06: Brunnen to Stans

In the heart of primitive Switzerland

 

DIDIER HEUMANN, ANDREAS PAPASAVVAS

 

 

We divided the course into several sections to make it easier to see. For each section, the maps show the course, the slopes found on the course, and the state of the roads. The courses were drawn on the “Wikilocs” platform. Today, it is no longer necessary to walk around with detailed maps in your pocket or bag. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you can easily follow routes live.

For this stage, here is the link:

https://fr.wikiloc.com/itineraires-randonnee/de-brunnen-a-stans-par-la-via-jacobi-4-32047228

It is obviously not the case for all pilgrims to be comfortable with reading GPS and routes on a laptop, and there are still many places without an Internet connection. Therefore, you can find a book on Amazon that deals with this course. Click on the title of the book to open Amazon.

The Camino de Santiago. I. From Bodensee to Geneva on Via Jacobi 4

If you only want to consult lodging of the stage, go directly to the bottom of the page.

The pact of August 1, 1291 is considered the founding act of the Swiss Confederation. The inhabitants of the three valleys of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, oppressed by the bailiffs of the Habsburgs, swore to put an end to the exactions of which they were the victims. The pact merges with the tradition of the oath of the Three Swiss. Arnold de Mechtal, from Unterwalden, wants to punish the bailiff who has come to confiscate his father’s oxen. He joined in the meadow of Rütli (or Grütli), above 4 Cantpns Lake, Walter Stauffacher of Schwyz, and Walter Fürst, of Uri, who would be the father-in-law of William Tell, soon famous for his prowess legendary. This pact, confirmed and enriched by subsequent covenants signed at Brunnen (1315), Sempach (1393) and Stans (1481), made it possible to form an alliance to fight against the House of Habsburg. It was gradually extended to other communities to give birth to the Switzerland of 8, then 13 and 19 cantons. The original of the pact is in Latin. In 1891, on the occasion of the seventh centenary, the event was celebrated for the first time. This is the origin of the Swiss national holiday, which is arbitrarily fixed on August 1st.

A few years after the initial pact of 1291, the Waldstätten, who had sided with Louis of Bavaria against the Habsburg, were attacked by the Duke of Austria, Leopold I. On November 15, 1315, the Cantons laid an ambush in the defile of Morgarten and the Habsburg cavalry was crushed under rocks and tree trunks (1,500 killed). A few days later, the three Cantons renewed their alliance at Brunnen. The text of the pact was very close to the previous one. Similarly, towards the end of the century, the victory of Sempach over Leopold III made it possible to consolidate the Alliance.

Reality or myth, history wanders between the two avenues. Historians have long known that there was nothing extraordinary or exceptional about the 1291 Covenant. First, it was found by chance in 1724 after being mentioned for the first time around 1530, nearly 150 years after the events. Then, the Waldstätten had not been the only ones to produce this type of document, because it was a common practice at the time in many countries. This pact was more about the economic security of the Gotthard trade route than about external security, speaking neither of freedom nor of resistance. From time too, everyone guessed that the stories of William Tell were only myth and had no historical reality. As for the Rütli oath, it may have existed, but probably not as it is said. Nobody knows if the initial pact really existed. Copies have been made and the originals, if they exist, may have disappeared. Fires were the rule in these small villages. The national holiday and the choice of the first of August date from 1891, not 1291. The fact remains that these valiant mountaineers joined forces to fight the Austrians, and they won.

Difficulty of the course: The course takes place between forests, villages, boroughs and lake, on quite marked slope variations (+763 meters/-714 meters). You climb as much as we slope down. It is still a difficult stage for retirees with little training, the vast majority of those hikers that you meet on these tracks. After the boat trip to Treib, you have to climb to the top of the Seelisberg mountain, and it is not an easy task, with sometimes slopes greater than 30% under the cliff. And then, there is this terrible descent (and the word is not strong) towards the lake beyond Emetten. Thereafter, the walk is pleasant by the lake and on the foothills leading to Stans, the capital of the canton of Nidwalden.

n this stage, the routes on the tarmac, alas, very clearly exceed the routes on the pathways:

  • Paved roads: 16.5 km
  • Dirt roads: 5.7 km

Sometimes, for reasons of logistics or housing possibilities, these stages mix routes operated on different days, having passed several times on Via Podiensis. From then on, the skies, the rain, or the seasons can vary. But, generally this is not the case, and in fact this does not change the description of the course.

