Route 1 ~ Bâle to Bienne and Bern by The Val Moutiers (Münster Thal), with excursion to the Weissenstein

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The valley of the Birs, commonly called the Val Moutiers (Munster Thal in German), through which this excellent road passes, is one of the most romantic in the Jura. It consists of a series of narrow and rocky defiles, alternating with open basins, covered with black forests above, and verdant meadows below, enlivened by villages, mills, and forges. A road was originally carried through the Val Moutiers by the Romans, to keep up the communication between Aventicum, the Helvetian capital, and Augst, their great fortified outpost on the Rhine.

Indeed, Murray was right – this was a romantic road and his description applied just as accurately in 2015 as it did 1837.

It was the first time I had actually travelled along this path and I enjoyed it so much, that I would repeat the route later with friends.

At St. Jacob, about a quarter of a mile beyond the gates of Bale, in the angle between two roads, a small Gothic cross has been erected to commemorate the battle of St. Jacob, fought in 1444, when 1600 Swiss had the boldness to attack, and the courage to withstand for 10 hours a French army tenfold more numerous, commanded by the Dauphin, afterwards Louis XI. Only 10 of Swiss escaped alive, the rest were left dead on the field, along with thrice their own number of foes, whom they had slain. This almost incredible exploit first spread abroad through Europe the fame of Swiss valour; and Louis, the Dauphin, wisely seeing that it was better to gain them as friends than to oppose them as enemies, courted their alliance, and first enrolled them as a permanent body-guard about his person – a practice continued by the French monarch down to Charles X. The Swiss themselves refer to the battle of St. Jacob as the Thermopylae of their history.

Whilst stood on this busy crossroads, with traffic and trams whizzing by, all completely oblivious to the importance of the ground on which they drove, it was hard to imagine Gerard Butler with his CGI’d six pack, roaring his Swiss Spartans into battle. Likewise, long before Hollywood retold the story of the 300 at Thermopylae, I found it fascinating how the legend of such a battle would travel the world, and possibly even inspire the 1600 Swiss in their battle against 20,000 French, in the days before the telegram (the Twitter of its time), the telephone (the Google of its time) and the Internet (the Town Cryer of our time).

The wooden cross, which had been erected in 1824, which Murray refers to, had become so badly weathered, it was replaced with an impressive statue in 1872 of  Helvetia with four dying Confederates at her feet. Whilst the huge tram stop, next to which it is located, is named Basel Denkmal (Basel Memorial), I would wager that most people stood waiting for the Number 15 to take them to work in the morning, have no idea that 5,500 men were slaughtered on the spot in which they now stand.

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It’s a bit of a geeky relationship that I have with history. Wherever I may be, I always tend to time travel in my mind and imagine the sights which the local trees and buildings would have witnessed over the course of their life. Have you ever stopped to imagine all the people who have possibly been born or died, maybe even murdered, in the house in which you live or the pub in which you drink? Can you imagine what it would be like if, on the spot where everybody breathes their last breath, there was a symbolic cross placed with flowers, like you see at the side of the road following a fatal car accident? Life would be a lot more empathetic, maybe sanitised, and certainly more morbid as a result. I’d wager that the streets would also be a no go area for hay fever sufferers. I guess that’s why all those commuters at Basel Denkmal prefer to read “50 Shades Of Gray”, rather than “Murray’s Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland 1838″.

A few miles farther, near Reinach, on the opposite bank of the Birs, is another battle-field – that of Dornach – where the Swiss gained a victory over a much larger Austrian force in 1499, during the Suabian war. The bone-house, in which the remains of the slain, were collected, still exists near the Capuchin Convent, and is filled with skulls gathered from the field.

Today, Kapuzinerkloster Donarch can still be visited and, ever since the last monks left in 1990, the convent has been a hotel and restaurant. To mark the 500-year commemoration of the Battle of Dornach, Canton Solothurn passed ownership of the building to the Freunde des Klosters Dornach Foundation.

Sadly, the bonehouse was removed in 1874 with the majority of the skeletons being buried further up the road on the eastern part of the cemetery at St. Mauritius-Kirche.

