Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Bern, Switzerland (Part 2) Child Eater


After cycling around the suburbs I'm back in Bern. That's Bern Minster, the tallest cathedral in Switzerland.  To the right you see a copper/greenish dome--that's Switzerland's parliament building. From the cathedral back to me snapping this picture is Bern's old town, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
As mentioned earlier, Bern is the mother lode for water fountains. These fountains (16 in all) were built as a public water supply in the early 1500's. Later as Bern grew and became an important city these Renaissance fountains were fancied up (1535-1546). This one, know as Child Eater, depicts an ogre devouring a child. See next photo for closer look.   
The ogre holds a sack of children waiting to be devoured. Parents would bring their kids to see him and say if they misbehave the ogre will come and eat them. I wonder if parents still bring their kids here to instill that sense of fear?
Zytglogge, the medieval clock, dates back to 1218. Why do you see no stores on either sides? There're but they're tucked behind covered arcades.
There're almost four miles of covered arcades, one of the longest shopping promenades in Europe. 
The Zahringerbrunnen dates back to 1535 and depicts a bear in full body armor. See next photo.
Note the bear at the feet of the masked bear in armour. In the USA we have states. In Switzerland they have cantons (27 of them). The black bear is the symbol of Canton Bern.  
Here's a view of the backside of the Federal Palace (Parliament building). That's the Aare river flowing past. In the summer the river is awash with people inner tubing the slow moving river. 
Closer view of Federal Palace (Parliament building)
This is Samson killing a lion. See next photo for closer view.
Samson is one tough dude as he rips open the lion's mouth with his bare hands.. 
That's Bern's cathedral, the tallest in Switzerland. However, I live in Lausanne and Lausanne Cathedral is the biggest Gothic structure in Switzerland (just saying).  
Check out the fish spewing nice cold water. 
Not sure about her. 
Or this guy.
This guy is protecting the pharmacy. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Bern, Switzerland ( Part 1)


Sunday is always the best day to check out cities. Why? Here in Switzerland (and much of Europe) it's a dead day. Stores, supermarkets even drugstores and, many restaurants are closed. Trains aren't as packed, streets are less crowded with cars, trucks and people. The downside to Sunday? Well, you know how I love pastry hunting--most patisseries are closed. Today I'm in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and a pastry shop is call konditorei.

Bern, population 140,000, is the capital of Switzerland. I've been to Bern countless times before but, there're an area outside of town I've never been so, the plan is to cycle about a 30 mile loop. From Lausanne (home base) it's an hour and 15 minute train ride to Bern. I arrive around five minutes to eight and head to the Federal Palace (Swiss parliament building) to snap a photo of its exterior. Jeez, imagine my surprise to hear a gun go off and find about a 1,000 cyclists heading off for the start of a charity bike ride. So much for getting an unobstructed photo!

As you will see, Bern is the mother lode for spectacular water fountains. This one stands in front of a clock tower.
Check out this flute player. Take a look at all the characters below him.
I head a half dozen miles out of town to Koniz. I heard there's a castle here and boy do I love castles. On the wall it reads Schloss Koniz. (Schloss is castle in German). Very disappointing as there're no medieval fortifications. A thousand years ago it was a monastery then morphed into a castle. In 1992 the town of Koniz bought the property and turned it into a cultural center. 
This is one of the inside courtyards of Koniz Castle.
On a side wall of this house is the date 1538 then, there's a list of other dates which I'm assuming is when it was renovated--every 100 years or so. As I look across the street I spot something weird-looking. See next photo.
This is the courtyard of a restaurant next door to the medieval structure. Wow, if the people from 1538 building came back to the present what would they make of this?
This is the exterior of the unusual restaurant.
This is a strange-looking apartment building. Every balcony has metal mesh fencing on the balcony and evidently the growing vines are part of its look. If I was near the top I'd want to take in the view--not having it blocked by vines.  
On the other side of the river is a swimming complex. Have to cycle several miles up river to find a crossing.
This is where my bike and I crossed. The covered bridge has the date "1836" on the side. Note, before snapping this photo I check to make sure no bushes looking like poison ivy are present. 
I'm on the other side of river checking out the public multi-pool swimming complex. 
To get to this pool complex I had earlier cycled from the tree line up on the other side of the valley. 
Saw this big plant and could smell coffee. Of course I had to go check it out.
This is the head office/plant for Haco. It's Sunday but I knock on the front door. A security guard comes out and gives me the lowdown. Haco is a Swiss food manufacturer which makes foods for other companies. Here they make coffee capsules for Migros, Switzerland's largest supermarket chain. Later I google and find out Haco is privately-held, does about $450 in revenues. Haco has a presence in the USA with Girard's, a salad dressing which I've seen the the refrigerated salad dressing section in Albertsons, the second largest supermarket chain in the USA. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Baulmes and Orbe, Switzerland