It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use.

For “real slopes”, reread the mileage manual on the home page.

 

We have divided the route into several sections, to facilitate visibility. For each section, the maps give the route, the slopes found on the route and the state of Via Jacobi.

Section 1: Not far from the Rütli, the myth of Helvetia.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: difficult route, with slopes often significantly greater than 15%, under the cliffs of the Seelisberg.

 

In Brunnen, you are opposite the Seelisberg mountain, under which runs the Gotthard motorway. In front of you, at the end of the lake, is Uri with its capital Altdorf. On you right, you see one of the ends of the lake, where Stans is located, in the canton of Unterwalden. In Brunnen, you are in the canton of Schwyz. You understand immediately why the Rütli (in French they say Grütli), at the foot of the Seelisberg, would have been chosen as the place for the oath of the 3 cantons in 1291, whether it is a myth or a reality.
Here, there is only one possibility for the pilgrim or the hiker, namely to reach the other side of the lake: the boat. You thus leave the harbor of Brunnen.
The boat docks at the small port of Treib. Here, a train takes you up to the Seelisberg, the mountain overlooking the lake, with the Rütli behind, halfway up.
Beyond the harbor, a road climbs up the Seelisberg mountain to the village of Vollingen. Already, the slope is quite steep.
Here, a small road leads to Schwybogen, further down by the lake. But Via Jacobi does not go there. It continues through the village.
Further up, a pathway runs through the meadows above the village. The grass is still as green as it often is in Switzerland.
You are here in the canton of Uri, as evidenced by the bull of the cantonal flag. But, you will soon leave the canton of Uri for the half-canton of Nidwalden, in the canton of Unterwalden.
Further on, the pathway changes from dirt to grass, still slightly uphill under the cliffs of the Seelisberg, high above the lake.
It passes a little higher towards the few houses of Walchig hamlet, leaning against the mountain.
Here you have already taken good altitude above the lake.
Further on, the pathway continues climbing in the meadows under the cliffs, with here and there a farm or an isolated barn.
Sometimes the slope is very steep until you reach a small road that runs towards Seelisberg, at the junction of Triglis. Here, you can slope back down to the lake to eat fish. But, it’s also steep to get there.
The cliffs rise up before you, like the walls of a fortress, wild and steep. You know you have to cross them. But now the road slopes down to the lake. Damn! You tell yourself that it will be even more to climb after.
Then, Via Jacobi slopes down on the road before finding a small pathway which heads towards the forest and which will make it possible to cross the cliffs of Seelisberg.
At the beginning, the slope is not very pronounced and the pathway gradually approaches the cliffs, in leafy trees and wild grass.

Section 2: In the cliffs of Seelisberg.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: : difficult route, with slopes often significantly greater than 15%, in the cliffs, then leg-breaking but reasonable route towards Emetten.

 

The mountain does not appear to be very hostile, at least at first, and the path climbs in switchbacks, on the mountainside, skirting the gray cliff, carpeted with bushes, where beeches and maples cling.

But, to cross the cliff, the slope is very steep, often more than 30%. Some passages that the path takes could make you think of high mountains, on small stairs protected from the void by barriers.

But, there is no danger or serious risk of vertigo. At least for many hikers. Compostela tracks never run through impossible places.

If you are tired of the rockery, you can always rest your gaze on the lake behind the trees.

The slope here becomes extreme. The abrupt and steep pathway, zigzagging at leisure in the wooded slopes, where the step often slips with each meter, soon reaches the place called Haselholz in the middle of the forest. As the place says, here there are hazelnut trees. From here, a very steep pathway descends to Rütenen, where Via Jacobi runs later. If you feel like it, you can also go there. But whatever track you choose, the descent will be dizzying. But, your pathway continues even higher towards the top of the mountain. Why? Because the Camino de Santiago loves the tops of hills, and all the more so if there are churches or chapels on the way.

From here, the view over the lake is breathtaking. Opposite, the Rigi mountain rises above the wooded hill, where a variant of the Camino de Santiago also, which runs from Brunnen towards Lucerne. This route is also covered on this site.