To celebrate the 400-year celebrations of the Battle of Dornach in 1899, a neo-Gothic red sandstone monument was built in front of the Kapuzinerkloster church building, emblazoned with the five arms of the cantons who fought the Austrians; Bern, Luzern, Solothurn, Zug and Zurich. The skulls were stacked inside the monument. Alas, even this monument has since disappeared and, since 1949, in its place, is a 22 metre large sandstone wall depicting the battle, with the skulls now encased in the southwest corner.


DORNACH ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANT (9km):

dornach

Today, Stiftung Kloster Donarch is an inviting, if somewhat expensive French restaurant, well worth visiting. A daily menu can be had for around CHF50, whilst overnight accommodation is provided in the 28 simply furnished rooms, from CHF75.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]


 

In the church of the village Maupertuis is buried. A monument set up to his memory by his friend Bernouilli, was destroyed by the cure of the village, who was in the habit of repairing his hearthstone when broken, with slabs taken from the churchyard. It has been replaced by a fresh monument set up at the expense of canton Soleure.

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Since 1947, the former St. Mauritius church is now the Heimatmuseum des Schwarzbubenlandes (which tells the local history of Dorneck and Thierstein). The museum is only open April until October. Oh, and only from 15:00 until 17:00. Ah, and I almost forgot; it’s only open on Sundays. Basically, it’s only open 62 hours a year and planning this particular cycle route around it would mean you’d likely end in Bern way after midnight. And, come on, let’s face it, even Victorian English travellers would probably ignore Murray’s Handbook and avoid going out of their way to visit the tombstone of a French mathematician (which can be found on the wall inside the church).

Beyond Oesch the road enters that part of the Canton Bern which anciently belonged to the Archbishop of Basle; the valley contracts increasing in picturesque beauty as you advance. The castles of Angerstein and Zwingen are passed before reaching Lauffen, a walled village 

After going into detail about the resting place of Maupertuis and his mate from math’s class, Murray seemingly ran out of page space to actually detail the history of the two stunning 13th Century castles, not far from Aesch.

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The 13th Century Schloss Angenstein is now private property, so save yourself the hassle of cycling up the steep hill to get a closer look, as the best view is, most certainly, looking back after you pass it. The train line, passing through the rock on which it stands, provides a spectacular backdrop that would have only appeared a long time after Murray’s visit.

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Schloss Zwingen is even more picturesque, with the approach involving cycling over a pretty stone bridge through castle walls and then over an old wooden bridge across the moat. It formerly belonged to the Barons of Ramstein (who I think were a 13th Century heavy metal band), until Rudolf von Ramstein (the lead singer, and “Rudi” to his mates) forgot to have any sons before dying. At that point, unhappy with the wallpaper at his Château de Porrentruy, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Basel decided he’d quite like to live there, moved in when nobody was looking, and claimed it as his own, using squatter’s rights. Being married to God and (possibly and allegedly) having plentiful access to everybody else’s, he also did not have any legitimate sons, and, what with the power of the church nowadays not being as it was, the castle is owned by the town, the residents of which keep remembering to have legitimate sons, preventing it falling into the hands of another greedy bishop.

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Also, barely warranting a mention by Murray, other than the fact it is “a walled town” is the small town of Laufen. The superbly preserved medieval old town is surrounded by 400 meters of the original town wall with three impressive gates. The baroque style town hall dating back to 1672, the pretty Katharinenkirche, built in 1698 against the town wall, and the Obertor clock tower, with its large astronomical timepiece, all presumably covered in scaffolding when Murray came to town.

Now in the French speaking region, Soyhières gets more praise; “a village prettily situated with a small country inn, tolerably good”. The Auberge de la Croix-Blanche is no longer an inn but a catholic girl’s boarding house (now called Maison Chappuis) that offers overnight accommodation to female students or women on the pilgrimage to Santiago. Fortunately, for males on a pilgrimage to Murray’s Switzerland, I was able to grab lunch at one of the other restaurants in town (Hôtel Le Cavalier), although I would have preferred the closed-for-the-afternoon Restaurant du Boeuf, as it looked to have predated Murray’s visit in 1837.

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Fed and back on the road, I cycled through the “contracted pass, the rocks of which on the right are surmounted by a convent” to “the open basin of Delemont (Delsberg)”.

