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Switzerland

St. Blaise of Switzerland

sunny 34 °C

From Neuchátel to St. Blaise is as easy as finding your destination in the dark, if you are driving, following the white line on the road. By the time you have your morning fill of the Jura mountains, you go down the slope and turn left to the huge parking space and the lake.

St. Blaise, Biagio or San Blas (as he is known) was the physician Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia who lived (c316) in a cave on Mount Argeus. He was the healer of men and animals and according to legend, sick animals would come on their own to his cave, to be cured.

Armenians are Christians and were persecuted even in the Roman times. There is still a huge controversory in Turkey about the Ottomans' genocide of Armenian christians before and after the First World War. In Roman times, Gnaueus Julius agricola, the Roman General and politician, who was the governor of Cappadocia, came to Sebasste to persecute Christians.

Bishop Blaise was arrested and Agricola tried to force him to renouce his faith and accept Roman Gods. On his refusal, Bishop Blaise was thrown into a lake to drown but he survived, standing upon the surface of the water and challanged his Roman persecuters to do the same, to prove that their Gods were as powerful as his own. Naturally they drowned. So when he returned to the solid ground, he was arrested, tortured and his flesh beaten and torn with wool brushes, then beheaded. For this reason he is worshipped by the Wool Merchants in Italy and Dalmatia (Croatia) and there are churches to his name in many countries. His memorial is celebrated on 3rd of February.

The wool trade in Italy was centered in Florence (Fiorenza! the City of Flowers) which was the capital of Tuscany) and employed thousands of workers. Although other industries like making of wine etc developed later, wool trade was the main industry. Merino sheep was imported from scotland and Merino wool even today is world famous for its purity.

St. Blaise in switzerland, named in honour of martyred Bishop, has a special charm. We parked our car in the almost empty parking area, there were three or four caravans standing on their parking lot and when I went to use the toilet, a man standing outside kindly told me that I could drink the water from the tap. Water was cool and refreshing.

Thus refreshed, we turned towards the lake, on our right a small semi-circle of a sandy beach, the beautiful mountains hovering overhead, beautiful houses perched on its slopes. The place had an atmosphere of complete calm and romance, which immediately put an spell on us. The morning was hot and we took off our clothes and dipped in the water with total abandon. Although we stayed on the beach for quite some time, only one solitary woman came to swim. No other bathers.

Straight ahead is the landing for boats and as we were gazing at the lake,a big boat/ferry came to the pier and some passangers got off. It was apparent that you could travel by boat to other destinations around the lake. Go visiting your friends and relatives, do some shopping.

On our left was a small harbour for boats, there were many boats berthed and people on board, some having breakfast. Every body greeted us and we returned their greetings. As if we were not visitors but well known acquintances. Where ever we went in switzerland, people in a friendly manner. Another nice and surprising thing was that we saw no nudity on the beaches, no scanty clad youngsters on any camp sites. In fact we saw no girls with a short short top or a mini skirt.

We were so enchanted with the beach, the lake and the mountains that we stayed there until late in the afternoon, and missed going up to the town center. So later we took to the road again.

But even now when I am writing about st. Blaise and remeber the mismerising effect of Bernese mountain range and the perfect soothing calm of St. Blaise, right now, I would rather be there than here in Germany.

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Posted by The Islander 13:05 Archived in Switzerland Tagged automotive Comments (0)

Neuchátel and Chaumont. Switzerland

Lakes And Mountains

Neuchátel is barely 15 kms from Biel, driving was easy and we did not lose the view of mountain ranges on one side and the lakes on the other. The population is about 34,000 and the town is sitting comfortably between the mountains and the lakes, which, as is mentioned by people there, promoted Alexander Dumas to describe it as a "Toy Town carved out of butter". I do not know if it was Dumas pere, the great French historian and writer of classics "Count of Monte Cristo" and "Three Musketeers" etc., or was it Dumas fils, who wrote "Lady of Camelias" and "La Traviata", on whose theme the world famous Opera by Giuseppe Verdi was written. I could not find out about this in the town. But to us Neuchátel also reminded us of Sibenik and Split in Crotia, its main street full of shops and cafes, the region dotted with waterfalls, snowy mountains and wide lakes.