 

At the end of the climb, the slope softens and the pathway gradually widens in the mosses, in the middle of beeches and spruces.
It arrives on a magnificent ridge. A little moment on a plateau to catch your breath and smell the hints of moss. Here, it must smell good boletus and chanterelle, in season.
Below, the gaze falls with delight on the gap of Weggis, which the lake makes to go to Lucerne. God this lake is beautiful! We understand in retrospect the pride and the feeling of independence of the former Confederates of the Rütli.
Further on, the pathway fairly quickly reaches Butzen hamlet, just below.
Some locals here have an incredible view of the lake.
A small road then descends gently into the green Seelisberg valley, on the other side of the ridge.
Along the way, the road crosses the small chapel of Heiligkreuz. Rebuilt during the XVIIIth century, the chapel houses magnificent naive ex-votos by Franz Joseph Murer, a local painter.

His dance of the dead is striking.

 

Via Jacobi then joins the Seelisberg road near the village of Sagendorf. You walk in a very peasant country.
In the village, the road crosses the Choltabach brook.
Later, the road climbs up the side of the valley towards Emetten.
Here, the old houses are covered with small tavillons or small tiny plaques, as are many farms in so-called “primitive” Switzerland. On the slopes flourish the cable cars of all kinds. All flight specialties are present in the region. The region is also home to a ski and hiking area.
The road crosses a fairly large village. This region was once agricultural, and farming, cheese making and weaving were practiced. Then it all fades away. In the 1950s, investments in favor of tourism stopped the strong emigration. But more than half of the population commutes, and works here in the plain.

Section 3: A real springboard for the lake.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: :take flight, you will not be disappointed.

 

Via Jacobi winds through the lower part of the village, following the road or on small pathways, until you find the Rütenenbach brook. We will call this stream that way, because it is unknown to the battalion of Internet cartographers. And yet, it is very present, you will see it with sometimes shivers in the back.
Via Jacobi will then plunge, and the word is not too strong, towards the lake. In Emetten, you are 770 meters above sea level and the lake is 450 meters. The pathway therefore descends 300 meters for about 1 kilometer! Here, it is better to descend in dry weather, but the pilgrim does not always have a choice.

In difficult weather, you can also follow the small road beyond the Emetten post office that leads to Häggis, then Ambeissler, and join Via Jacobi in Beckenried.

The narrow pathway first runs through deciduous trees and bushes, then slopes down above the Seelisberg road which unwinds its hairpin bends.
Often, the stream cascades and heckles noisily along the pathway. The water squirts, bursts with all its transparency, sometimes rolling on a thin layer of stones, in the middle of the mosses.
Halfway down, you can see Rütenen and Beckenried below. Sloping down the steep pathway, you almost sometimes have the feeling of being vertical, hanging above the void.
The lane thus continues its tumble in the wild grasses, the maples and the beeches, along the brook which jumps…
…until you encounter a kind of water reservoir, a little higher than the highway. In the distance, you can still see the Mythen towering above Schwyz and Brunnen. Closer, on the other side of the lake, Gersau dips his feet in the water.

The small pathway descends again in extreme slope in the meadows, plunging on the highway which emerges from the tunnel after having passed under the Seelisberg mountain for nearly 10 kilometers.

The pathway then runs under the highway. The stream ends its wild ride here, in Rütenen, by the lake.
For you too the wild ride ends here. From here, long live the holidays! You’ll almost flatten until the end of the stage, at least on a long stretch.
A small road then runs along the lake under the highway.
Many unnamed, but well-developed small streams intersect the road. There is no shortage of water here.
The houses are lined up continuously on the long street that leads to the entrance to Beckenried, with many houses dipping their feet in the water.
After crossing the small chapel of Ste Anna, a recently restored XVIIIth century building, the road arrives at Beckenried.
A small park overlooks the harbor. At the bottom of the lake, you can always see Brunnen and the Mythen.
The road arrives in the borough (3,300 inhabitants).
Nidwalden is a predominantly Catholic canton, as are all the cantons of central Switzerland. St Heinrich’s Church is a baroque church from the end of the XVIIIth century. A chapel is adjoining in the cemetery.
The road comes out of Beckenried, where there are still beautiful houses covered with shingles with taste and care. The majority of old houses adopt this prototype in central Switzerland (St Gall, Schwyz, Unterwalden).

