La zone

There’s one in every town. A run-down area, poorly frequented, with graffiti on the walls.

In France, such areas are rampant in the periphery of most bigger cities — areas known as ‘les cités’ or ‘les banlieues’ or simply ‘la zone’.

Here in Central Switzerland, they are almost unheard of. Amidst the pastoral landscapes, the worst we get is the odd run-down farmhouse or a few less attractive apartment blocks. But we do have an industrial zone.

It seems the bountiful natural resources of water and rock from lake and mountains once made for quite a going concern in cement-making. But the massive complex to the east of town by the aptly named ‘Industriestrasse’ is no longer operational.

On a recent walk along the river, I spied the tell-tale spikes in the ground that indicate a new building will be going up. If you look closely at the above photo, you will see them on the right: tall, thin metal poles that are planted on a site to indicate the height and approximate spread of a new building application. From what I can gather, it will be a large mixed-use block of apartments and shops.

It’s not the only activity in our industrial zone. Ingenbohl has quite a few of what seem to be metal or tool-making shops and various other warehouses and industrial activities. All of which nestle happily together next to the fields where cows and sheep graze. There is a big milk processing plant called the Schwyzer Milchhuss. Just down the road is the Felchin chocolate factory.

It was one of things that attracted us to the area — among the more obvious things like the majestic views. You get a sense of living in a real working town, not just a fairy-tale postcard by the lake.

As much as I miss having a few English-speakers around, the density of expats in some of our neighbouring cities make them less than appealing. I can even understand how the locals might resent so many international types, who invade their schools, take their jobs and don’t bother learning the language. I’m certainly guilty of not managing more than a few words in German, but I am trying.

The tag in the above photo translates as, ‘The day has 24 hours and they go by like seconds.’

Truer words.

Do you have a ‘zone’ where you live?


  1. margaret21 · March 25, 2021

    We don’t, but then I live in a village. The biggest industry after agriculture is gravel extraction, which isn’t particularly pretty. But I have to hand it to the company involved – they’re serious about returning the area, once exhausted, to nature reserves which are home, or hotel at any rate, to a wide variety of both resident and migrant birds, and have invested meaningfully in the local Wildlife Trust. So I can’t complain … about that anyway!

    • MELewis · March 26, 2021

      There is so much to complain about at the moment — glad to hear that something is working! How lovely to have so many birds nearby. I think a lot of good things happen to nature here too when companies are made to behave responsibly, usually in tandem with agreements negotiated with the authorities. We have a lovely reserve being built on the lake just next to a big power company’s headquarters. Several herons (I think) regularly hang out in the field next to us.

      • margaret21 · March 26, 2021

        Great. I love herons.

  2. Taste of France · March 25, 2021

    As graffiti goes, yours is very philosophical.
    Cement requires lots and lots of energy. Not very clean. Probably why it was near a river (hydropower) and why it closed.
    There’s a “zone” here with cars occasionally set on fire. I wrote about it after the attack at a local supermarket; the shooter lived there. And while I was in the neighborhood, which seemed quite safe and neat, actually, I passed a little old lady, bent over her walker, in the street (certain that any car would wait for her), wearing a leopard-print coat, her handbag dangling. The picture of public safety.

    • MELewis · March 26, 2021

      Switzerland certainly has the resources but doesn’t like environmentally non-compliant activities in its own backyard, so you’re probably right (although since the pandemic outsourcing everything makes less sense). I can just imagine the kind of area you’re talking. Perfectly safe for little old ladies on the street in broad daylight but behind closed doors and after hours not the place to be.

  3. Becky Ross Michael · March 25, 2021

    I live in a suburb of Dallas and what would be like a “zone” is now being updated and revitalized…actually way too much construction going on for my taste. Good for the economy and tourism, I suppose. I’m sure that Dallas has MANY zones, however, being such a large city.

