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.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Malmo, Sweden

Many a time I've said the city hall building will set the tone for a place. Is it a new modernistic structure or a drab concrete slab from the 1950's? Or in Malmo's case, a link with its past. Originally built in 1546, its facade was redefined in 1846 in the Dutch Renaissance style. What's not that unusual in Europe (as in the case here) when you walk around to the back of the building you'll find a modern building attached to this historic and beautiful structure.  
 With a population of 300,000 people, Malmo is Sweden's third largest city.
 The downtown shopping area is fantastic as it's car free.
 Lots of good-looking old buildings.
This street through downtown was specifically built for cyclists.
Kayakers gliding through Malmo's city center.
Like Copenhagen, Malmo is flat as a pancake. How come we don't do what the Danes and Swedes do and put free air stands around town for cyclists?
Malmohus Castle, built in the 1530's, is the oldest Renaissance castle in Scandinavia. Just so you know (as I was always confused): Scandinivia is comprised of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. When one says the Nordic countries it means Finland, Iceland as well as Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Here's the front entrance of Malmohus Castle. The fortress now houses an art museum and an aquarium.
View of Malmohus Castle with moat.
Flowers in large park adjacent to castle.
 Large square in old town area of Malmo.
 Yep, sign says pedestrians only.
Must be a dozen restaurants in the square
 A colorful half-timbered building.
 Even courtyard areas are colorful.
 Another half-timbered structure.
 The big brown building is a hotel.
 Picture of the area outside Malmo central train station. Not as many bikes as in Copenhagen.
Who would have thought you'd find Sweden's tallest building in Malmo. Called the Turning Torso, it's 54-stories tall.  Completed in 2005, Malmo's landmark structure is the third tallest residential tower in Europe.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Copenhagen, Denmark (Part 3)

Opened in 1843, Tivoli Gardens is the second oldest amusement park in the world. This is one of its two entrances.
This is the second entrance. What makes this 16-acre park so remarkable is its location. Back when it first opened Tivoli Gardens was outside Copenhagen's city walls. Since then (1843) the city fortifications have come down and Copenhagen has expanded----a lot. Now, Tivoli Gardens sits in the middle of Copenhagen--directly across from Copenhagen's central train station! Name another city in the world with an amusement park in the middle of the city.
In 2011 almost four million people visited the park making Tivoli Gardens the second most popular seasonal theme park in the world. Oh, I forgot to tell you this piece of trivia: Dyrehavsbakken, the world's oldest amusement park, lies about 10 miles north of Copenhagen and was founded in 1583.
Moorish theme building houses several restaurants and a super deluxe hotel with only 15 rooms. Tivoli Gardens has over 43 restaurants and prices are high but then again isn't that the norm for amusement parks?
The grounds are well-maintained.
Flowers galore.
Tried to snap a photo of the pirate shop but this lovely woman kept getting in the way.
Lots of rides.
 Lots of big mature trees which lets you know this place has been around a while.
Lots of gardens in the park. This is the last of Tivoli Gardens photos.
So many of these bikes around town. Put your kids in the front and groceries in the back basket or vice versa.
This stand gives cyclists free air.  
Saw this posted sign for a lost parakeet. Reward of 1000 Danish Krones would equal about $170.
Church spire with outside spiral stairway.
Amazing collection of new modernistic office buildings line many of Copenhagen's old canals.