Section 4: Stroll along the shores of 4 Cantons Lake.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route:  course without problem.

 

On leaving Beckenried, the road crosses the Lielibach, a rather large river, which carries large pebbles, which descend from the mountain above. Then the road continues to the adjoining village of Oberdorf.
It soon leaves the axis of the lake, to cross the Täschlibach brook, and reach the place called Ridli, where a chapel is perched on a small hill.

The Ridlikapelle is Baroque in style and has beautiful ex-votos. It’s amazing the number of chapels found in these regions.
A small road descends beyond the chapel, passes under a pile of the highway, then descends towards the lake by a small lane.
Here you are again on the main lake road. Just a stone’s throw away is Buochs beach. Via Jacobi gets there.
Shortly beyond the beach, a small road follows the edge of the lake towards Buochs.
The road follows the beautiful residences on the edge of the lake and returns a little towards Buochs through the countryside.
There are also farmers, who sell Sbrinz and Appenzeller, two famous cheeses in German-speaking Switzerland, eggs and sausage. You can even turn your head with a little Kräuter liquor.
Further afield, the road then enters Buochs (5,300 inhabitants), always with the reassuring presence of these wooden houses which can be counted on more than ten fingers of both hands.
Via Jacobi then runs through the winding streets of the borough in front of St Sebastian Chapel, also known as Nothelferkapelle, built at the end of the XVIIth century. In the center stand St Martin Curch. A Romanesque church was built here in the Xth century, then a Gothic church in the XVth century. Today’s St Martin’s Church dates from 1805, in late Baroque style, but lightly cluttered inside, which is a striking contrast to many churches in central Switzerland.
Via Jacobi crisscrosses a very extensive borough.
Another chapel on the way, the so-called Obgasskapelle chapel, the chapel of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows. Almost all the chapels are Baroque in the region, with a very pronounced eave and a tapering steeple.

Section 5:Above the lake in the meadows.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without great difficulty, but ups and downs all the same, with sometimes some steeper slopes.

 

 

Via Jacobi then leaves Buochs passing under the motorway.
Here you finally leave 4 Cantons Lake. A small road climbs in the meadows above the highway, which continues into the plain towards Stans.
The slope is very reasonable in the meadows, along the farms. There are fruit trees in the area.

The countryside is again very beautiful and invigorating here, in the meadows that look like golf greens.

The road soon reaches a kind of small plateau.
It soon passes through Bürg/Ennerberg, in the middle of the countryside. Here is a replica of the “Santa Casa di Loretto“. There are many chapels of Loreto in Europe, designed on the Italian model and dedicated to the worship of Mary.

Shortly after, the road heads towards the place called Bürg, just over an hour’s walk to Stans.

The road climbs again on the hill of Waltersberg, in the middle of the farms.
In the distance, below, you’ll soon see the town of Stans.
Cattle are present all over the hill. There are even pigs in semi-freedom.
Further up, the road arrives at the top of the hill at Waltersberg, where there is the small chapel of St. Anne, also called Chäppelisitz, with many ex-votos.

The road then dawdles a little on the top of the hill, before plunging onto Stans. From up there, the view over Stans is expansive.

Section 6: Towards Stans, capital of the half-canton of Nidwalden.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty after the start descent.

 

Via Jacobi descends steeply from the hill into the meadows towards Hostetten.

It joins the plain in the middle of the farms. Here pigs are raised.
Shortly after, the pathway crosses the Engelberger Aa, more than a large stream that descends from the mountain.

