08: From Vitznau to Kussnacht

Following in the footsteps of William Tell

In the tapestry of history, the name Küssnacht weaves with golden narrative threads, echoing the distant resonance of Cossinius, a figure shrouded in the cloak of Roman antiquity. Accompanied by the Celtic suffix, it becomes Cossiniacus, whispering the tale of a domain that has traversed ages, since the time when Gallo-Romans roamed these lands. Despite the absence of stone testimonies of their presence, the shadow of these ancestors hovers over the region, elusive yet undeniable, until the arrival of the Alamans in the 7th century. It is on this stage that the legendary drama of William Tell unfolds, confronting the Austrian bailiff Gessler, a story that intertwines at the heart of Küssnacht, like a shooting star streaking across the Swiss historical sky. With the emancipation of Luzern from the Habsburg yoke in the 14th century, a new chapter unfolds, making Küssnacht the cherished child of Luzern, eclipsing local lordships and their castles into oblivion, like Gesslerburg (Gessler Castle) which sank into the shadows of 1352. As time passed, the influence of Luzern dissipated like mist in the sun, in favor of Schwyz, which established its customs imprint as early as 1383. Küssnacht, faithful to this new allegiance, swore feudal rights with Schwyz in 1424, an oath that still resonates through the ages. Such a destiny starkly contrasts with that of Vitznau and Weggis, once jewels belonging to Luzern in the embrace of Schwyz, sailing between the hands of the Habsburgs before emerging as free republics, stars in the Swiss firmament, before their freedom was sold to Lucerne in 1380. Today, Vitznau, Weggis, and Greppen are pearls set in Luzern’s crown, communities that still whisper the tales of Rigi.

 

The passage of illustrious figures such as Goethe, the Bavarian king Ludwig II, and the Portuguese king Dom, has woven a silver thread into the fabric of Küssnacht, adding to its radiance. But it’s the tragedy of Queen Astrid of Belgium that has left an indelible mark on the city, a shooting star whose light was extinguished too soon in a mechanical tragedy in 1935, leaving an echo of melancholy in the streets of Küssnacht.

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-vitznau-a-kussnacht-par-la-via-jacobi98-passant-par-weggis-et-le-chemin-de-gessler-135586109

Difficulty level: The elevation gains (+659 meters/-655 meters) remain significant. It’s a ballet of ascents and descents, a dance with the earth that challenges endurance, between the exhausting assaults of the first hill before Weggis. Afterwards, the route undulates constantly, with less significant elevation changes, featuring many almost flat passages along the lake shore.

 

State of the Via Jacobi: The route alternates between asphalt and paths:

 

  • Paved roads: 11.0 km
  • Dirt roads: 9.7 km

It’s clear that not all travelers are comfortable using GPS and navigating via smartphone, and there are still many areas without an internet connection. As a result, you will soon find a book on Amazon that covers this journey.





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

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 those seeking “true elevations” and enthusiasts of genuine altimetric challenges, carefully review the information on mileage at the beginning of the guide.

Section 1: A climb and a descent well earned.

Overview of the route’s challenges: challenging route, with steep slopes, both uphill and downhill.

If you spent the night by the lake, you need to return to the train departure point towards Rigi to find the directional signs.

Here, you will realize that Via Jacob 98 is just one thread among the maze of trails that lay before you. Around, a myriad of paths unfolds, weaving a web towards the Rigi mountain, inviting adventurous souls to discover its secrets in the mountains.

The grand adventure of the day will offer no respite from the first steps. Forget about gentle warm-ups; here, the ascent is felt from the very first strides. You will climb the slopes, crossing the thresholds of luxurious homes that punctuate the town, as if conquering the steps of a celestial palace hidden among the peaks.

The road dances along the Müllibach, winding between the murmurs of the water, then, with bold grace, begins its ascent among freshly built villas, an oasis of modernity nestled in the heart of the mountain. .

Yet, the town is not a uniform tableau of modernity. Here and there, stand proud and unshakable wooden chalets inherited from the past century, under their roofs aged by time and the elements.

Gradually, the road moves away from the bustling heart of the town. The church, like a sentinel from the past, still stands out on the horizon, reminding that Vitznau rests on lands of deep Catholic faith, anchored in the traditions of Luzern and Schwyz, cantons guarding a centuries-old heritage.

Rising still, the gaze embraces an unparalleled panorama: the town reveals itself in all its splendor, extending to the lake, while the Unter Nas and the Bürgenstock loom on the horizon, guardians of well-kept secrets, those of Swiss military defense during the dark hours of the last world war.

