Biel, Switzerland, Sept 13, 2013


Last night, Stephen saw that we could take an interesting boat ride if we got there in time for the 9:45 am departure.

So this morning, we aimed for that. We found out that there was a Three Lakes Tour, and it sounded interesting. The three lakes are Biel, Neuchatel, and Murten.

As seniors ("age d'or"!!), we got an all-day ticket for 27 Swiss Francs each.

It turned out to be an all-day trip. This particular boat left at 9:45 and returned at 6:20. This was a bit longer than we had expected! But it worked out well.

We also rented the tour-guide-headsets, which were quite informative and interesting. One of the presenters called himself Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the great philosopher and writer, who actually lived in this area in the 1700's (I think).

The trip

The trip was just under 100 kms in total. Here is a Google Earth view of our trip.

The ship stopped at several towns on the way - people actually use this ship to get from one town to another. I guess they have a lot of time on their hands, because it would probably be faster to get there via train or bus.

The scenery

Some of the things that we saw today (I took almost 100 photos, and it was difficult getting it down to just these few).

First, a bunch of towns and cities as seen from the boat.

At the endpoint was the old city of Murten / Morat. (Almost every place has two names, one in German and one in French. Where we are staying is Biel / Bienne, for example.) We had an hour and a half in which to roam the city. We chose to visit the "old city", where we had a bit of lunch and roamed the streets. These shots are of this section.

As we returned to the ship, we noticed this painted on the pier. Strange.

I am fascinated by the feet of this bird.

We also saw many striking cliffs.

Here is a refinery that apparently supplies 25% of Switzerlands various petroleum product needs. The oil is shipped from Marseilles.

We went through two canals, one joining lakes Biel and Neuchatel, and the other joining lakes Neuchatel and Murten.

This whole area is farmland. We could not identify this grass, which seemed like corn but not really.

Near a bird sanctuary, we saw these poles in the water with crossbars. The birds appear to love them.

And in the distance, the Alps!

The Boat

Now it is time to show you something interesting about this boat. First, here it is awaiting our return at Murten. On the very top level is what I call the helm cabin, and right behind it is the chimney.

What is not totally clear from this photo is that there are also two auxiliary navigation stations to the right and left of the helm cabin. The captain uses these stations when he is parking the boat at a passenger pick-up/drop-off point - he can position the boat so that the crew can tie the boat to the dock easily.

The problem that those capable Swiss engineers have solved really elegantly is that the boat is too high to go under all of the bridges that cross the canals. So they figured out that if they tilt the chimney at the appropriate time to 45 degrees or so, they gain a bit of space. They also lower the helm cabin a bit, maybe 6".

But that solves the problem of all but one of the bridges. For that bridge, they have to lower the chimney completely, and lower the cabin, so that they can make it under the bridge. Check out these videos!

First, lowering the chimney.

Second, lowering the helm cabin.

Finally, going under the bridge. That is the captain on the right, at one of the auxiliary navigation stations. And that is probably his grandson on the left. Maybe this was take-your-grandson-to-work day.

Tomorrow we will investigate one of the things that we learned about today. Not sure which one, but we'll figure that out in the morning.
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