I'm in the foothills of the Jura Mountains and I'm a happy cyclist 'cause it's a road I've never traversed before. The church in this village is a real beauty. 
Of course I have to stop and check out the church. The majority of the time when checking out churches the church doors will be open but, not this time. I do see the date "1904" over the entrance.  
I'm approaching the village of Baulmes (population 1,000).
If you look closely---way up near the top of the ridge you can see a train passing by as it zig-zags its way up through the mountain range.
Wow, I bet the city hall building of Baulmes had the same architect as the church building I passed a few miles earlier. 
In the center of Baulmes stands this structure. What was/is it?
Here's a rear view of the building. Iron bars cover all the windows. My guess--this was the local jail.
Adjacent to the "jail" I spot these two cars gathering dust in someone's garage. One's a Mercedes and the white with red trim car is a Hillman. I googled and found Hillman was a British car manufacturer with 1976 being the last year they made cars. So, this Hillman has to be at least 45 years old.    
The church in Baulmes occupies the highest point. This is the view from the adjacent cemetery. Looking way out in the distance there's a dramatic drop-off to the valley floor.  
Still at the church, I look another way and see what looks to be a fortified home with something in the yard so, off I go.
Well, what do you know, someone has carved out Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs along with mushrooms. The sign says they're for sale. However, unless my math or eyes are incorrect, I count only six dwarfs!
What's cool about Baulmes is that posted all around the village are photos of early days. From what I can figure out, a woman in 1904 went around the village taking pictures. Don't know if they're up year round and I just happen to catch an exhibition. The entire village of Baulmes is listed in the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites. 
Those are wine vineyards on the way to Orbe.
Downtown Orbe (population 7,000)
Fountain in front of Orbe's city hall.
Gotta go up this road to check out that medieval tower in Orbe's old town. 
The Swiss Reformed Church of Notre-Dame in the old town area dates back to the 1500's. 
Out in the distance you can see a giant chimney. That's a Nestle manufacturing complex employing 500 people. What's manufactured there? Nescafe, the company's flagship coffee brand. You can smell it several miles away.  

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Sainte-Croix, Switzerland (Reuge mechanical music boxes)


The village of Sainte-Croix (population 4,500) sits high up in the Jura mountains. So, I arrive in Sainte-Croix and the first thing I do is fill my water bottle with delicious ice cold water from the water fountain. The date "1813" is stamped on the front of the fountain. For cities, towns and villages these water fountains were very important. Why? They were the social center. This is where locals got their drinking water, washed clothes etc.. plus, the latest gossip. Note the statue atop.

Side story. About 10 years ago I was cycling from Lausanne to one of my favorite bakeries. I came upon a woman cyclist stopped on the side of the road looking lost. Turns out she was an eye surgeon from San Francisco who was in Lausanne for a conference. She had the afternoon off and rented a bike. When she mentioned being an eye surgeon I asked, "you any good?" She replied, "I'm very good". I told her to come along with me as I'm heading to an excellent patisserie. We come to a water fountain. I'm filling my water bottle from the spigot and look over to see her with hands cupped taking water from the water trough and drinking. "What are you doing?!, don't drink that water!!, I yelled. Continuing I said, "I've seen people put their dogs in there to cool off, I've seen people rinsing dirty buckets in there and I've see construction workers and gardeners washing themselves off". Jokingly I said, "Jeez, I thought you said you were a very good doctor". Anyway, I spent the whole afternoon giving her a tour of the area. Why not? She was young (in her 30's), attractive and, smart---an eye surgeon no less! Then again, after the water incident I might have to take back the part about her being smart.  


View of Sainte-Croix. You head over the top of that hill and you'll shortly come to the Swiss/French border. 
Back in 2003 I came to Sainte-Croix to visit Reuge, maker of very high-end mechanical music boxes. It's Sunday and thought it would be fun to see if they're still in the same somewhat rundown building. 
The front entrance has the name "Reuge" on the doors but the place looks deserted. 

Here's the story from my 2003 visit:

I don't know the elevation here in Sainte-Croix, a town of about 4,500 inhabitants, but it's high. Why am I so sure? Oh I don't know, maybe it's the ski lifts visible on the nearby hillsides. 

Back in 1865 watchmaker Charles Reuge settled here to make musical pocket watches. His son Albert opened a workshop specializing in musical movements. Reuge Music was a family run business until 1988 when a group of Swiss investors purchased the company.

It's a five-minute walk from Sainte-Croix's city center to Reuge's four-story head office/factory. Built it 1929, the building looks and smells more like a gritty industrial factory manufacturing ball bearings than a place where fancy (and very expensive) music boxes are made. In the picture accompanying this story, the Reuge building is the long white structure in the middle of the photo. I took the picture from far away to make sure the grazing cow was included. 

You can't just walk into the building but have to be buzzed in. I'm greeted by Myriam Alliman, personal assistant to the CEO, who answers questions and shows me around. 

A total of 99 people works here and in a similar building a block down the street. By similar I mean the other building is just as old and gritty as this one. There's plenty of employee parking, smoking is allowed in the workplace and it's an hour and a half to Geneva's airport. There's no dress code, no recreational facilities and no company cafeteria-although there is a break room.

CEO Aldo Magada occupies a large corner office on the top floor. I note the laptop, three real plants and the great view of the scenic hillsides. Of course Magada has music boxes in his office-five to be exact. However, my favorite is the singing birds in the cage. Alliman winds it up and the realistic-looking birds start crooning away. The price? Alliman isn't sure but says it's in the thousands-as in dollars. Which reminds me, several large antique music-playing contraptions liven up the otherwise sparse d├ęcor in the reception area-by large I mean they're bigger than a jukebox. 

Back to the present. I stop a woman walking past and am told Reuge has moved to new offices on the other side of town. So, off I go. 

This guy (made out of paper mache?) perched on the grass greets people coming into town and of course he's politically correct with the mask on. Click on the image to enlarge.
As I was snapping a shot of paper mache man I look to the right and see this gigantic bird in someone's front yard. 
Across the open patch of land I see can Reuge's new offices/factory.  
Here it is, at the end of a new business park. I bet these digs are a far cry from Charles Reuge's workshop back in 1865. 
I see these all the time. What? The cat ladder going up to the second floor. 
Another water fountain. This one dates back to 1868.