At this precise moment of the journey, the route offers you a decision: the fork towards the majestic Rigi mountain opens before you. The ascent to this summit takes nearly four hours, a true commitment, while the route to Weggis, where Via Jacobi 98 winds, requires only two hours.

Soon, the road hugs the cliff edge, flirting with the abyss in a daring ballet. The earth seems to open up, inviting the traveler to contemplate the infinite horizon, where the sky embraces the earth in an eternal embrace.

And thus reveals a residential area of a new kind, where the houses seem to embrace the mountain, carved into its very heart. These dwellings, with their terraces sculpted into the rock, compete in beauty and modernity with the “Park Hotel Vitznau” and its five stars, proudly standing on its promontory, overlooking the lake. Lucerne, although located in the canton of Schwyz, demonstrates here a flashy and undeniable opulence.

As you progress, the road meets the Wilidibach again, offering another junction towards Rigi. Once, Via Jacobi 98 made its way here. Today, it prefers the company of the road, passing by a small oratory that stands modestly at the edge of the road, like a guardian of the faith and history of these lands.

The climb proves to be arduous, demanding, with an inclination ranging between 10% and 15%. It winds through scattered hamlets, such as Ebnet, where time seems to stand still. Here, isolated farms, scattered sparingly, proudly display the appearance of old Alpine chalets, more than simple places of agricultural labor. Their sturdy and welcoming silhouettes stand as monuments to mountain life, in perfect harmony with the nature that surrounds them.

At every turn, the horizon unfolds in a grand spectacle, offering a breathtaking view of the cruise ships drawing slow arabesques on the water. Lucerne seems almost within reach, nestled at the end of the lake, under the benevolent gaze of Pilate, eluding and revealing itself with the shifting clouds.

Further on, the road courts the Speuzibach, flourishing in a meadow where Braunvieh cows graze peacefully, true prides of Eastern Switzerland. These cattle, with their brown coats and peaceful demeanor, embody the spirit of the region, a living symbol of tradition and quality passed down through generations. 

Among the vibrant green of the meadows, a few chestnut trees also stand, witnesses to the local biodiversity. Once again, a fork in the road offers travelers an alternate path towards Rigi, which, though tempting, is not your destination today.

At this point of the journey, the road begins to weave arabesques on the mountain slopes. It twists and turns in graceful switchbacks with nature. Higher up, hidden at Wilen, a picnic spot invites rest, promising a welcome break in the greenery, just an hour and thirty minutes from Weggis.

The climb persists, stubbornly, climbing towards the heavens. Here and there, an isolated farm punctuates the landscape, surrounded by gray cows peacefully grazing in the meadows. It’s a living tableau of unchanging Switzerland, a scene that seems lifted from an ancient tale. 

Looking back, Vitznau reveals itself, nestled in its mountain embrace, a precious pearl nestled at the foot of eternal snow. The five-star hotel shines like a jewel, a sugar candy delicately placed on the green velvet of the valleys. From this angle, it’s clear that the residents of this privileged place enjoy an unlimited panorama, a window open to infinity that defies any notion of a closed horizon.

In this enveloping countryside sweetness, it would be easy to walk for hours, if not for the sweat sometimes beading on the forehead, a constant reminder of the effort exerted.

But adventure knows no respite, and higher up, new challenges await travelers. Just past the Kürziweg locality, Via Jacobi decides to veer off the road, embarking on a narrow trail, beckoning to explore the mountain’s most secret corners.

And suddenly, the trail blends into the clearing, disappearing into the mystery of the undergrowth. 

From then on, modest stairs appear before you, roughly drawn in the grass like steps towards the unknown. Each step brings you closer to the climax, to this well-deserved reward at the top of the hill.

And there, around the bend of the path, a solitary bench stands, like a refuge for weary souls, a haven of peace in the heart of the wilderness. 

And still, the path climbs, insatiable, as if challenging the sky itself. Steps resound on the ground, filled with determination and courage, guided by the glow of the clearing twinkling in the distance. On the trail, wooden logs mark the way, silent witnesses to human ingenuity in the face of nature’s whims, like a solid anchor in the tumultuous ocean of the mountain. You find the red-white signage, which in Switzerland is not the mark of a GR (long-distance hiking trail), but tells you that you are walking on a potentially tricky or difficult path.

