Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Switzerland - Days with Friends and Fogs

Actually this is not the first "Swiss" entry, as most of our time in Basel was spent in the Swiss part of the town.  However for the purpose of this Blog I'll start "Switzerland" with our arrival in the little town of La Neuveville on the evening of December 26th after travelling from Basel.  

La Neuveville is a small town in the French-speaking Bernese Jura region, not far from the Swiss-French border.  The oldest archaeological finds show that the town area has been settled since the Bronze Age and Roman ruins have also been found (not surprisingly - the Romans were everywhere!)   The town was first mentioned specifically in civic records of 866 AD.  We stayed with friends Monika and Marius Andrey and their 4 children Lucille, Leonie, Damian and Jonas.  We first met them in about 2002 when they were travelling in Australia on their honeymoon and we have watched as their family has grown.

We stayed in the Andrey's apartment block on the right of this picture.
One of 3 remaining towers of the old town wall is opposite their house.
With our hosts we spent a very pleasant afternoon "above the fog" up on the Chasseral ridge enjoying the view.  

Not quite on top of the world, but it felt like it!
Judy with our wonderful hosts.

La Neuveville town was below us in thick fog.  Across the wide valley between the lines of mountains we could see the peak of the Jungfrau and many other mountains.  The French border is not far "behind" us.

Fog in the valley

Paragliders hike up from the car park below the crest to reach their launching site.

Time to show that we had spotted some snow.  We would see much more later.
From the ridge top we returned home and descended into the dense fog.  After dinner we walked through the old town looking at Christmas lights and decorations.  The fog around the lights gave the town a romantic look. 

The soldier at the fountain looks out over fog in La Neuveville's old town.
Foggy night in La Neuveville.
After our foggy day in La Neuveville we were hoping for a clearer day and next morning we were pleased to see very little fog, but that didn't last for long as we travelled towards the town of Avenches, roughly south of our home base. Today it is a town of about 4000 people with a well preserved historic centre. 

The Helvetian Celts had a settlement there before Roman occupation began in about 15 BC.  As a Roman town it reached a population of about 20,000.  Their amphitheatre / arena is still there as one of the town's prized attractions.

Avenche's Roman amphitheatre in the fog.

After admiring the amphitheatre which could seat about 20,000 people (the whole city) we walked around a section of the old town which encompassed buildings spanning a few hundred years.

More frost than snow on the bushes.  It was cold!

The town still has some sections of the medieval wall.

It's not a badly exposed photograph - it really was this dark and gloomy.

A frosty spider's web
From Avenches we drove through the foggy but strangely beautiful landscape to the city of Neuchatel.  After a morning out in the cold our first stop was a brasserie which serverd local foods and beers brewed on the premises.

"Les Brasseurs" brewery and restaurant, Neuchatel

All of the Swiss towns and cities we have visited have decorated fountains.
Most have a central column topped by a soldier or noble knight.
The rampant lion with the city's coat of arms makes this one different.

This fountain has the more usual knight on top of the column.  He's not
holding a birdcage - that's part of the Christmas decorations right beside him.

The fountain and all of the column.  Very
typical sort of feature in Swiss towns.
Typically wandering back streets in Neuchatel.
Part of the castle which sits above the old town of Neuchatel.
Streets in Neuchatel
When we last visited Neuchatel (August 2009) it was a bright sunny
day and we enjoyed the view of the city from the old castle.
On this visit at times we could hardly see the castle through the fog

Yes, another soldier on the column of a fountain.
Our exploration of Neuchatel's fountains (just kidding) was brought to an end by sunset  -well it should have been sunset but we had hardly seen the sun all day because of the fog.  We were feeling chilly in the foggy evening air so it was time for coffees and hot chocolates in a cafe we had visited in 2009 with Marius and Monika, Lucille and baby Leone (just a couple of weeks old).
Turning back the clock to August 2009
The family has grown since then.
Turreted window on "Maison Halles" 
The Andrey family warming up.  Jonas checks Lucille's hot chocolate. 
"Cafes au Moka" (beneath the corner window) in the
"Maison des Halles", Place des Halles, Neuchatel.
Christmas decorations in Place des Halles
An attractive bank building in Neuchatel

The shore of Lake Neuchtel in the foggy twilight.
One of many attractive buildings facing the lake
The next morning we set off early.  The girls were up before dawn to wish us a sleepy goodbye.  We are most grateful to Marius, Monika and the children for their generous hospitality whilst we were with them.  After a wonderful time we walked the short distance to the station (in the fog - again!) and boarded a local train for Biel where we changed to the train to Zurich.  From there we travelled on to Innsbruck in Austria (next Blog chapter).

Paul and Judy
January 2016 

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