APRIL 27, 1948
EN ROUTE TO NEW YORK, Monday—From my visit to Brussels, I gathered that Belgium, from an economic standpoint, is in a better condition than most European countries that were involved in the war. Everyone at the U.S. Embassy, where we stayed, spoke of the diligence of the Belgian people. Many of them hold not only day jobs but also night jobs.
Wages are high and there are goods to buy, so the people are willing to work in order to get them. The country has gone on the theory of buying extensively from other countries. However, there has been a little difficulty lately because the chief country to buy from is the United States and the Belgian supply of dollars has been running out.
Our charge d'affaires, Mr. Hugh Millard, told me that one thing the Belgians insist on, if it is possible, is to eat well. Therefore, even the high cost does not prevent Belgium from importing wheat from Argentina, and they have made an economic agreement with Russia to obtain more wheat. Bread is the only thing that is rationed, and they hope soon to remove even that restriction.
I was told that the average Belgian farm is under five acres and is run primarily as a subsistence farm. A man grows just enough wheat for flour to make his own bread throughout the year, paying for the milling by leaving a little wheat to be sold to those who have none. Approximately the same thing holds true with everything he grows.
* * *
While I was in Zurich, Switzerland, I had the pleasure of visiting Sihlwald Forest, oldest commercially managed forest in the world. For 600 years this forest, which covers about 2000 acres, has been cared for and has been a source of income.
Switzerland, for the past fifty years, has had a law which will not allow certain forest areas to be used for any other purpose. This protects the water supply and prevents erosion of the land.
Sihlwald is privately owned, but almost every city and canton owns a certain amount of forest land which is profitably operated. Sihlwald was originally designed to provide firewood for the people of Zurich, and it still fulfills that function, but considerable wood is cut for marketing as lumber.
* * *
The forests are also used as recreation grounds for the people. They do not provide fireplaces and tables and benches, as we do, but people come with their lunch baskets and sit under the trees. Receptacles for trash are provided, and everyone is very careful to pick up their papers when they leave.
Children are taught in school how to conduct themselves in forests. That's why there is apparently no need for signs. I looked everywhere for directions such as we have—"Be Careful of Fire"—but there was not a single sign. Yet they rarely have a forest fire.
This particular forest is about a half-hour's drive out of Zurich, but there are others nearer the city. There are about 5000 acres of trees in the whole area. The beech woods are very beautiful, with a green carpet of little spear-like leaves which smell like chives and are, I think, some relation to the onion.
Not far from the entrance to Sihlwald is a very attractive guesthouse with a wonderful view. There one can have tea, either indoors or out on a terrace. The sunshine pours down in good weather and, at this season of the year, one looks out on a hillside with fruit trees in blossom and daffodils and forsythia in bloom.