Sunday, September 30, 2012

Biel/Bienne, Switzerland

Switzerland, with a population of only eight million, has FOUR official languages. Around 65% speak German, 25% French, 6.5% Italian and .5% Romanish. The German-speaking Swiss are in the north, the French-speaking in the south and the Italian-speaking in the east. I'm telling you this because the city of Biel/Bienne straddles the language boundary between the German and French-speaking parts of the country. In 2005 the city's name was officially changed to Biel/Bienne and with a population of 50,000, it's Switzerland's largest bi-lingual city. What does that mean? Well, it means every street sign in Biel/Bienne is in German AND French like the one in this photo. Also, just imagine if you are a company sellings consumer products in Switzerland which means listing ingredients on the packaging in multiple languages. 
Biel/Bienne's old town isn't very big but, it has some cool statues overlooking fountains. This (I think) is blind justice.
 Here's a closer look at the stoic beauty (blind justice?).
This woman is cradling a sheep with a gargoyle next to her. What's up with that?
 Here's a close-up. The ugly gargoyle with the belly is the green thing.
Here's a fearless knight. Don't forget the fountains are spewing out cold water which is great for filling up the water bottle on my bike.
Close-up of the fearless knight.
Close-up of the area below the fearless knight's feet. Note the date (1540) and the ugly mug of who knows who.
Oh, oh, gotta take a photo of my restaurant buddy.
Quite a few famous watchmakers have their factory and head office in Biel/Bienne. This is Omega's headquarters.
This is the edge of town in Biel/Bienne. It's hard to see in this crummy photo I took but, there's a road in the distance and I watched as a farmer strung a rope across the road to stop traffic. A herd of cows were grazing in a field and they started hoofing it down the road (see next photo).
Walking single file, the cows obediently returned looking like they've done the walk hundreds of times.
Biel/Bienne lies at the foot of the Jura mountains. My bike and I hopped on the funicular and in a few minutes were way above the city.
View of Biel/Bienne from last stop of funicular.
So, way above Biel/Bienne stands the village of Magglingen. It's a spectacular setting with idyllic farms, forests and as you can see--great views.
See this turn-of-the-century grand hotel. It's not your normal hotel. The Federal Office of Sport, the Switzerland federal government's center for expertise in sports, is headquartered up here. It's also a training center for athletes. This former hotel (with incredible views) houses athletes.
This is the head office for the Federal Office of Sport. It's built on a very steep cliffside with additional floors below this plaza area.
The sports training area is scattered over several miles with a slew of modern buildings mixed-in with farms and forests. This is the gymnastics building.
Name a sport and they have a facility here. Basketball, volleyball, archery, badminton, cycling routes, running trails, soccer fields, tennis courts, hockey, swimming complex--it goes on and on. Very impressive.

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