No one has asked yet what I will miss about Switzerland, possibly because it is obvious that I will miss chocolate, cheese and canals full of swans, but another thing I will miss is strolling outside to the sound of Fiddler on the Roof, the Ride of the Valkyries or other classical music being played by the small street bands and accordion players who appear almost everywhere in this country. It is as though Swiss streets come with a soundtrack.
Biel is a small place in the grand scheme of all things Swiss. It’s not Lausanne, Bern, Zürich, Lucerne, Geneva – all of which have the air of international cities.
It certainly lacks the grandeur of Zermatt or the Alps, which are further south, but it is charming nonetheless, and has so many festivals that any North American city of a similar size appears comatose.
It also attracts a fair number of street performers. It is hard to qualify the value of these musicians. We’ve seen some in Victoria that were raspish to the point where listening to fingernails screeching along a chalkboard seem like a pleasant alternative. In Switzerland, thus far, the street music has been very good. Maybe the old stone buildings add a particular acoustic value, but every weekend we are amazed at the performances so much that we-the-cheap regularly drop money in their upturned caps.
Here in Biel, we ran into a James-Taylor-ish street performer, Rob van Wely, a modern-day troubadour with a silky voice. In his limited English he told us he’s from Holland, and didn’t seem believe his voice was so nice. Decide for yourself. Check out his performance in Biel by clicking here.
“I whistle better,” he said. He was told 25 years ago that his voice is bad, and he admitted that to be heard over a crowd, he tended to yell. It stole away the gentle nuances of his voice meandering up and down the scale, and so he worked on his guitar-playing and whistling, but then discovered the magic of amplification and brought his vocals back to his performance.
Tomorrow, I’ll post another video of a street performer in Thun that could change my mind about the quality of street music. I just haven’t decided yet.
- Look here at AngloINFO, a Geneva-based website with some handy data for foreigners living in Switzerland.
- Look to your right to see a new weather box on HoboNotes. It’s a graphic that depicts the local weather reports (as they come from Bern, we’re too small here in Biel for our own weather reports). It is very cool, thank you to my friend C.A. for pointing it out to me.
- For those who prefer the real thing, go to the Blogroll box to the right and click on “See it now” to go to a webcam showing you a view over Lake Biel, updated every 15 minutes.