Beyond the river, a dirt road flattens between farms, houses and countryside towards St Heinrich. We will always be amazed at the order that reigns in the piles of cut wood in front of the houses in the country.
Then, a small paved road takes over when Via Jacobi crosses the railway line and the road that lead to Engelberg, at the foot of Titlis, the largest winter resort in central Switzerland. The Camino de Compostela does not go there, despite the presence of a Benedictine abbey and many ski champions. Curious that it doesn’t.
Shortly after, the road gets soon to St Heinrich, where stands the modest chapel dedicated to St Henri, built at the beginning of the XIXth century.
A little further, it then arrives at the gates of Stans, along a high wall behind which stands the cantonal college of Nidwalden, the monumental and austere Fidelis college.
The road descends towards the center of the borough and crosses near the Beinhaus cemetery (ossuary). This church, erected towards the end of the XVth century, is both an ossuary and a place of worship. The ossuary was closed during our visit.
It then arrives in the center of Stans (7,900 inhabitants), near the church. Many foreigners live here, in the capital of the half-canton of Nidwalden. Stans is home to Pilatus Aircraft, the world leader in single-engine turboprop aircraft. About 2,000 employees work there.
The imposing parish church of St Peter and Paul has been rebuilt many times over an old Romanesque church. The current church was built towards the end of the 1XVIIth century. It is therefore Gothic, but the Romanesque bell tower from the XIIIth century is intact.
On the central square, in the middle of the statues stands the Winkelried memorial, a sculpture from 1865, created by Ferdinand Schlöth. Arnold von Winkelried belongs, like William Tell, to those legendary (or true?) heroes who shaped the beginnings of Swiss history. Winkelried would have allowed the Confederates to win the victory over the troops of Duke Leopold III of Habsburg, during the Battle of Sempach in 1386 (this one is historically attested). The Swiss were unable to break through the enemy infantry lines. So Winkelried, from a well-to-do Stans family, would have thrown himself on the spears to open a breach after asking his comrades to watch over his wife and children. The Swiss would then have entered the enemy lines.

 

At the beginning of the XVIIth century, a huge fire destroyed almost the entire village. We dare to imagine how great the beauty of these boroughs must have been in the Middle Ages, all having experienced numerous fires. So, these villages were reconstructed in a Baroque style, the living style during the reconstruction. But these people were doing wonders. Because Stans still remains a remarkable borough today, with sumptuous buildings, which is not the case of Schwyz, which experienced the same misfortunes.
Notable buildings include Rosenburg Castle, whose origins date back to the late Middle Ages. Dilapidated thereafter, it was saved from demolition and restored by adding loggias, half-timbering and corbelling. Since 1981, when it regained its XVIIth century splendor, it has been a marvel. It is a foundation, the Höfli Foundation, which is the owner. They practice high gastronomy.
There are also houses covered with shingles, as elsewhere in the region. Another famous residence is the Winkelried house, today a museum, above all dedicated to housing. The great pedagogue Pestalozzi also officiated at Stans.
We should also point out in the borough, near the station of the funicular which climbs to the Stanserhorn, the small museum of Salzmagazin, a museum dedicated to the arts.

Lodging on Via Jacobi

 
Emetten
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Hotel Engel, Dorfstrasse 47 041 620 13 54
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Hotel Landgasthaus Schlüssel, Dorfstrasse 49 041 620 13 56
Beckenried
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Bächli, Buochserstrasse 71 041 620 64 68
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Hotel Rössli, Dorfplatz 1 041 624 45 11
Hotel****, dinner, breakfast Hotel Seerausch, Buochserstasse 041 501 01 31
Hotel****, dinner, breakfast Hotel Boutique Schlüssel 041 622 03 33
Hotel****, dinner, breakfast Hotel Nidwaldnerhof, Dorfstrasse 12 041 620 52 52
Buochs
Camping, bungalows Camping Buochs, Seeeldstrasse 041 620 34 74
Guestroom (straw), breakfast Famille Rölli-Lussi, Grossbächli 041 620 31 36/079 655 14 10
Guestroom (straw), breakfast Andreas Waser, Engelbergerstrasse 041 610 50 27/079 487 25 66
Hotel***, dinner, breakfast Hotel Krone, Dorfplatz 2 041 624 67 77
Stans
Guestroom (straw), breakfast Monika&Peter Waser, Buochserstrasse 50 041 610 81 25/078 809 47 99
Guestroom and straw, breakfast B&B Odermatt, Wanghof 041 610 01 46/079 215 40 93
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Zemp-Koller, Knirigasse 5 041 610 66 43/079 771 27 00
Hotel***, dinner, breakfast Stanserhof, Stansstaderstrasse 20 041 619 71 71
Hotel***, dinner, breakfast Hotel Engel, Dorfplatz 1 041 619 10 10
There is no difficulty of finding accommodation on this stage. Book anyway for security.
Feel free to add comments. This is often how you move up the Google hierarchy, and how more pilgrims will have access to the site.

 

Next stage: Stage 7: From Stans to Sachseln

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