The Food, Fun, and Foibles of a First-Time Europe Traveler


Biel and Moutier: Cousin Pauline and Olivier


We checked out of our hotel in Bern, no thanks to a rude receptionist who encouraged us to make a “free call” from our room and then charged us for it. When I told her that local calls are free from most hotels in America, she kindly reminded me that “we are in Switzerland.” Thanks for the refresher.

After that unpleasantness (the only rude person we encountered in the entire country), we took a train to Biel to meet up with Hanna’s cousin, Pauline. We got off the train and, since Hanna hadn’t seen her in about 15 years, we hoped that we would be slightly easier to recognize (two giant non-Swiss looking people wearing gigantic backpacks).

Luckily we were right, and she walked up to us and waved. She had mentioned that we should look for the lady with the big belly (she’s about 8 months pregnant), but there was no such belly to be noticed. She was so tiny that only from about 5 feet away could you even notice any protrusion from her waistline. She surprised Hanna by kissing her on the cheek…then on the other cheek…then back to the first cheek for good measure. As we would see the Swiss employ the three kiss technique, which must make the introductions at a dinner party unfathomably time-consuming.

She showed us all around Biel and then took us to her home in Moutier. She introduced us to her husband, Olivier, who works at a factory that produces small metal parts (for various uses, including knee screws and world famous Swiss watches).

We sat in their living room and talked about various subjects while watching a program about transsexuals in French (SIDE NOTE: Switzerland is a linguistically diverse country, with four official languages. Depending on where you go, you will be expected to speak German, French, Italian, or the indigenous Swiss dialect, which is only spoken by a few select traditionalists). After 15 days of only speaking to each other, it was nice to converse with fellow adults once again.

They treated us to an incredible dinner at a restaurant known for their wild game. Since it was hunting season, this was a particularly good time to eat there. I had the wild boar (a little tough, but good), and Hanna had what Olivier described to us (since the menu was in French) as “young deer.” It was served extremely rare, which worried me, but Hanna later informed me that since most game lacks a lot of fat, it is still tender when you eat it rare. Of course she was right, and her dish was absolutely delicious. Kind of like a venison veal. Since we had been eating “budget meals” for most of the trip, we were tremendously grateful for a great meal at a nice restaurant.

After thanking Pauline and Olivier profusely for their generosity and receiving three kisses on the cheek, we boarded a train to Interlaken.