The lingua franca in Nauchátel is French, its architecture is French and many of its mid 17-18th century buildings are painted yellow. As are many buildings painted in Andalusia (Spain) and in some Mediterranean towns and sea side villages in Italy. The ambiance is also Gallic, the place was full of street life, crowded pavement cafes and restaurants serving good tasty food and fine French and Swiss wine. The day being hot, we sat down on the terrace of a corner cafe, had toasted sandwiches and a chilled Chateaubriand (Réserve) from Beaujolais. Then we went and had Crépe Suzette (Pan cakes to common folks) with banana and marmalade. As we would eat in Montmartre in Paris. Trés Chic.

In the after- noon I wanted to visit the Museum of Art, which I was told, has a fine collection of Mechanical Figurines. But I do not now remember, how or why, we chose to visit the mountainous town of Chaumont, which is set amongst the high peaks on an elevated area of Bernese Alps. From there we had a fantastic view of the three lakes of Switzerland, Lake Nauchátel, Murten and Lake Biel. The harbor was full of boats coming and going and the snowy edge of Bernese Alps hovering over it. A very enchanting sight it was.

Posted by The Islander 10:05 Archived in Switzerland Tagged automotive Comments (0)

Biel Town Between Rhine & Rhone

Lakes, Mountains and Medieval Town . Switzerland

sunny 30 °C

Biel (as Germans call it) and Bienne (as is called by French), is barely 30 kilometers from Berne, the capital city of switzerland. It is in fact a district of Berne. Driving to Biel was easy, highways are new and we encountered little traffic. Every body drives at a moderate speed although most of the vehicles were 4-wheel drive. When you near Biel, the highway turns into motorway and then into one lane. When you reach the town, it feels as if you have always been there. You enter the center and are at the water front, you park your car easily, stretch your legs and look at the boats lolling on the water and a sense of well being enters your body.

Biel is a small harbour town with a population of about 53,000 but we were told that there are more than one hundred nationalities living there. It must be the modern industries and world famous watch factories. It can not be that all those people are there for the Chess Tournament or the Wine Festival.

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The Tourist brochure told us that originally the town was inhabitated by Celts and later by Romans, which means around l0th- llth Century. Biel is also famous for the Jura mountain range which seperates the Rhine and Rhone river here. The route of river Aare was redirected in Lake Biel as it was flooding the whole area. A stroll around the old city center is a thrilling experience, houses with medieval facades, streets so narrow as if they have been cut and chiseled out in between the buildings and even houses. Small town squares and peaceful atmosphere enveloped us. The day we were there in April 2006 it was a sunny and warm day, the water front cafes and bars were full. We felt as if we were in Cadiz or Huelva in Spain. It was wonderful.
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In a Cafe we met two waitresses, one from Philipines and another from South America. They told us that Biel was famous for celebrating Chess Tournament (apart from making Watches). And that it was a wine making region. We had already seen the vineyards on the slopes of mountains when we were travelling but I was not aware that it was an important wine growing region. In May and in september there is wine tasting and in september a Wine Festival. If you are awine afficionado, head towards Biel. I think that summer is the best time to visit switzerland. We saw many bikers who had come on bicycles from Bern and mountain hikes is a popular way of visiting the place.

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After staying in the town we headed towards the Lake. The first sight which caught our attention was the views of St. Peter's Island. The whole region has wild and dense mountains on both sides and we could see typical country houses perched upon hills in remote and deep valleys. We were wondering how the inhabitants came down to the town from such heights. And how it would be in winter, deep snow covering every gorge and every path. But I would not mind living in such remote places, I am a loner and solitute does not haunt me.

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Lake Biel is a beautiful eyefull, boats and ships were coming and going, there are guided tours of the connecting lakes but the prices were not cheap. We also saw boats berthed on the pier with restaurants on open decks. So we took off our clothes and put on swimming costumes and sat down on the rocks to take sun and feast our eyes on the beautiful lake and the mountain range stretching all the way out.

Posted by The Islander 18:40 Archived in Switzerland Tagged automotive Comments (0)

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