At the top of this epic ascent, a grand spectacle unfolds: Weggis sprawls below, on the edge of the lake, like a sparkling jewel in the verdant embrace of the mountains. It’s as if the whole world is at your feet, inviting you to contemplate the infinite beauty of creation.

Near a wooden fountain, the descent begins. 

The start of the descent is not without challenges, with its wooden stairs and iron railing, which must surely be slippery in rainy weather, adding a dimension of danger to the excursion.

But despite these obstacles, the path is not inherently dangerous, just difficult. It carves a bold path under the cover of pines, maples, chestnuts, and beeches, defying the laws of gravity with a slope of over 30%, perhaps even more.

Further down, the trail dangerously approaches the cliff, as if testing the limits of human daring. A section of handrail appears, offering welcome support in this perilous dance with the elements. This stretch of the route strangely resembles the steep cliffs of Seelisberg on the other side, a testament to the tumultuous nature of this region.

But like everything in life, challenges soften with time. Lower down, the forest seems to calm down, abandoning its extreme nature for a more civilized atmosphere. The path gently winds under the canopy of trees, beeches, oaks, chestnuts, and spruces, their trunks straight as drumsticks, creating a beautiful silent alpine symphony.

Gradually, the silhouette of Weggis appears on the horizon, just an hour’s walk from here, as a reminder that even the most epic adventures eventually find their conclusion.

Section 2: Gymkhana above Weggis.

Overview of the route’s challenges: a challenging route with steep slopes, both uphill and downhill.

The descent continues, now gentler, as the forest allows the first rays of light to filter through its thick greenery. Steps become lighter, breaths more regular, as if nature itself is offering a gentle caress after the intense effort.

This descent, delicate for some, even daunting for the less experienced, spans less than a kilometer. Looking back, one can be surprised by the path traversed along the cliffs, while ahead, the lake unveils itself again, like an old companion rediscovered.

Soon after, the narrow trail guides you over a bridge, suspended above a deep canyon. It’s as if nature challenges you one last time before letting you continue.

Further on, the path winds along the ridge, offering a bucolic spectacle. Here, walking becomes effortless, as if the mountain itself wants to reward you for your endurance and determination.

Throughout your traverse, this wooded expanse is evocatively named Chestenweid, literally meaning “chestnut meadow” in German. Amidst the majestic chestnut trees, sturdy beeches, rare oaks, and spruces intermingle, forming a botanical symphony that delights the senses.

Soon after, the narrow path crosses the Lützerlauerbach stream, offering a moment of freshness and purity amidst this lush nature. .

And there it is, one last playful leap on wooden logs, as if to salute the end of this forest immersion.

Finally freed from its wooded enclosure, the path rediscovers the familiar contours of civilization, with its noises and movements, just 45 minutes from Weggis.

The road winds its way up above Weggis, offering a breathtaking view of the shimmering lake below. A vast settlement sprawls from the shores to these heights, a sight that one can contemplate from Gersau, where the road winds in countless hairpin turns to reach the summits.

Bannholz marks the end of this winding road. Here the bus stops, testifying to the extensive local transport network.

A bit further, the road crosses Bodenberg. Here too, a trail ascends towards Rigi, an alternative for those who prefer walking to the comfort of the train or cable car.

From Bodenberg, the road meanders through ostentatiously luxurious villas, like jewels nestled in the natural setting of the mountains.

Further on, the descent begins towards Weggis, gradually revealing the town in its bay, with Pilatus dominating the horizon like a benevolent guardian watching over Lucerne in the distance.

Arriving at this crucial junction, it’s time to make a decision. The official route of Via Jacobi 98 skirts around Weggis through the heights. However, a question persists: why avoid such a picturesque place? It’s a mystery beyond our understanding because Weggis possesses an undeniable charm worth discovering.

That’s why, at this exact point, we decide to alter our route. A path presents itself—the Chesteneweg, the Chestnut Path—that descends towards Weggis. This trail promises a picturesque escapade through the magnificent chestnut forest, leading to the departure point of Luftseilbahn Weggis-Rigi-Kaltbad, the cable car transporting travelers to the summits of Rigi from Weggis.

It’s an adorable little path winding through the dense undergrowth. The slope isn’t too severe.

Emerging from the woods, an enchanting spectacle unfolds: before you lies Weggis, peaceful and welcoming, with its church standing proudly like a beacon in the heart of the town.

Further down, the path merges into a paved road, bringing you closer to the town.