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Moving faster than the Victorian English travellers who followed Murray’s tips, you have to remember to keep looking up, otherwise it’s very easy to miss the spectacular Chapelle du Vorbourg amongst the forest, as I did on my first visit.

I always wonder why they put churches high up on steep hills. I guess it’s to be closer to God, however I suspect it’s more likely a cruel test by the church to see how devoted its clergy is. And, knowing the Swiss, you can imagine the service starts exactly on time regardless of whether 92 year old Gritli is still on her way up, struggling for breath as she’s bent over her zimmer frame.

As for Delemont, Murray advises that “it is unnecessary to pass through that little town” (the population  was little more 1,500 at the time and is now significantly higher at 12,000), as “our road turns to the left and, continuing by the side of the Birs, enters a defile higher, grander, and more wild than any that have preceded it.”

Interestingly, going off the main road, the official cycle route actually follows Murray’s path through an open meadow to Courrendlin until you rejoin the road through the spectacular valley.

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Courrendelin, supplied with ore in the shape of small granulated red masses varying from the size of a pea to that of a cherry from the neighbouring mines.

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This is, properly speaking, the commencement of the Val Moutiers. Rocky precipices overhang the road and black forests of fir cover the mountains above. 

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The final stretch from Courendin to Moutier is the highlight of the whole Route. Huge cliff faces covered in trees sit on either side of the breathtaking road, which runs alongside the river and the train track (which obviously would not have been around when Murray passed by).

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The remarkable rent by which the Jura has been cleft from top to bottom, so as to allow a passage for the Birs, exhibits marks of some great convulsion of the earth, by which the strata of limestone (Jura-kalk) have been thrown into a nearly vertical position, and appear like a succession of gigantic walls on each side of the road.

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I was fascinated by one cliff face.  A seemingly never-ending almost vertical ladder went all the way from the roadside to the summit. I was tempted to climb it just to see where it went, but I figured that I’d be far too exhausted to complete my journey – if indeed I made it up and safely back down alive.

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The gorge terminates in another open basin in the midst of which lies Moutiers Grandval, or Munster” 

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The 7th Century Minister of St Germanus, deserted during the Reformation in 1798, and which Murray described as “now fast falling to ruin” forty years later, has since completely gone, as too the “good” inn, “Krone” (presumably Hotel de la Couronne).


MOUTIER ACCOMMODATION (58km):

chevalblanc

If you decide to stop the night in Moutier – which I’d recommend if you fancy climbing the Weissenstein – then you should stay at the Hotel du Cheval Blanc, which, whilst not mentioned by Murray, is the oldest hotel in town and was even visited by Goethe in 1779.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]

 


POSSIBLE EXCURSION FROM MOUTIER:

There is a car road from Moutiers to the summit of the Weissenstein, a distance of about 10 miles, up hill nearly the whole way, and the latter part very rough and bad; fit only for the cars of the country, one of which drawn by two horses, may be hired here to go and return for 20fr. It passes through the villages of Grandval (Grossau) and Ganzbrunnen; the ascent occupies 3 hours and the jolting is very severe.

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Murray’s suggested side trip to the Weissenstein is worth staying in Moutier for, although, with an average gradient of 15% for the final 5km, it’s a muscle popping climb that would test even pro cyclists.

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The view from the top of the climb is worthwhile, although I’ll go into more depth about the summit later on Route 3, when it is climbed from the opposite side.

As if the ascent hadn’t tested my heart enough, I almost had a full on heart attack, whilst descending through the forest at 62km/h when a large stag ran out of the trees right across my path.  The smell of burning from my disc brakes almost overpowering the smell of fear in my cycling shorts.


 

Back on the road in Moutier, the route continues through more spectacular scenery.

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At the upper end of the basin of Moutiers the road is conducted through another defile, equally grand, at the bottom of which the Birs foams and rushes, overhung by perpendicular cliffs and funereal firs. To this succeeds the little plain of Tavannes.

By now, I had developed an interest in finding the buildings that would have stood during Murray’s visit in 1837.  As I passed through the towns of Court, Mallery and Tavannes, I spotted a beautiful old house from 1835 with a children’s swing outside. I could picture a similar young family living there at the time, playing with their two year old child in the garden. It also made me wonder how many of the new modern houses I was cycling past, with their immaculate gardens, will still be there in 180 years time.

