32: Switzerland’s Sweet Slide Into Summer

The Swiss have got some things figured out perfectly, like how to have fun with what they’ve got, as we were reminded on our weekend stroll. The photograph above is the beginning stages of Biel/Bienne’s summer tropical pavilion, brought to Switzerland courtesy of some backhoes, truckloads of white sand and potted palm trees, all kissing up to the shore of Lac Biel.

This happens every year here. It’s funded by the municipality, it is a wonderful slice of Caribbean-living, and why not? The summer season is starting to cook, the temperatures will ride up to the high 30s and the humidity brings into question whether Switzerland really is an alpine country.

I cannot imagine something similar going over back in our home of Victoria, British Columbia. There, such a drastic environmental alteration would produce a band of swooning protesters and broiler-hot five-hour town hall meetings, where apple pie and “I didn’t fight in the Second World War to see my country come to this” motherhood statements would be flung around the room. I shrug. It is Victoria and it is what it is, but I wish they could see how it is done here.

The Swiss muck around with their environment repeatedly, but as for degradation and damage, no worries. The same equipment that creates this tropicana will be back in the fall to sweep it all up, replant and renew the area. They hold massive festivals here in our little town, chucking things around that would bring Victoria bylaw officers to their knees in horror (imagine drifts of confetti over a foot deep on Douglas Street), but quick as flash as soon as the festival is over, in comes the Swiss backhoe brigade to set everything right again. The morning after every festival, there is not a clue it ever happened.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to lazing on a cushioned wicker lounger, munching on hotdogs and sipping on iced tea under the shade of a palm tree on a white sand beach, all only a 15 minute walk from my hotel.

Dave wanders into the park and wonders, where the heck did all this sand come from? And the beach furniture? And the hot dog stand? From June 2011.


Before the beach, 2011: How the park usually looks – asphalt, lawn, shrubs, rock-line shore. Yes, I would like some palm trees, thank you.

Bern is not all about bombs

The Swiss parliament building in Bern, just before the laser light show begins.

Emerging with renewed energy from the blast at Bern’s train station, we hit Bern’s streets heading past the parliament buildings where we heard loud noises and saw a huge crowd gathering.

At this point, we had no clue that the blast at the train station was merely a harmless mechanical/electrical malfunction, so the gathering masses were of some interest to us. The last time we had stepped onto the cobblestone square in front of the parliament building, it was surrounded by police and full of Tamils lobbying against any deportation of their numbers back to Sri Lanka where they might have an unpleasant experience, such as facing execution.  I have no comment on their political situation, but along with the requisite smouldering angry young men, the crowd was full of children and elderly people, so that seemed safe enough to me and I dove in see what was the matter.

My sons later observed that this was unwise.

“When you see police surrounding black people, do not go in there. It never ends well,” said one. That is true in some instances, but in this one there was no violence, and because the Tamils have jobs and families to attend to, they did not camp out in the square, as has now become the fashion with protest movements.

But that was then.

We joined the crowd and were treated to a delightful laser light show that played over the parliament building. It was awesome. Click here to see a short version of the show (click to the one-minute mark for the coolest part), and here for a longer 15-minute version.