A funicar is the acrophobe’s answer to mountain-scooting gondolas – a ground-hugging on-the-rails ride up the steep limestone Jura mountains that border Biel/Bienne.
I’ve already mocked the funicar, also called funicular, once, saying that it is as impressive as a stroll up the mountainside at our Vancouver Island home, that is to say, not impressive at all. Turns out I was wrong about that. It is a lot steeper and probably a lot higher.
As with all endeavors, we had to leap over the language hurdle when purchasing our ticket at the automated kiosk, which to our delight had a button that said “English,” but when Dave pressed it, a display came up that read “English is not enabled on this unit.” We hope the funicular engineers had a good belly laugh at us from the safety of a remote control booth. Eventually, we sorted it out and boarded the funicar.
The Lac Biel valley opened beneath us as the car made its silent climb up the mountainside, a spectacular view if you’re not afraid of heights and are able to look down without having the urge to vomit.
At the top, we found what appeared to be a campus cafeteria. At last, a cheap lunch, we thought – and looked forward to a respite from Switzerland’s exorbitantly expensive restaurants that charge about twice that back home.
We loaded up our trays with a vegetarian lunch that included what appeared to be a fried half-pound of white cheese. I have waited all my life for just such a meal where a glob of cheese is unencumbered by a beef patty, bun, or egg.
It would be nice to say it was everything I hoped, but halfway through I had to stop eating – the sound of my arteries squeaking as they congealed was too much for me.
But I get ahead of myself: At the till, the cashier gave Dave the price, that I hopefully repeated back “Vingt-sept?” She tapped the cash display. $37. Dave suspects cash registers are equipped with an “English price” button, something special for we tourists.
We took our lunch trays to the tables outside overlooking Biel/Bienne and figured it may be the most expensive cafeteria meal ever, but if one takes the view into account, the price may not be so bad.