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Tavannes is a pretty old town at the foot of the next climb. Many of its buildings date back to the 1800’s, predominantly after Murray’s visit from the time when it became a centre for watch-making in the 1890s, focused around the Tavannes Watch Company. Amongst typical Swiss chalets from the period, there are many remaining Art Nouveau buildings, including the Royal theatre, which opened in 1918.

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The Couronne and the Croix are good inns, better than that at Moutiers

The Hôtel de la Couronne in Tavannes actually burnt down in 1846, nine years after Murray’s visit, tragically killing five guests. It was rebuilt as the Hotel de Ville.  As for the Hotel la Croix, that is now a private residence, lived in by the former hotel’s last owners, at Rue Centrale 19.

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There are foot paths over the mountains from Court and Bevilard to Reuchenette, by which some distance is saved on the way to Bienne, but the Pierre Pertuis is thus missed. 

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I think it was here that the hipster movement began, judging by Murray’s notes from 1837…

The valley to the east of Court, called Chaluat (Tschaywo), inhabited by the descendants of Anabaptists expelled from Berne in 1708-11. They are distinguished by their industry and simple manners; the young men wear beards. 

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On leaving Tavannes, I was soon starting the ascent of the Col Pierre Pertuis. The main road, built in 1932 by unemployed labourers, actually passes above Murray’s next landmark, and thus involves a steep climb down a footpath (from the first small parking place on the left of the climb). If, like me, you are cycling, then the original pass can be found by taking the first road on the left immediately as you pass under the Autobahn bridge, on leaving the town.

It is probably a natural opening, enlarged by art. It existed in the time of the Romans, as is proved by a defaced inscription on the North side.

NUMINI AUG —
— VM —
VIA CTA PERT —
DV — VM PATER —
IL VIR — COL HELV —

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And indeed, it did, more or less.  Graffiti from Roman times.  As I stared up at the impressive Pierre Pertuis, I didn’t have a clue who Numini Aug was, and Murray’s grasp of Latin must have been equally as poor, as he offered no explanation as to what it said. It turns out – according to the famous 21st Century philosopher Jimmy Wikipedia, it translates as:

“In honour of the Emperors
This road has been traced by Marcus
Dunius Paternus
Duovir (co-Governor)
of the colony of the Helvetians”

I presumed Marcus must have been the Banksy of his time and Duovir was the local dignitary who was invited to cut the red ribbon at the road’s grand opening. Regardless, the huge archway was quite spectacular and you could see how this narrow path in a quiet forest was so strategically important, originally being the boundary-line separating the Rauraci (those Celts living under the Romans around Kaiseraugst), from the Sequani (the Gallic people on the other side of the Jura mountains). As Murray pointed out, “the pass was fortified by the Austrians in 1813”. 100 years later, in 1913, the Swiss army paved the road to help mobilise their troops as the threat of World War I loomed, and it was their efforts which took me to the top of the Col de Pierre Pertuis, another 100 years after that.

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After the fast descent down the mountain, I passed through Sonceboz.

 


SONCEBOZ ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANT (82km):

ducerf

Sonceboz – (inn not very good)

The “not very good” inn of Murray’s times still exists in the form of the Restaurant de la Couronne. Its next door neighbour, the pretty Hôtel du Cerf is said to have housed the coachmen of the Couronne’s guests. Today it is a gourmet restaurant and brasserie serving some beautiful dishes, with modern hotel rooms available from CHF 115.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS & MENU]


 

The fast road down to Biel/Bienne – the town with two names – “descends the valley along the left bank of the Suze, which forms several small cascades”. The valley being that narrow, the cycle path actually joins the E27 autobahn through the tunnel under the “projecting” Rondchatel rock, which Murray describes as being “occupied in feudal times by a fort, and held by the powerful Bishops of Bale, to whom it gave the command of this pass.”  Today, it is little more than a cliff above an industrial park bearing its name, at which (if cycling) you should exit the autobahn and follow the signs for Rondchatel, which takes you down the valley on the old road, passing industrial units on the way, until reaching Frinviller, where you can take a short hike to the Gorges de Taubenloch.

