During a weekend visit to Zurich a few weeks ago, my cousin made a comment about how green the city is: trees, flowers, potted plants, grassy lawns, woods, and yes, even the occasional weed, overlooked by the city’s diligent gardeners.
She also pointed out the fact that even on one of Zurich’s most famous and busiest streets, the Bahnhofstrasse, you can find large trees providing shade for the throngs of shoppers, tourists and bankers that march up and down the road each and every day.
If you live here, you might take all of Zurich’s plants for granted, but if you are visiting from another city, I guess you tend to notice such things.
Not that my cousin comes from some barren wasteland where nothing grows; she lives in the Austrian capital of Vienna, which has plenty of green spaces surrounding its historic centre.
However, she did remark that even on Vienna’s equivalent to our Bahnhofstrasse, the Graben, not a tree could be found.
Being the sceptic that I am (my family does hail from Missouri, which isn’t nicknamed “The Show Me State” for nothing), I immediately jumped online to look at Google Maps Street View images of Vienna.
And sure enough, all I could find were a few decorative shrubs surrounding the outdoor seating areas of adjacent restaurants and the famous plague monument that could possibly be mistaken for a tree if you had enough beer with your schnitzel at dinner.
Even though Zurich is Switzerland’s largest metropolis and in spite of the voices complaining about urban sprawl and uncontrolled development, the city has somehow managed to retain a very natural vibe.
There are still a few working farms located within the city limits and the forest is never more than a ten or 15-minute tram-ride away. The city nursery even gives out free tomato plants to anyone interested in trying out his or her green thumb. We have three on our balcony right now.
Sometimes it takes someone else to point out the obvious. My cousin’s comments instilled in me a small sense of civic pride, making me feel very fortunate to live in such an arboreal and verdant place.