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CERN Trip Blog by Year 12 Siddarth Varma

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On our first day there, we visited the Old town of Geneva, a sprawling part of the city with movie-like stone buildings with facades and an unbelievable amount of shops and restaurants. For me, the main attraction for that day was the St. Pierre Protestant Church. Founded in the 4th century (that was quite a while ago), it belongs to the Reformed Protestant Church of Geneva. The view from the top of this structure was one of the best I've even seen. Climbing up the north tower gives you a view or the green spire that shoots out of the cathedral, plus the view of the city of Geneva. Below, I could see the old town with its red-roofed houses and numerous H&M clothing shops, and further away, the Lake Geneva and the Jet d’Eau, a spectacularly large water fountain. Towards my left, I could see the occasional shiny new building and in the distance, the United Nations Headquarters. To my right, I could see the foothills of the Alps covered with tiny (well, it looked pretty tiny) houses and a smaller church spire every now and then. I honestly could have stayed up on that tower for the whole day, admiring Geneva from that height, but unfortunately I started getting hungry, and I doubt they would have served MacDonald’s up there…

On the second day, we went to the Red Cross museum were we learnt about their affiliations with countries and how they provide aid and interject when war causalities occur. The museum was completely interactive, with wall to wall TVs, documents from wars we could go through and witness stories. It was extremely moving to hearing about the horrors refugees from war-torn countries  have been through, how they had to leave their lives behind and start afresh and how everything came together due to help from the Red Cross. The levels they go to make a difference really inspired me .There was one quote there that really stuck with me: “a simple gesture can change the course of things”

On the third day, we took a train to a posh, but absolutely gorgeous city called Montreux an hour away from Geneva. The journey wasn’t eventful, but the scenery made it worthwhile. In some sections, the tracks ran across the lake, its waters stretching almost to the horizon and being taken over by the Alps. We crossed many smaller cities and traveled across the countryside, with its graffiti covered walls and huge farmlands. Montreux was a hilly place- the type of place I love. The mountains surrounding it on one side were covered in clouds, so you couldn’t see the top of them. The city was built on one side of the massive blue lake, and we walked along this lake, past a statue of Freddie Mercury, for about 15 minutes to reach the Château of Chillon. Its towers provide an amazing view of Lake Geneva and the city. It was, if it were possible, and even better looking place than Geneva.

The next day we went to the one place I had been waiting to go to from the time I can remember: CERN. To me, and many others, it is considered the birthplace of modern science and innovation. Numerous discoveries like the Higgs Boson and inventions like the Internet all came from that one campus, 20 minutes away from Geneva. 100 meters below the campus, the world’s largest and definitely the most complex science experiment was taking place using the most miraculous feat of engineering still in existence: the Large Hadron Collider. This particle accelerator accelerates protons and other particles at speed close to the speed of light, in order to smash them together to recreate the early stages of the universe and to discover new particles. The amount of smart people there made me feel pretty dumb. We were given a tour around the campus, where we got to see various experiments and information on how the Large Hadron Collider works. We even hopped on a bus and crossed over to the France (it sounds so easy, doesn’t it?) to visit the control center, where scientists monitored the experiment going on below. They had rows of champagne along the walls, in case they discover something new, like the meaning to life, the universe and everything. CERN definitely was the highlight of the trip for me, and actually working there would be a dream come true.

The United Nations (UN) have their fingers in almost every pie imaginable. I greatly underestimated their power and influence over the world, and for some reason, I always thought they were an organization based solely on politics, but they regulate everything from drugs, to the protection of cultural sites. The headquarters was massive, white stone outer walls and a huge garden where you could see students and ambassadors walking around, enjoying the sun or working on their tan. Inside, there were massive assembly halls where representatives from almost every country sat down to discuss human right issues while we stood outside the doors, gaping at them and at the grandeur of the place. There were long corridors where the walls were covered with paintings and gifts and artifacts from just about every country. We even got to see the conference room where the UN tried to make Iran and Iraq make peace with each other. The UN really impressed and inspired me at the magnitude they go to achieve peace, and I actually didn’t realized how important the United Nations were until I’d been there.

As a person who has never been to Europe, nearly everything about the city of Geneva fascinated me. The free public transport, the narrow, winding roads, the cleanliness and the horribly overpriced items. The blue skies and pleasant weather was a welcoming change from the dull greyness and pollution of Beijing. For me, this Switzerland trip has been the best week of my life (so far), and most definitely the best trip I've been to. The places we saw were truly awe-inspiring, and in some cases, mind-blowing. It is definitely one place I would one day like to live, as I'm sure I’ll never get bored of it.

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