Hundreds of gardens in Switzerland have been opening their gates over the weekend in celebration of this year's European Heritage Days.This content was published on September 8, 2006 - 17:04
Among those which was hoping to attract visitors is the Bally Park at Schönenwerd in northern Switzerland, which was founded by the shoe-making dynasty of the same name.
The European Heritage Days are jointly organised by the Council of Europe and the European Union and are seen as an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of Europe's cultural heritage.
The garden-themed event in Switzerland was aimed at introducing the population to the myriad public and private gardens hidden away across the country. It formed one of the highpoints of the "year of gardens," organised by cultural and gardening organisations.
One such horticultural gem is the Bally Park, a magnificent landscaped garden situated in an industrial zone in Schönenwerd, a village in canton Solothurn.
It was created in the second half of the 19th century by Carl Franz Bally, son of the founder of the Bally shoe empire, in ten hectares of land near the family's original factory in the village.
The idea was to offer employees a place of rest during factory breaks and the villagers an open green - and artistic - space.
The landscaping of the Bally Park, one of the largest of its kind in Switzerland, is along classical English lines – an informal garden which gives the impression – quite wrongly – of having let nature run riot.
"In reality, the park's quite free and informal structure perfectly fulfils both the utilitarian function and the typical aesthetical style of landscape parks in which culture and amusement come together," Samuel Rutishauser, head of heritage in canton Solothurn, told swissinfo.
Taking the winding route through the park, the visitor discovers a mix of wild meadows, groups of trees, fishponds and streams. It is also a showcase for a rich variety of Swiss flora and fauna.
The park's architectural elements are designed to blend in with the landscape, although there are plenty of surprises – a small Chinese gazebo peeks out from its lakeside setting and there is a miniature reproduction of an ancient stilt village.
In all, 230 gardens were open to the public, for free, on Saturday and Sunday. The organisers said that in this way they hoped to raise awareness about these areas, some of which are vulnerable or threatened by increasing urbanisation. Up to 60,000 visitors were expected.
"Gardens are part of our cultural heritage. They are witnesses to history and different architectural styles," said Jürg Bossardt, head of cultural heritage in canton Aargau.
"And yet, they are often hidden behind private hedges and fences and are generally underrated."
Heritage authorities and organisations organised a variety of events at gardens across Switzerland.
These ranged from more formal French-style gardens at sumptuous villas to public parks hidden inside urban settings. They also included small gardens in cemeteries designed to invite reflection as well as educational or botanical gardens.
Among those on show were the Mon Repos English-style park around the Federal Court in Lausanne and the famous Rütli meadow, the cradle of the Swiss confederation.
The idea for European Heritage Days came after France held an open day for historical monuments in 1984.
In 1991 the idea was adopted by the Council of Europe. It is aimed at celebrating the diversity and unity of Europe's cultural heritage.
Nowadays 34 European countries take part, attracting around 20 million visitors to around 30,000 monuments and sites. Switzerland has been taking part since 1993.
The European Heritage Days took place in Switzerland on September 9-10.
The theme this year was gardens.
230 gardens and sites were open to the public.
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