Murray doesn’t actually mention the gorge, however legend has it that Enguerrand, the crooked knight of Rondchâtel castle, ambushed a wedding procession here. He killed the groom and attempted to kidnap the young bride, Beatrice, only for her to throw herself into the chasm below, gliding like a white dove and never to be seen again. A short time later, Rondchâtel was destroyed and Enguerrand killed. It is said, that lovers can still hear Beatrice’s cries in the gorge.

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The view from the last slope of the Jura, over Bienne, and its lake, backed in clear weather by the snowy range of the Alps, is exceedingly beautiful”

Cycling through a tunnel under the autobahn, I started to climb once more, before taking the road past the Steinbruch Vorberg quarry, which was presumably the old road used by Murray, through the pleasant forest alongside the Tierpark and descending into Bözingen/Boujean, where the “exceedingly beautiful” view now has been stolen by the luxury houses that have been built here.

The old town in Biel (French) or Bienne (German) is an atmospheric place however its buildings barely gets a mention from John Murray, as he concentrates his ramblings on the ancient history of the Protestant town itself as it sided with Bern, despite being ruled by the Catholic Basel, “in return for which the town was burnt by their liege lord.”

It is still surrounded by its ancient walls and watch-towers, and is approached by several shady avenues.

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In fact, over the years, the bilingual town – which, since 2005,  has officially been titled “Biel/Bienne”, to keep both French and Swiss German speakers happy – has sided with many cities despite being ruled by the Bishops of Basel. In 1279 it allied with Bern, in 1311 with Fribourg, with Solothurn in 1334, Murten in 1342, and La Neuveville in 1395. Like a cheating spouse, she just wanted to be with anybody other than her man and the Bishops should have been glad to see the back of her – the flirt! – when, following the French Revolution in 1793, Basel was captured by Napoléon and Bienne soon became part of France. It wasn’t until the Swiss defeated them in 1815, that the city finally got its wish and became part of Bern. Her divorce papers finally came through in time and they had a lovely (protestant) wedding, with all the other cantons invited to the after party.

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Those who have a taste for climbing, may gratify it by ascending from hence the Chasseral, one of the highest mountains of the Jura, 3616 ft. above the lake, and 4936 ft. above the sea, with the certainty of being rewarded with a magnificent view if the weather be clear, but the ascent will occupy 5 hours.

Indeed, the weather was clear and I was certainly rewarded with a magnificent view. A magnificent view of the Chasseral from the lake that is. I certainly did not have a taste for more climbing. At least not today, and I added it to my “Gratifying Ascends To Do List” and headed on to Bern.

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POSSIBLE EXCURSION FROM BIEL/BIENNE (98km):

Seriously speaking though, “The bike tour across the Chasseral is one of those circuits you really need to experience once in your life”, according to the Swiss Tourist Board and, if you’re fit enough, it is worth taking the 60km detour for the amazing views, as I did a year later…

The first 15km is flat, running alongside the lake through Twann and other stunning wine villages to the equally impressive La Neuveville.

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From here though, it’s a climb as tough as most of the high Alpine passes, remaining at 12% gradient for almost the entire 15km to the top of the Chasseral.

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The first 5km, 12% climb to Lignières offers lake views before the Chasseral’s communications tower comes into view.

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The final 10km, 12% climb of the Col du Chasseral takes you through some dense forest before opening up at the top with spectacular views in all directions.

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Sadly the 1502m summit of the Col du Chasseral is not the end of the climb, as the road continues up…

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…to the Hotel Chasseral at 1548m…

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…and the communications tower at 1606m…

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The view from the top is simply breathtaking – in a more pleasant way than the climb to get there – below, you can see the lakes of Bielersee, Lac de Neuchatel, Murtensee, Wohlensee and Schiffenensee, amongst others, whilst the Jura, Alps, Vosges and Black Forest mountains are all visible.

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The 30km descent down the mountain, on the opposite side, as the tourist board states, is a “circuit you need to experience”, with only 5km of  unpaved mountain bike tracks (yet still rideable with caution by road cyclists), taking in pretty farmland and forests before the fast paved descent into the ski resorts of Les Prés-d’Orvin and Orvin, dropping into Biel/Bienne via Evilard.


 

ACCOMMODATION IN BIEL/BIENNE (98km):

hoteljura

Hotel du Jura, outside the town, recently established and good.

