Tuesday, 28 April 2009
The Swiss seem eminently sensible people. Everything (except for essential services: power, ambulances and restaurants) closes on Sunday, not so much for religious reasons but for the realisation that there is more to life than making money and going shopping. What's more, everything stays closed until after lunchtime on Monday. Yesterday they got even more sensible. All the roads around Le Lac de Morat were closed to traffic so that people could participate in the Slow Up - a day of riding bikes, skating or walking around the lake. We took a large launch out over the lake from Vallamond to Morat and spent the afternoon walking around the old town.
The medieval walls are perfectly maintained and it is a strange thing for a Kiwi to walk around on centuries old ramparts looking down on houses that have remained pretty much unchanged since the days of William Tell. Stranger still to note that none of the Swiss have been moved to deface them by spraying graffiti on them or by breaking bits and pieces of them just for the hell of it. Underneath the walls are large public allotments in which grow sensibly neat and productive vegetable gardens. All the public grassy areas are unmown because they look better that way, and are filled with the healthiest and most spectacularly beautiful dandelions I have seen in my life: the Swiss have an aversion to spraying things, and can see nothing wrong with the noble dandelion anyway. I'm liking these people more and more.
This morning it rained. As is our wont on damp days, we went walking in the countryside, visited some Roman ruins and had a decent coffee in a boulangerie who had an esspresso machine hidden away amongst the bewildering array of rolls. This was once a major Roman city, controlling trade through the Swiss Lakes area. Now it is sedate, neat, sensible farming territory. Straight edged single lane concrete roads lace between the fields of growing wheat and the yellow flowering rapeseed. It really is very beautiful. Swiss orderliness can rankle against our New Zealand sense of our inviolable personal and individual right to do whatever we damn well please whenever we want to, but given the choice between the right to buy a tin of beans on Sunday afternoon or a lifestyle which reflects the way we humans are actually constructed, I know which I'd rather have.