43: Switzerland: It’s not just about mountainside chalets.

The Swiss make everything look cute.

It’s the ordinary things that offer the best information about a culture, such as a homeless man’s cardboard domicile in Tokyo that Dave saw on a business trip there. Despite its humbleness, “It was the cleanest little box,” Dave recalls. When the lowest socio-economic strata of a society observes a certain custom – such as order and cleanliness – to such a high degree, that is a sign pointing to what colors the rest of its culture.

No visual obstructions between these two townhouses.

Americans have a “fix it” attitude, Spaniards have a “leave it” one, Aussies somehow occupy the duality of both colonial and republican mindsets, and Canadians – well, that’s for another blog post.

A stroll through an unassuming neighborhood along the canal banks near here suggest the Swiss are all about getting along with one another. In a condensed pack of row houses, the only dividers between gardens are low chain-link fences. We suppose that the exposed fencing is a strata requirement, but if that were the case and the neighbours found each other irritating, they would start planting tall hedges, but we didn’t see much of that.

Things change once inside the city core where we live, however, with plenty of screens and hedges between properties, but then everyone within a few blocks of here is tightly packed in.

We consider ourselves pretty friendly people, but when we bought our current house in Canada, one of the first things we did was plant tall-growing bushes shielding our backyard from our neighbors, even though they are all lovely people. That could suggest we are unfriendly, but more likely it points to a love of wearing pajamas while sipping on my morning coffee in the garden. That is what keeps Canadian culture clicking along: A love of caffeine and comfy clothing.

 

 

Back home in Canada: A hedge hides the houses beyond our backyard.

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82: Wrought iron and tulips

Switzerland is more a country of rugged mountains and unfurling bicycle paths along dreamy farm pastures and steep-set vineyards, but it is also a country of gardens. Albeit, so far we have not seen any as beautifully arranged as those found in England or Spain, but lovely all the same.

Here are a few examples of the springtime awakening of Biel/Bienne’s urban gardens. Mostly tiny little postage-stamp green spaces, some are all about function with pebble-bases and bicycle lock-ups, while others show a little more affection for the greener things in life.

If by chance you have landed on this site because you are a gardening fanatic, the best place we have seen for gardens is Victoria, British Columbia. I don’t just say that because it is my home, but because as a reporter I once covered a good part of the region testing out bicycle routes to the downtown core, during which I came upon unheralded residential streets of floral bounty – home-gardens that would never hit a magazine’s page or attract comment in the media, which is what makes their discovery all the more sweet.

Here are the ordinary and yet still adorable urban patches of Biel/Bienne as seen over the Easter weekend.

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