If you decide to try and conquer the Chasseral, or just fancy staying the night in Biel/Bienne, one of Murray’s recommended inns, the Hotel du Jura, is still open and also boasts a restaurant, although a 4km walk from the centre.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK ONLINE ~

Couronne, within the town.

This very historic hotel in the old town square, dating back to 1574 and closed down in 1915, has been kept in its original form but now houses a theatre workshop. You can identify it from the golden crown built into its brickwork.

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On leaving Biel/Bienne, you cycle along the lakefront, over the Suze river, which flows into the lake, and then, further on, over the Thiele/Zihl river, which actually flows out of the Bielersee – or, as I should correctly refer to it, this being post 2005 after all: Bielersee/Lac de Bienne.

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On the margin of the lake, at the outlet of the Thiele, stand Nydau and its castle, flanked by round towers and surmounted by a tall square keep. The lords of Nydau, an extinct family, to whom it once belonged, were foes of Berne; their stronghold now bears on its front the Bernese bear, painted of colossal dimensions, and is converted into the cantonal salt-warehouse.

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Nowadays, the largely ignored Schloss Nidau, is on a busy road junction and crowns a pretty town centre, where Murray’s recommended inn, “Bear”, has long since disappeared.

From the slope of the hill, near Belmont, a good view is obtained of the lake and of St. Peter’s Isle.

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The aforementioned slope of a hill to Bellmund was bloody steep and a sign of things to come for the final run to Bern. The views from here would be magnificent along the entire route, passing through picturesque farming villages with old Swiss chalets and enjoying a beautiful panorama of the snow-tipped Alps. It amazed me how Murray had failed to mention any of these highlights in his guide, other than the next stop, and, even then, I doubted very much if he’d actually continued on his journey from Nidau or just heard about what lay ahead from the locals…

Aarberg is a town of 700 inhabitants, on a rocky promontory, nearly surrounded by the Aar, which, indeed, at high water, actually converts it into an island. The road enters and quits the town by two covered bridges.

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Hardly a great advert for what is a beautiful town, the main square still accessed by one of the original covered wooden bridges, dating back to 1568. I’m sure Aarberg would have been every bit as impressive to the Victorian English traveller as it was me. Back then, it would have been a thriving fortified market town and, as the key strong point between Basel and Geneva, the Swiss army moved their commanders there during the French Revolution of 1830 in Paris, just seven year before Murray did or did not pass by.

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The final 25km into Bern are not described by Murray but include some wonderful chocolate box Swiss scenery, which makes the long climbs worthwhile, and offering a very different landscape to the rocky gorge that had started the day.

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Overall, a fantastic ride and, if you choose to split it over two or three days, you will have enough happy memories of a great journey that, like me, you will probably want to repeat – once your muscles have recovered from the climbs.

 


ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS in BERN (136km):

Falke (Faucon), one of the best inns in Switzerland. Charges – table d’hote, at one, 3 fr; at four, 4 fr; breakfast, 1 fr. 10 sous; tea, ditto; beds 2fr. 10 sous.

Families and persons desiring to be quiet, may be accommodated in a separate house, called Petit Faucon, in a back street, from the roof of which there is a fine view. 

Now a popular and affordable restaurant, Cafe Falken, on Münstergasse serves up light Mediterranean dishes and is famous for its homemade spaghetti.

CLICK HERE FOR MENU ~

Couronne, not very clean, but otherwise good.

No longer a hotel, but the Restaurant Krone, on Gerechtigkeitsgasse in the heart of the Old Town, serves up quality, affordable local dishes.

~ CLICK HERE FOR MENU ~

Cigogne (Storch). 

Der Storch has also gone.  I’m guessing that the Storchenbäckerei on Schauplatzgasse might have been its location.

~ CLICK HERE FOR MENU ~

[CLICK HERE FOR BEDS]

The Abbayes, or houses of the guilds, also, accommodate travellers: the best is the Distelzwang, or Abbaye aux Gentilshommes. 

The beautiful Distelzwang building at Gerechtigkeitsgasse 79 still belongs to one of Bern’s thirteen guilds.  It can be rented for private events, but not for accommodation.

~ CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS ~

goldenerschlussel

For a hotel that would have been around during Murray’s visit to Bern, try the 3 Star Hotel Goldener Schlussel, the oldest hotel in the Old Town.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]


Route:

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161⁄2 Swiss stunden = 54 Eng. miles. Thence to Berne by Aarberg, 6 Stunde = 20 Eng. miles.

At 136km (85 miles), the route seemed to be exactly as Murray advised (1.9 old English miles making up a kilometre), and with a climb of almost 1,400 metres, it was hard going in the scorching temperatures. The entire route (including the climbs to Weissenstein and the Col du Chasseral) is paved and therefore possible by road bike, with cycle paths taking you away from the busy road in places. Trains along the route offer alternatives.

You have a few options with this route to break up your journey, and there’s a number of hotels along the route to choose from. You will definitely need to split your journey if you take up Murray’s diversion to the summit of the Weissenstein after already covering 60km. If you decide to take this additional round trip, it will add an extra 30km to the journey, 15km of climbing with the last 5km averaging a muscle bursting gradient of 15% – a severe test for even the most professional of cyclists. For that reason, I’d recommend staying in Moutier if you plan on trying to conquer this famous Jura mountain. Alternatively, you can park your bikes at the historic restaurant in Gänsbrunnen, at the foot of the final climb, and hike the rest of the way up if it’s too much of a challenge.

Additionally, “those who have a taste of climbing” might want to spend the night in Biel/Bienne if you fancy ascending the Chasseral for its incredible view, a 60km excursion.

Route:

BASEL

1km ~ BASEL DENKMAL, St. JAKOB  → flat

9km ~ HOTEL KLOSTER DORNACH  → flat

11km ~ HEIMATMUSEUM DES SCHWARZBUBENLANDES, DORNACH  ↗ 25 m   ↘ 5 m

14km ~ SCHLOSS ANGENSTEIN, AESCH  ↗ 20 m   ↘ 25 m

24km ~ SCHLOSS ZWINGEN, ZWINGEN  → flat

28km ~ LAUFEN  → flat

42km ~ SOYHIÈRES  ↗ 60 m   ↘ 10 m

49km ~ COURRENDLIN  → flat

58km ~ MOUTIER  ↗ 100 m   ↘ 5 m


[POSSIBLE SIDE TRIP: + 30km round trip to the Weissenstein (including 5km, 15% climb)

52

15km ~ WEISSENSTEIN  ↗ 790 m   ↘ 15 m

30km ~ MOUTIER  ↗ 15 m   ↘ 790 m


64km ~ COURT  ↗ 150 m   ↘ 5 m

70km ~ MALLERAY  → flat

77km ~ TAVANNES  ↗ 80 m   ↘ 15 m

79km ~ PIERRE PERTUIS  ↗ 70 m

82km ~ SONCEBOZ-SOMBEVAL   ↘ 180 m

90km ~ RONDCHATEL   ↗ 10 m   ↘ 75 m

91km ~ FRINVILLIER   ↘ 60 m


[POSSIBLE SIDE TRIP: 1km cycle + 2km hike round trip to Gorge)

0.5km ~ GORGES DU TAUBENLOCH    ↘ 15 m

1km ~ FRINVILLIER  ↗ 15 m


95km ~ BÖZINGEN/ BOUJEAN  ↗ 95 m   ↘ 185 m

98km ~ BIEL/BIENNE  → flat


[POSSIBLE SIDE TRIP: +60km round trip to the Chasseral (including 15km, 12% climb)

cycling-chasseral

15km ~ LA NEUVRVILLE  → flat

33km ~ CHASSERAL  ↗ 1170 m   ↘ 5 m

50km ~ ORVIN  ↗ 40 m   ↘ 830 m (just 5km unpaved)

53km ~ EVILARD  ↗ 90 m   ↘ 65 m

58km ~ BIEL/BIENNE  ↘ 265 m


101km ~ SCHLOSSMUSEUM NIDAU, NIDAU   → flat

103km ~ BELLMUND   ↗ 70 m

112km ~ AARBERG   ↗ 60 m   ↘ 115 m

136km ~ BERN   ↗ 365 m   ↘ 260 m


Route 3 ~ Basel

Route 2 ~ Basel – Schaffhausen  >

~ All routes ~  Introduction ~


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