The descent continues towards the cable car station for Rigi.

Weggis is just a stone’s throw away from here. Signposts guide you not only to this charming town but also to other destinations like Küssnacht, offering a myriad of possibilities for travelers eager for diverse discoveries.

The route continues its descent, soon joining a busier road below.

The path guides you through a tunnel, allowing you to cross the road safely…

…before heading resolutely towards the bustling heart of Weggis, home to around 4,500 inhabitants.

Along the way, you’ll pass by the silhouette of the church, a witness to the long history of this community and a familiar landmark for the residents.

Along the lakeside, the town comes alive, its hotels blooming like luxury oases by the shimmering waters. Weggis reveals itself as a sought-after tourist destination, attracting visitors in search of tranquility and natural beauty. And just like in Vitznau, the canton of Lucerne has moved to the canton of Schwyz.

We spent the night here, and the next day the weather turned to rain. So, we’ll change the timeframe and continue the journey on an overcast spring day. The atmosphere remains charming regardless of the weather by the lake.

There are many paths here, especially towards Rigi, which can be reached in a 4-hour walk. Via Jacobi 98 isn’t mentioned because we’ve deviated from the route. Thus, you need to exit the town to rejoin Via Jacobi 98, heading towards Küssnacht.

The route begins near the church, winding between modern and ancient houses that line the town’s streets, living witnesses of its history and evolution over time.

Along the way, you’ll encounter commercial areas lining the town’s heights, where a horse takes tourists for a picturesque ride through the town. Although the view from the heights offers nothing extraordinary, the warm atmosphere of the town is enough to enchant visitors.

You’ll eventually reach a crossroad, marking the beginning of Röhrliistrasse and the exit from the town.

Then, the road passes the last houses of the town until reaching a signpost near Hügerhof farms. This is where Via Jacobi 98 returns from Vitznau via Zopf.

Section 3: Over hill and dale above the lake.

Overview of the route’s challenges: The route is quite hilly, although sometimes you walk along the lake.

The Hügerihof farm stands like an oasis of serenity and charm amidst lush meadows and fruit trees, seemingly emerging from a bucolic scene frozen in time.

The road then winds its way through meadows dotted with fruit trees, braving the gentle slopes of a lean hill, like a determined adventurer set on conquering new horizons.

The road continues briefly along the ridge, offering a panoramic view of the surroundings before descending back towards the lake.

At the Brüni location, the asphalt gives way to a gravel path, then to a grassy trail, descending towards the hamlet of Eggisbüel, near Hertenstein. Before you, the majestic silhouette of Mount Pilatus stands proudly, while on your left, the Bürgenstock looms on the other side of the lake, testifying to its historical past as a bastion of Swiss military defense.

It’s a true postcard of Central Switzerland that unfolds, a breathtaking scene with Lake Lucerne spreading majestically before your eyes. .

The path descends through the meadows, towards a very large farm at Eggisbüel. In this region, it’s always the same story: the waterfront belongs to tourists, while the inland belongs to the farmer.

Without delay, a narrow road rises, climbing with a rather steep slope through peaceful meadows and gentle landscapes towards the vast Herrenwald forest. Below, the houses of Hertenstein are reflected in the calm waters of the lake, offering a picturesque sight.

At the top of the short ascent, a beaten dirt path meanders along the woods, offering a tranquil walk among majestic trees.

At the forest entrance, a welcoming picnic area beckons you. Firewood and barbecue facilities are available, and it’s not uncommon to even find an axe here, a testament to Swiss efficiency in organization and services. All in order! as it should be.

In the forest, beeches and spruces stand majestically, their trunks straight as sticks, reaching for the light through the dense canopy. Chestnuts and oaks, rarer, add their charm to this natural setting. At their feet, a soft carpet of moss and ferns gently undulate.

A little further on, a signpost in the forest points you towards Küssnacht on one side, while on the other, it directs towards Hertenstein, a peaceful village by the water nestled in the bend formed by the surrounding promontory.

The Herrenwald forest is truly splendid, stretching along the lake and harmoniously mixing deciduous and coniferous trees. To reach the lake shores, the path becomes steep, widening but remaining mostly rocky, with slopes sometimes reaching nearly 20% at the beginning of the descent through the forest. There’s occasionally a bench to sit on, but the effort is far from sustained enough to require a long pause.

