Tuesday, May 13, 2008

From France to Switzerland

I could tell when TGV train I took from Lyon to Geneva yesterday crossed the border between France and Switzerland because while the landscape was exactly the same, the orderliness of it was not. Both countries share fields of brightly colored mustard plants and wildflowers in May, but in Switzerland they are trimmed to precision in neat rectangles and squares, while in France they grow in bunches in unsymmetrical fields. This says a lot about both cultures overall and it’s amazing two countries sharing a border can be so different.

While most of Switzerland’s 41,000 sq kilometers are a mix of countryside cared for with golf course precision, France’s countryside resembles more of a child who prefers not to color within the lines. Both landscapes are equally beautiful in their own way, and couldn’t describe the country’s culture any better.

Another way to describe a country in a nutshell is to look at its pigeons. Every country has its fair share. But not all of them share the same, how shall we say it, girth. You can tell a lot about a country by how big (and accordingly how fast-moving) its pigeons are. For instance, in Avignon, the pigeons look like turkeys being overfed in time for Thanksgiving. But in Zurich, the pigeons have a more waif-like, starving model appearance. This says a lot about both countries’ versions of cleanliness and waste management. And I have to say, I’ll take the analness of Switzerland’s leafless sidewalks over the many piles of dog poop and who knows what else that litters the sidewalks in Provence (and Paris).

Anyhow, aside from the lack of waste control, France has a lot going for it. More on Provence to come once I get my photos downloaded.

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