A festival and a farewell

Biel/Bienne Braderie music festival and carnival hits town.

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.

When cooking for thousands, bring a large frying pan.

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.

Here's something you don't see enough of in North American festivals: Flower auctions. This man held a large audience's attention auctioning off flowers and bouquets. His audience was larger than some musician's. Go figure. Here a customer buys a few orchid-type flowers.

In a few weeks, Biel will host a chess festival. What a shame it is that I have to miss it.

After over 4,200 hits, 247 comments and 112 posts, this blog is going on hiatus, to be picked up again on my return this autumn. I’m heading back to Canada for some happy family stuff. If you subscribe to this blog (see the subscribe button in the upper right corner, you will receive a notice when I start up with the continued not-so-wild adventures of a middle-age, middle-class, middle-of-the-road couple exploring middle-Europe.

If you want to reach me, leave a comment on the blog and it will get forwarded to my email.

Thanks for following.

The top of Europe? Not quite.

The forecast was for sun, but heavy cloud-cover cancelled our final leg of the journey up to the "top of Europe."

We arrived at the end of the Kleine-Scheidegg trail and discovered the “top of Europe” was obscured in fog. Hand it to the Swiss, they won’t try to sell you a ticket to nowhere. When we queried the ticket agent on whether it was worth taking a chance on the $100 one-hour train trek up to the top, she looked at us as though we had lost our minds. Don’t go, is all she had to say.

At another time, we planned to go to Zermatt to see the legendary Matterhorn, at which Daniela, our hotel concierge said, “Do not go there! Do not! It is covered in snow and fog! Do not go!! Achtung!”

Actually, she didn’t say “achtung,” but we find her hilarious for the way she speaks politely in English to us and then sternly in German to someone else,  such as the time the hotel was a little slow on securing our room’s safe to the wall.

When we alerted her that our request had been unheeded for a few days, she gently said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I will take care of it.” Then she picked up the phone and spit a few sharp German words into the receiver. When she was finished, I asked if I should meet the maintenance man up in the room, to which she replied. “He is already there.” And then she sent a translator along to make sure there were no language gaps between me and the maintenance man.

Daniela is only 22-years old, but if I were embarking on any business venture, I would hire her in an instant. She is a “get-it-done” kind of gal.

And so, we put off our trip to the “top of Europe,” but we still came back with these lovely photos.

Looking south from Mannlichenbaln toward the Lauterbrunnen valley, which you may notice has nearly perfect vertical walls. It is the site of 10 beautiful waterfalls, as well as the Trummelbach falls, which we hope to visit.

Heading down Kleine-Scheidegg.

The rare Alpenkuchenschelle flower. I did not make that name up. Another hiker with a flower guide book let me photograph the page identifying this rare blossom. At least, she told me it was rare. The book was in German, so I couldn't verify anything, but she looked honest.

More heavy equipment along the Kleine-Scheidegg trail - this one looks a little worse for wear. What the heck - are the Swiss using the Alps as a backhoe-graveyard?

This house needs a new coat of paint, but there's no denying the occupants enjoy a lovely view.

We did not expect to find a Canadian icon at the end of the Kleine-Scheidegg trail. What the heck - teepees!

The roof on this mountainside cabin appeared to be made of irregular shale sheets.

Good-bye to the Swiss Alps. We hope to visit this region again - there is no end of amazing sights here.