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A Spiel from Biel

19 July 201412:58PMeurope-2014travel

Apparently I don't understand anything any more, because Switzerland doesn't make sense to me either. Although fortunately, this time it's a pleasant incomprehension rather than a sad one.

Switzerland is nice. There is no other word for it. The cars stop for you when you cross the road. The trains run perfectly on time. The people politely speak seemingly every language on the planet without grudge or judgement. There is just a general vibe of contentedness that wafts across the entire country.

(I really admire this kind of casual multilingualism, and it inspires me to want to learn more languages. It does, however, make conducting transactions something of a Frenglish-style mish-mash, which means that while inspiring, it's not actually the best place to practise. Maybe leave that for France.)

The last time I was somewhere this pleasant was in Annecy, which perhaps coincidentally is quite close to the Swiss border, albeit on the French side. I remember thinking that there must be some Hot Fuzz-esque council keeping the town so pretty, and I'm starting to think the same thing about the Swiss government. There's gotta be something going on here. Nowhere is this nice.

Anyway.

We're staying with Ben's step dad in a place called Biel, which is famous for clock making and not an awful lot else, it seems. Paul is really cool, and does the same kind of super-secret work that Ben does, and has many, many travel stories to share. Also, he bought us some remarkably tasty Swiss beer, which is a good way to win anyone's affection.

We also collected Brittany, after a very minor fiasco that involved her staying in an airport overnight, but she's back with us now and will be until we fly off home from Paris in about a week.

...

Okay, let's address that elephant in the room. Yes, we are flying Malaysia airlines. No, we were (obviously, I would hope) not on the flight. Our flight home will be routed around the area, and we are currently in Switzerland, which is probably just about the safest place in the world. We are, and have been, travelling entirely by train while inside Europe.

I don't have the time or the inclination right now to talk about any deteriorating political situations beyond the extent to which they impact my travel plans, so I'm gonna leave it at that.

...

Biel is on a lake, called Lac Bienne or der Bielsee, depending on whether you speak French or Swiss German. We spent most of yesterday down there, alternating between swimming, napping, and taking photos of how beautiful Switzerland was.

30-odd degrees and swimming was not what I expected from Switzerland, but I'll be damned if I won't take it.


We dined on cheese tonight, between a fairly easy walk into town and a much more difficult one back. Brittany was quite insistent that fondue did not constitute a real meal, and Paul was equally adamant that it did, and it was in fact what Swiss peasants would eat to get them through the long winter months. I think I fall somewhere between them - I think it was an excellent meal, very filling, probably reasonably nutritious provided you can digest lactose, and came with vegetables (ie, submerged onion chunks) and carbs (unlimited chunky bread).

That said, not sure I'd eat it tomorrow night.

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