The streets of our town of Biel/Bienne are currently choked with stages, musicians, food tents, carnival rides, outdoor bars, outdoor drunks, families, and the usual array of market vendors selling hammocks, purses, shoes and animal skins.
It’s a three-day party that reportedly attracts 300,000 visitors to town. I don’t know about the numbers, but I did see some panicked travelers trying to get a hotel room, one woman in particular whose driver pulled their car up to the hotel doors, so she could put one foot on the pavement and shout across the walk and past the entrance doors to the front desk, asking if they had any rooms. The answer appeared to be “non.”
The stage musicians are primarily Swiss stars, so we’re not familiar with their names, although that doesn’t take away from the quality. Caroline Chevin blasted out the main stage last night with her fabulous vocals and energetic rock band. We saw some American talent in the form of Larry Woodley and his band from Boston. Larry jibed us in that sporting American manner about the Bruins kicking Vancouver’s behind, but very politely made no mention of the ensuing unsportsmanlike Vancouver riot.
The price of admission for this three-day event: Free. I could be wrong about this, but judging by the packed streets, and brisk business being done at the food tents, it seems like a good business model.
We enjoyed some wonderful East Indian cuisine, managed to not get our pockets picked and after lurching our way through the throng, found Biel’s Alstadt (old town) almost empty, with only a few farmers left packing away their produce. We ducked into a subterranean chocolate shop, then enjoyed a quiet coffee at an outdoor cafe.
In a few weeks, Biel will host a chess festival. What a shame it is that I have to miss it.
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