The mission garden, Basel

The back garden, Mission 21, Basel, Switzerland, late November 2015, by enclos*ure

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

The back garden, Mission 21, Basel, Switzerland, late November 2015, by enclos*ure

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.

The back garden, Mission 21, Basel, Switzerland, late November 2015, by enclos*ure

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 back garden, Mission 21, Basel, Switzerland, late November 2015, by enclos*ure

The back garden, Mission 21, Basel, Switzerland, late November 2015, by enclos*ure

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.

The back garden, Mission 21, Basel, Switzerland, late November 2015, by enclos*ure

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

The back garden, Mission 21, Basel, Switzerland, late November 2015, by enclos*ure

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.

The back garden, Mission 21, Basel, Switzerland, late November 2015, by enclos*ure

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.)

The back garden, Mission 21, Basel, Switzerland, late November 2015, by enclos*ure

(At the bottom of this post, you can click on ‘Continue reading’ and then 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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Just another day in paradise

What if we just let it all go?

A path in the early morning fog.
Virunga Safari Lodge in early morning fog.

Just cut paths through the brush and then beautifully paved them?

path - Virunga Safari Lodge

Pushed out a few garden rooms with low walls and columns built of local stone?

Sunflowers at the entrance to a garden room.

The central path crosses a garden room.

Mowed the grass only in those small spaces? Gardened (sometimes) with a machete, not hoes and shovels?

wildflowers beyond wall
A terrace overlooking the wild hillside, the roofs of cabins in the background.

That’s what I kept thinking during our overnight stay at the Virunga Safari Lodge in northern Rwanda a couple of weeks ago.

The path to the local village.
Path to the local village beyond a wall.

The hotel consists of a main dining/lounge building and eight very private cabins.

The stone terrace of our cabin in morning fog.
The stone terrace and bench of our cabin in morning fog.

A central path through the hotel grounds runs along the top of a hill, and the cabins are sited on both sides on a level below.

roof of our cabin
The roof of our cabin.

In the brush, wild natives and naturalized exotics grow together in a jumble.  They were noisy with birds and insects.

plants over wall

Perennial sunflowers.

As we took a walk through the neighboring community, I realized that the light-touch landscaping of the hotel grounds created, in a sense, the least artificial environment in the area. Rwanda’s country land is highly cultivated — almost every square foot is part of a vegetable garden or field or wooded plot for timber.  A steep slope is rarely an obstacle.

Fields on a nearby hillside.
Fields on a nearby hillside.

At the end of a relaxing stay, we had lunch at a table overlooking Lake Burera and its little islands. Then we were off on the 2-hour drive back to Kigali.

The view at lunch.

It’s sad to leave Eden.

View from our table at lunch.
View of sunflowers and the lake from our table at lunch.

To scroll through larger versions of these images (and several more), click ‘Continue reading’ below and then on any thumbnail in the gallery.

To see more photos of Virunga Safari Lodge from a brief visit last year, click here.

Continue reading “Just another day in paradise”