Truth be told, I have had some fine times in Geneva. I gave my first speech at a UN meeting here back in 2001, which felt so much more important and fun than, in retrospect, it was. I spent many bizarre hours camped outside the World Trade Organization and even delivered an anti-genetic engineering message straight to their door. I love cheese fondues, I love swimming in the lake, I have been cross-country skiing, which I adore, only near Geneva in recent years. My old flatmate and dear, dear friend lives here. You get the picture. Geneva and I should be made for each other.
But somehow, I do not like Geneva - and Geneva certainly does not like me. First, when I am here it usually rains like hell. And yes, even when I am cross-country skiing. It did so once again today - both on the way to the United Nations for a press conference and on the way back. I used to live in Scotland for a long time. I know what you will all think about Scottish weather. But I have been soaked like today in recent years only in Geneva. Then there is the expensive restaurants, where you can't even get a meal late at night; the lousy bars, that are as expensive as in London, but lack the charm. Indeed, there is the distinct lack of metropolitan feel - anywhere. There is the absurdly ugly architecture - for the most part - in an absurdly rich city, which often ruins even the most beautiful spaces by the lake. I admit, part of it is also my appalling French. I am told there is good theatre in Geneva, for example. Well, not for me.
Geneva, to me, has the feel of a divided town - between foreigners working at the international institutions and local Swiss; between the jet-set and the poor, many of whom are, I am told, immigrants and all of whom, to the 'business' visitor, are invisible (as they populate the periphery); between young interns desperatly trying to have a cool life in this uncool 'city' and the locals who think 'genteel' is an adjective indicating the highest of praise. Then there is the impermanence. My friend tells me that at parties of the international institutions crowd, people do not ask you first what you do (as they irritatingly always do in Germany). They ask: "So, how long will you be in Geneva?"
Me? Until Friday. And though I will miss my friend and the lake - I say good riddance to that.
P.S. More on what I was in Geneva for, here