Preserving Cultural Heritage


I almost missed it. Probably because it obviously didn’t apply to me. I’m sure it wasn’t directed at you either.

The sign was in one of the courtyards of a thousand-year-old monastery in the Swiss town of Stein am Rhein. We had just determined that we weren’t going to tour the monastery, deterred not by the five Euro admission fee but by the fact we had a dinner reservation in 90 minutes and still more than an hour to drive.

Stein am Rhein is a town I want to visit again (and I do have some more tourist-like pictures I will share in the next little while). It is a tourist magnet, but sometimes there is good reason why people flock to these places. You’ll understand why when you see those posts.

This one though illustrates, I guess, a social problem. One I hadn’t thought of before. Maybe it is a reflection of liberal European alcohol laws – you can walk down the streets with an open bottle of beer here, something that gets you arrested and fined in Canada. After two years I still can’t used to seeing it.

As American philosopher Archie Bunker noted almost fifty years ago, “you can’t buy beer, you can only rent it.” I guess the Swiss, or maybe it is foreign, tourists have been  coming up with an easy solution when nature calls late at night. Who knew those men (and I am assuming here it is always men) who chose what they thought was a discrete corner to relieve themselves were damaging a cultural treasure.

I wonder if the threat of cameras is effective. The prohibited activities are most likely to be happening at night. Faces will probably be indistinct, though security camera footage is much improved these days.

Still, they must think the sign is a deterrent, or they wouldn’t post it. Maybe posting pictures publicly would shame the offenders. Then again, maybe not.

Those who drink to the point of public urination probably don’t have a great sense of shame.


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