.

Aaand another bumblebee. Last one, I think.

A statue in the 'Nations' area. I have no idea what for, I'm afraid.

This dude again. I think the curly thing at the top is how he collects pollen.

Right so, another post done. I hope I enjoyed it.