As you progress, the murmur of the waves can be heard, heralding the proximity of the water. The first clearings in the foliage reveal glimpses of the sparkling lake, offering breathtaking panoramas that captivate the soul and nourish the mind with profound serenity. On the other side of the lake is Meggen, where you will pass through tomorrow on your walk towards Luzern.

The wide path winds its way through the woods for several kilometers, offering an enchanting perspective of the surrounding nature, but never quite reaching the lake shores. Lower down, it even meanders among the trees, avoiding excessive slopes, and still takes you into the heart of lush vegetation composed of deciduous and evergreen trees. This path, enhanced with a fitness trail, reflects a European tradition that unfortunately tends to be lost.

Along the way, a discreet little waterfall enlivens the landscape, its gentle murmur lost among the rocks covered in damp moss, adding a touch of freshness and mystery to this enchanting place.

Further down, you’ll come across another path, an alternative route that you could have taken as well, bringing hikers from Zopf, near Weggis.

Further on, the path winds through lush vegetation, gradually approaching the lake and its wild, bare shores, offering breathtaking panoramas of this majestic body of water.

So, just for the pleasure of it, the path climbs slightly onto a small hillock, offering an unobstructed view of the lake. It would be unthinkable to walk along Lake Lucerne for so long without fully enjoying it!

At the bottom of the descent, the path leads you near a gravel pit bordering the lake. On the other side of its sparkling waters, Meggen unfolds, a village spread between Küssnacht and Luzern. A barbecue is also available here, for those who know and use it. But you have to walk here to enjoy it.

In this wild paradise, where the panorama reveals Greppen ahead, and Küssnacht at the end of the lake, you are at a place called Rörli, just an hour and a half from Küssnacht.

When you carefully observe the surroundings, it becomes clear that the lake shores are scarcely accessible, enveloped in a mix of reeds and tall grasses. It’s easy to understand why the trail organizers chose not to route their path along the lake. The wild and pristine nature of these shores offers a captivating and wild spectacle but makes navigation difficult. Nevertheless, the route persists a bit along the lake, crossing an unnamed stream that gently flows into its calm waters. This moment is imbued with an indescribable charm, capable of leaving speechless those fortunate enough to behold it.

The Via Jacobi then decides to move away from the lake, taking a path that rises into the grass on the neighboring hill. The slope becomes steep again at this point, inviting walkers to redouble their efforts to continue their ascent.

The meadows stretching across this small hill welcome the gaze with their vibrant green, punctuated here and there by tiny barns. The whole scene exudes such a peaceful and neat atmosphere that one could easily be tempted to lie down in the grass for a restorative nap.

However, the pilgrim cannot indulge in idleness, for here the slope becomes steep to reach the hamlet of Halde perched above. Among the orchards lining the path, thrive old pear trees, old apple trees, and old plum trees, bearing witness to the ancestral character of these lands.

Halde, a true haven of peace for weekend hikers, charms with its undeniable charm. A small café nestled in the heart of the hamlet adds to its allure, where it is said that most of the harvested fruits end up at the distillery to be turned into delicious spirits that are the pride of German-speaking Switzerland. 

From the terrace of this picturesque café, the view offers a breathtaking panorama of the sparkling lake and the Pilatus looming on the horizon, inviting the visitor to contemplate the majesty of the nature spread before them. 

From here, there’s no more uphill to fear, just a pleasant walk through the meadows, along the old fruit trees steeped in history. If you’re lucky enough to pass through here in spring, you’ll be greeted by a veritable symphony of blossoming apple trees, offering an enchanting visual spectacle.

Section 4: Approaching Küssnacht, high above the lake.

Overview of the route’s challenges: The path remains relatively flat.

The small road then joins the main road connecting Weggis to Küssnacht, seamlessly integrating into the local road network.

The Via Jacobi then follows the busy cantonal road, linking Küssnacht to Weggis, amidst the constant flow of vehicles.

At Langiswil, it veers away again from the road hustle to embark on a dirt path winding through the lush countryside, amid predominantly apple trees. This region seems truly blessed for fruit cultivation, with orchards of rare abundance, a rarity we seldom encountered on the Ways of St. James in Switzerland.

But here, other fruits are also cultivated for picking, including pears, showcasing the diversity and richness of local fruit production. A stone cross marks the path, reminding of the spiritual and religious dimension of this region, still steeped in the Catholic tradition of the canton of Schwyz. 

Further along, the path approaches Greppen, crossing meadows and orchards where the grass remains vivid green, rain or shine. 

