Category Archives: food

The mission garden, Basel

During our Thanksgiving visit to Basel, Switzerland, we stayed at Hotel Bildungzentrum 21 or Hotel Educational Center 21.

Although a large garden was mentioned on TripAdvisor when I was booking, I had guessed that this would mean — particularly in late November — neat gravel paths, some dormant shrubs and lawn, and beds of chilly purple pansies on a 8″ planting grid.

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That the “private park” would actually encompass meadows, large plots for flowers, vegetables, and herbs, rows of berry bushes, and an orchard was a wonderful surprise.

The hotel’s rooms are in one part of a building constructed in the 1860s as housing for the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society, now called Mission 21. (Hermann Hesse lived here for six years as a child.) The garden was once a place for teaching outgoing missionaries how to grow their own food.

Today, it is cared for by Unigärten Basel — a collective of University student gardeners — in collaboration with Urban Agriculture Basel and ProSpecieRara.

Unigärten’s goal for the Mission 21 garden is to show the “greatest possible diversity of plants” within a permaculture system. They believe the garden, open to hotel guests and the surrounding neighborhood, can inspire both experienced and novice gardeners.

I loved this practical and romantic garden.  I spent the beginning and end of every day we were there taking dozens and dozens of pictures — which is why it has taken me so long to post this. (There’s also a good photo of the garden in summertime here.)

(At the bottom of this post — click on ‘Continue reading’ — click on any thumbnail in gallery and you can scroll through larger versions of all these photos, plus several more.)


The back garden

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In the back garden, seven rectangular and square sections are outlined in sheared boxwood.

Wild plants (Wildpflanzen) — particularly those that thrive in dry and waste or disturbed ground (Ruderalflächen) — take their place alongside the urban agriculture. They have been left to spread largely undisturbed along the pathways and under shrubs and fruit trees.  And in the two meadows, there are forty species, “providing joy to many insects,” according to a sign posted outside the restaurant.

The front garden

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The front garden, across from the hotel entrance,  does contain curving gravel paths and lawn, but also a number of large, old trees underplanted in a very rough and natural way with native plants from the region — mostly those with the downy oak forest as their native habitat.

You can also see that this front area has been designed to accommodate the hotel’s and the Mission’s entertaining needs and is surely at its best in the warmer months, full of tables and chairs, lights, and people.

Basel travel tips

Hotel Bildungszentrum 21 is two blocks from the historic city center. The rooms are simple, but comfortable.  Their rates are very reasonable.

Meals are the biggest expense for a tourist in Basel. Main dishes in all the guidebooks’ lists of budget restaurants are $20-$45.  A Whopper meal at the local Burger King is around $15, although sandwiches from bakeries, eaten standing up, can be had for $6 – $10.

I can recommend Zum Isaak and the bistro of the Museum der Kulturen (nice for lunch), both on Münsterplatz; Manger & Boire at Barfüsserplatz; and ONO deli cafe bar at Spalenvorstadt and Kornhausgasse (their generous Zmorge breakfasts are good for lunch too).

All public city transportation is free for anyone staying in a Basel hotel. Just ask for a pass when checking in.
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The Sunday porch: pots and pans

Girl on Porch, D. Ullman, Library of CongressGirl seated at the end of a porch,” ca. 1930, by Doris Ulmann, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

A well-to-do New Yorker, Doris Ulmann trained as an art photographer with Clarence H. White in the 1910s. In the 1920s, she began traveling to the southeastern United States to photograph rural people, particularly in the hills of Kentucky and the Sea Islands of South Carolina — people “for whom life had not been a dance.” She also documented Appalachian folk arts and crafts, working with musician and folklorist John Jacob Niles.

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The Sunday porch: Piazza San Marco

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On Monday. . . running a little late this week.

We spent December 23 to 27 in Venice, Italy. The photos above show the arcades along Piazzetta di San Marco and Piazza San Marco on Christmas and on Boxing Day (in fog).

The current colonnaded buildings enclosing the square on three sides (and the west side of the Piazzetta) were built in the 16th century.  Their arcades front a number of coffee houses, including two of the oldest and most famous in Italy: Florian (1720) and Gran Caffè Quadri (1775).

Of course, we had due caffè espresso at Florian, which was easily possible because tourists are far fewer during Christmas week. The coffees were €6.50 each, but they were very good (and there was a cookie and water).

(The water carafe was adorable, and I now regret that I didn’t buy one and hold it on my lap on the plane.  I’m very tempted to order it from their website. Also, check out the wonderful terrazzo floor at their entrance here; I forgot to take a photo of it.)

To scroll through more (and larger) images, click on ‘Continue reading’ and on any thumbnail in the gallery.

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‘Tis the season, Stuttgart

Cut long-stem amaryllis flowers.Almost every German city and town puts on an elaborate Christmas market during the Advent season.

The Stuttgart market — held since at least 1692 — is an excellent one. It made The Telegraph’s top 10 list this year.

As I walked around it on Thursday, taking these snapshots with my phone, I wished that I could also capture its wonderful smells: bread and pastry, sausage, and hot spiced wine (Glühwein).

Click on any thumbnail below to scroll through all my (larger) photos and captions.


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Vintage landscape: repurposed

Formal victory garden, ca. 1918, Library of Congress

World War I victory garden in a formal setting, location unknown,* ca. 1917 – ca. 1920, by Harris & Ewing, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The photo seems to have been taken for the National War Garden Commission, also known as the National Emergency Food Garden Commission.

The organization was created in early 1917 by Charles Lathrop Pack.  It sponsored a campaign of pamphlets, posters, and press releases aimed at “arous[ing] the patriots of America to the importance of putting all idle land to work, to teach them how to do it, and to educate them to conserve by canning and drying all food that they could not use while fresh.”

Like it or not, what you do with the land around your house tells the world what sort of citizen you are.

Abby Adams, The Gardener’s Gripe Book

*Harris & Ewing was located in Washington, D.C.

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