2009/11/08: Neuchâtel 99 km
Otto laid out a breakfast which included jam he’d made himself with berries from his garden. After correcting a navigation error we made leaving Langnau, we were off towards Bern and the plain between the northern edge of the Alps and the lake at Neuchâtel. The area is agricultural, and as we rode on bike paths and small back roads we passed fields of frosted cabbages and radicchio, as well as piles of harvested celeriac. The weather was cold. We had our midday picnic in a shelter provided beside the bike path, and used the stove to make soup.
We lived just north of Geneva for three years in the early 1990s, and Chris commuted to Geneva until we began this journey, so the French-speaking part of Switzerland feels familiar to us. By pedalling from a German to a French language area, however, you realize how abrupt the change in language is. Suddenly the signs changed, and we were greeted with a singsong “Bonjour!” I found it ironic to realize that the second language of many younger French or German-speaking Swiss is English, so compatriots use a language that is neither of theirs to communicate.
We arrived in Neuchâtel just before our friends returned home, and went around the corner for some Ovaltine to warm up. The cafe-bar was an establishment where serious gamblers placed their bets on horse races, and the noise of the machine used to heat our milk must have disturbed a fellow who was taking his selection of horses very seriously. He yelled “Quelle bordelle de bruit! Quelle bordelle the machine! Mais voyons …c’est affreux!!” to express his annoyance. It was novel to me to be able to understand what was being said at the next table, and “Monsieur Bordelle” gave us a good chuckle.
We received a wonderful welcome from Alexandra and her family. We’d met this Russian-Swiss family at an orienteering event in Canada in 2002, and Alexandra spent a winter with us in Vancouver in 2005 working on her English and her snowboarding.
2009/11/09: in Neuchâtel
We had a quiet morning, and sociable lunch when everyone came home for a big midday meal. Alexandra took us on a quick tour of Neuchâtel which included a trip to a bike shop to buy warm shoe covers to make the last leg of our journey more comfortable. Vera and Alexandra cooked a delicious dinner of game: chevreuil and cerf, which is sold in shops here at this time of year. The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was being commemorated at the Brandenburg Gate, and after watching this on television, Chris and Anton compared notes on their versions of WW2 history until late.