    • MELewis · March 26, 2021

      If Dallas is anything like other North American cities in my memory, there is a big gap between the city and suburbs, which are probably very nice compared to the downtown. It’s great to have a rundown part of town revitalized (and these are often really cool areas once complete) but so much construction is hard to live with. And once it’s cleaned up, the bad neighborhood inevitably moves somewhere else, right?

      • Becky Ross Michael · March 26, 2021

        Not sure how that will work. I’ve only lived here for about 5 years and don’t really know the patterns or what to expect.

  4. Dale · March 25, 2021

    I can’t get over the mountains in the backdrop! Jaw-dropping.

    We have lots of graffiti in Montreal. There are a few zones – though I’m not very familiar with them as they are on the island and I’m on the south shore…

    • MELewis · March 26, 2021

      There is something very European about Montreal as I remember it. It could be the graffiti but also the rivers around the island which feels like many cities in France. We have our mountains here in Schwyz but you must have some nice views of the city skyline from the south shore!

      • Dale · March 26, 2021

        Yes, I agree. I remember when an ex-boyfriend bought a condo on St-Paul Street in the heart of old Montreal. His parents lived in it for a few years and his mother would always say how she felt like she lived in France.
        And yes, I have a great view of Montreal… depending where on the river I hang out 😉

  5. acflory · March 25, 2021

    The western part of Melbourne is mostly industrial, and it’s mostly ugly. What made my jaw drop about your photos was how…attractive… your industrial zones are. Some of the buildings may be eyesores, aesthetically, but the setting is manicured and clean and green. You are so lucky!

    • MELewis · March 26, 2021

      We are indeed lucky. I can hardly wait until we are able to get out more and really enjoy it. I can’t imagine the work that will be involved in tearing down that site though. it will probably be years before anyone lives there! BTW, I do hope to visit Melbourne one day if we ever make it to Australia.

      • acflory · March 26, 2021

        I suspect the Swiss are so efficient they’ll have it done before you know it. And I’ll be waiting with cake and a cup of coffee when you arrive. 😀

  6. midihideaways · March 25, 2021

    No zone here, but occasionally graffiti appear overnight! 😦 And unfortunately it takes ages for them to disappear again!
    I kind of envy your proximity to the chocolate factory – does it have a factory shop?? Do you get to smell chocolate as you get nearer?? 🙂

    • MELewis · March 26, 2021

      They do have a shop but we can’t smell the chocolate from here and haven’t visited it yet given the Covid restrictions (which may be just as well given the battle of the bulge!). I’m sure we’ll find an excuse soon.
      As for the tags, I think the longer they’re up, the more they invite new ones. 😏

      • midihideaways · March 29, 2021

        I think you’re right about the tags – ages ago I read about a project in the US, where the municipality removed the graffiti just as soon as it appeared. Bit by bit there were fewer and fewer… 🙂
        Do let us know about your trip to the chocolate factory!!

  7. davidprosser · March 26, 2021

    Nothing here in the village but a few on empty shops in the town. Tags make them look even more desolate. I hope after covid we see an increase in the economy and perhaps more businesses opening. You can tell Nestle there’s a place for a chocolate shop here
    Sending Huge Hugs

    • MELewis · March 27, 2021

      It is sad to see the empty storefronts. We have a few around here, too. There’s always room for chocolate and optimism! Wishing you plenty of both (although I have no influence with Nestlé, sadly…). ♥️

  8. Colin Bisset · March 28, 2021

    Totally agree with you about living somewhere ‘real’ and with proper businesses. I remember visiting a gorgeous village in the Dordogne that had plenty of shops but none that sold anything useful like milk or bread, just cushions and soap…

  9. nessafrance · March 31, 2021

    We don’t have une zone, but we are in the depths of the countryside. Instead, there are some unattractive but functional farm buildings. At least this means there are still working farms here. Our area was once much more densely populated. Although there weren’t zones as such then, either, plenty of evidence of former industry exists, such as lime kilns, tanneries and phosphate mines. Even a couple of coal mines. Unfortunately, some towns and villages are dying in the centre. Our own village still has a good range of shops and services, but fewer than when we moved here in 1997.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s