Switzerland 05-06: Biel/Bienne

I think I’ve finally figured out which is French and which is German – Biel is German and Bienne is French. But they’re the same place and that’s where we went.
Jemma MSNd me at about 12, 12.30 to ask if I’d been shopping. No, I hadn’t, but yes, we could go today. We wanted to go to a Christmas market and considered Yverdon-les-Bains (too small), Montreux (wasn’t sure about the date) and finally settled on Biel/Bienne because Maite had told Jemma it was good for shopping, so we thought we could go there even if there wasn’t a market.
We got the big white shiny train as usual. Having been through Biel/Bienne on the way to Zurich, I decided it might be a bit under 45 minutes, so I was a bit surprised to be there after 15. The first thing we saw was a group of people in a circle outside the station, the second thing was a purple rope with all their bags. Then I saw what was round their necks and realised they were Scouts. We crossed the road and went shopping.
We decided to be ruthless – none of this “Oooh, I don’t know, I might come back later.” If we liked something, we would buy it. If we wondered what was in a shop, we would go and see. This led us to walking into a DIY shop, not believing the sign outside that said DIY in huge letters. The first proper shop we went in was the sort of shop that sells everything. Hats, toe socks, arm warmers, Christmas decorations, bedding, keyrings, hot water bottles, watches – you name it. We bought some bits and pieces and went off up to the road. Now I’m realising that it never occurred to me to look up. There were huge red pillars with snow piled around the bottom of them, but I have no idea what they were holding up.

Across the road was the start of the market. I thought it was a bit small, just a handful of stalls in a square. We had a look around, then we crossed the road on the other side to go shopping – and ran into more market.

It went on for miles. There was jewellery, wine, bizarre metal sculptures, New Age things and food everywhere. On every corner, there was another barbecue or wood fire or chestnut seller, or hotdog stall. The best one was a big square, covered in wood chippings, marquees and two big wooden poles, where they were handing out soup and tea and people were sitting on logs eating and drinking. The thing that interested me most though, were the poles. They were nearly the height of the buildings and one of them had a scruffy rope attached to it. On the ground next to the pole was a girl of about ten, having weird things strapped to her legs by two men. Then they put her in a full body harness which looked far too big for her, then they clipped the rope onto the back of the harness and she began to climb the poles. The things on her legs had three inch spikes attached and she used them and a loop of rope around the pole to climb, while one of the men held onto the other end of the rope on the ground. She got all the way to the top – which was when I noticed that the rope was only looped over the wires holding the poles up – and then she had to let go, hold her feet out and be lowered back to the ground.

We shopped forever. I found a Mammut jumper and was very tempted by it. This was the one time when I said “Oooh, I don’t know, I might come back later.” But I didn’t!
We outshopped the city. By the time we’d run out of shops, they were all closing. We ran back through the market to buy the vin chaud that Jemma had been “Oooh, I don’t know, I might come back later.”ing about and then got the train back. It took a bit longer this time, because it wasn’t the express train that only stops at the cities. It stopped about 20 times and it took about 35 minutes to get back.
Then in the evening, we went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We saw it Thursday night but we accidentally saw it at Studios in French. This time we got it right and saw it at Apollo in English and it was much better. Definitely go and see the original of things like this – that goes for Narnia too in a week or so. (We don’t get the big films until a week or two later here in Suisse Romande – German/Italian Switzerland do, it’s just French Switzerland)

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