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Seats with a view What the Swiss do for their benches

Benches are considered cultural heritage in Switzerland. But because the state is trying to save money, the private sector is increasingly having to step in. (All images: Keystone) 

For 200 years, a public bench has welcomed weary hikers at the Giessbach Falls above Lake Brienz. It was, however, an urban invention for rich people: in the middle of the 19th century, benches were installed in public parks but ended up being used mostly by the middle classes going for a stroll. 

Since then, benches have become a Swiss tradition, with a “Bench Dayexternal link” being held on June 17 as part of cultural heritage year 2018. 

But maintaining public benches costs money. Last year, the city of Winterthur removed several of them because the authorities had to tighten their belts. Lucerne wanted to do the same three years ago, but local artists and carpenters jumped in and looked after the 1,300 or so benches for free. 

Countless volunteer associations across the country work to install and maintain new benches. In many places, including Winterthurexternal link, citizens can become “patrons” and in return for a donationexternal link will have their name written on an inscription. 

The Association for the Promotion of Swiss Bench Cultureexternal link has gone a step further: it has created an online mapexternal link, which shows the location of benches all around the country, with information on accessibility and the view. The public can share photos, stories and information on their favourites.