Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Concrete Craneland

Switzerland’s skyline is formed by two major landmarks: mountains and cranes. From our window in our little town in Baden, the Alps come and go but the crane is always there. And this year is extra special as we can see not just one, but five cranes from the same viewpoint. They even light them up at night. And at Christmas they decorate them with lighted stars. It doesn’t get much more festive than that.

And there’s only one thing the Swiss love better than cranes. Concrete. The Swiss love sturdy, long lasting things. This is why I cannot use a hammer to put a nail in my wall and hang a photo like a normal person. I must buy special heavy duty nails beg my husband to do some drilling that may or may not work. The wall is, you guessed it, made of concrete.

When I moved to Switzerland, I couldn’t wait to find a cute chalet to live in. I was very surprised to visit faceless, characterless apartment building after apartment building. All made with concrete.

While the tourist’s view of Switzerland is cute wooden chalet with flowers, the actual Switzerland is built with concrete.

And speaking of flowers, our rental agency wants to take ours away. If this seems unSwiss, you don’t know the Swiss. Because their replacement offering for all our beautiful 30-year old plants on our balcony is…drum roll…concrete. Luckily our neighbor is not in favor of this and hopefully her protests will be enough to stop them. But who knows in this strange country. Last year they built a new park in our town. I was excited about having green space near my apartment, but it turned out to be a concrete park—all gravel and no grass. This is great for bocce ball but not much else.

This year they are pulling up all the concrete on my street (and thus the 5 cranes) and replacing it with a traffic free park with a fountain. But I know better this time. The gravel is coming. And the fountain will be made with concrete. But if you leave those details out, it sounds nice. At least it will coordinate with my concrete balcony.

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