An eventful 41 years ago, it was my good fortune to spend a lot of time in and around Interlaken, Switzerland (pronounced Interlochen, not Interlaken.)
It is a very old Swiss town that has evolved into a tourist mecca, about the same population as the Old Town of our Niagara paradise.
Situated between the Thunersee and the Brienzersee, the influence of these two lakes can be roughly compared to our nearby Lake Ontario and our Niagara River.
My observations then, and the lessons and attitudes I took away, have been part of my persona ever since.
Indeed, in 1982 I told my Swiss pal Hans Peter Reber that I was going to return to Montreal, sell up and move to the Berner Oberland permanently. His intuitive and wise counsel then was, “Herr Robinson, you could not live here, because in Switzerland, if it is not compulsory, it is illegal.”
I always read the local weekly newspapers from cover to cover, and often relate our NOTL issues to the situation in and around Interlaken. I do this subconsciously and my opinions flow from my background.
For example, we are now trying to decide whether a traffic circle or a red light would be best for St. Davids. My goodness, Swiss traffic specialists settled on traffic circles so many years ago. As did the Australians, British, French, Germans and the list goes on
An indoor pool? Interlaken figured out that partnerships are the way to go. How about Pleasant Manor or one of our major hotels working with our town staff and politicians to share the capital costs and future maintenance obligations?
The seemingly endless road construction on Highway 55, on the way to Old Town? Swiss road builders get in and get out, with the least traffic disruption possible.
Noisy cars, trucks and motorcycles clogging up Queen Street on summer weekend days? Dictate the rules and stop pussy-footing around the issue. Set a maximum decibel level and enforce the rule.
Noisy garbage and recycling trucks cheapening the tourist experience? Again, frame the tender process to provide the optimum visitor experience. No noisy and idling trucks between 10 and 3 on weekends.
The lack of a pedestrian crosswalk on Queen Street is a serious and sad accident waiting to happen.
When will a crosswalk be installed somewhere around the post office and the ValuMart? (I know, I know, the Independent.)
This will be the same story as when the NHL will finally ban fighting. The late visionary Ralph Mellanby told me many times, “When somebody gets killed in an NHL game fight, fighting will be banned within a month. Two months later, fans will be asking, ‘Did there used to be fighting in the NHL?’ “
Please, for the safety of NOTLers and visitors, install a crosswalk or two on Queen Street.
How about the angst surrounding wine and other alcoholic beverages in our public parks. My goodness folks, please don’t tell my Swiss or Australian or French friends we are even discussing this issue in the year 2023. This is absurd, in the heart of Canada’s best-known wine district.
Noise from concerts and short-term rental accommodations? In Switzerland, way back in the late 1970s, the only noise issue was during the weekend when Swiss men were yodelling up the valley.
Various contests were organized to determine the winner of the annual Schweinehunde Punte contests. Creativity and endurance were keys to victory, with the younger folks having the advantage.
I often think of the practicality of the Swiss people. My pal Max Oehrli owned a Swiss clock and souvenir shop on the Bahnhofplatz.
As more and more nationalities arrived to shop, he kept learning languages. Back in 1980, he could sell in seven languages. Probably more now. He and his wife Els and their children Marco and Suzie react to changing times.
The rusty and derelict Toronto Star box that has been a sad fixture on Mary Street, in front of the Tim Hortons for at least seven years, is never used at all. That would never happen in Interlaken, or for that matter, anywhere in Switzerland.
I know Switzerland is a small country and therefore easy to manage. But if Switzerland was flattened out, it would be among the largest countries in the world.
Remember, in Switzerland, “if it is not illegal it is compulsory.”
We are so fortunate to live in Canada … in 2023.