Shortly after, the path reaches Gütsch, a suburb of Greppen. Farmers are plentiful in this region, and their activities extend beyond orchard management. Woodpiles are carefully arranged, following the Swiss-German tradition, with a detail-oriented touch sometimes tinged with a peculiar kitsch, characteristic of off-the-beaten-path places. Love it or hate it.

Farms often exude rustic charm, with walls covered in shingles, typical of the eastern part of Switzerland. Some even offer a full range of regional spirits, adding a touch of tradition and authenticity to this tranquil countryside.

Leaving the village, the Via Jacobi descends towards the lake, following a paved road that crosses a peripheral residential area of Greppen.

The road then slopes down towards the old village of Greppen, home to about 1,100 inhabitants, offering a picturesque charm much more striking than its upper part. Strolling beneath the flower-decked balconies, the path passes near the church with its slender steeple. Once a simple chapel dating back to the 16th century, St. Wendelin’s Church has been enlarged over the centuries to become the parish church one can admire today.

The houses lining the alleys of old Greppen are typical of the canton of Schwyz, often adorned with traditional shingles. Although administratively belonging to the canton of Lucerne, Greppen’s authentic and preserved atmosphere pleasantly contrasts with the ostentatious luxury of places like Vitznau or Weggis.

Then, the Via Jacobi leaves the village to rejoin the cantonal road, continuing its journey along this route for about a kilometer.

Along the way, it passes numerous large farms, offering little visual appeal to the eye, except for the chance to catch a fleeting glimpse of vehicles speeding by. .

Sometimes, the gaze may rest on rows of fruit trees or the peaceful waters of the lake below the surrounding meadows. Finding points of interest in these long monotonous walks is necessary to occupy the mind during a bland journey.

Soon after, the route finally reaches an intersection, located at the Eichholternweg, just 30 minutes from Küssnacht. Here, you leave the cantonal road and re-enter the canton of Schwyz. It seems Luzerrn has seized the picturesque hills of Vitznau and Weggis, leaving Schwyz with the steep slopes under the Rigi. As some say, the wealthy often have the final say.

In the meadows, the grass still shines vivid green, giving this landscape more the appearance of a vast park than that of a traditional countryside, shaded by imposing poplar trees.

Further on, the Via Jacobi returns to beaten ground as it heads towards the farms of Seeheim. Though Schwyz farms may not rival those of the canton of Berne in terms of architectural beauty, Schwyz is not the wealthiest canton in Switzerland. However, thanks to a decrease in taxation, it has become a thriving territory, sometimes chosen as a refuge and residence by many celebrities, including renowned athletes, both national and international. Despite this, many farmers continue their work with their gray cows, thus demonstrating the persistence of rural traditions.

Then, the path heads towards Seematt, the suburb of Küssnacht, winding through lush orchards.

Further along, the route crosses a neighborhood mainly composed of recent residences. Don’t be mistaken to think that Schwyz is a canton devoid of wealth. Here, apartments with terraces reach several million Swiss francs.

The road then gradually descends towards the lake, nestled between imposing waterfront buildings.

Section 5: Küssnacht or the revenge of William Tell.

Overview of the route’s challenges: hilly terrain to follow in the footsteps of William Tell. Legends, they are earned.

Along the lake, an enveloping serenity reigns, offering splendid panoramas of the calm waters and distant horizons, punctuated by the imposing silhouette of the Küssnacht church. 

The lake, in all its wildness, accompanies the path, its shores lined with reeds, offering a peaceful stroll towards the heart of the town.

The Via Jacobi thus concludes its journey in Küssnacht, near the port, on the square housing the Baroque church of St. Peter and Paul, erected in the 18th century.

The grand Küssnacht, formerly Küssnacht am Rigi until 2003, is the largest town in the region with its 14,000 inhabitants, almost as populous as Schwyz, the cantonal capital. Although less touristy than its counterparts on the lake, Küssnacht is home to very beautiful patrician houses that exude an incredible charm, some dating back to the 16th century, embellished over time.

The most famous of these houses is the half-timbered house of the Engel restaurant, dating back to 1552. Adorned with illuminations and colorful paintings, this establishment even evokes the memory of Goethe, who stayed there one day.

Although the town does not ostentatiously showcase the traces of William Tell, a circuit of about 4 kilometers allows you to immerse yourself in the legendary history of Switzerland’s inception. However, the Via Jacobi 98 does not pass through here. To reach this circuit in the heart of the town, simply follow the direction of Hohle Gasse on Rigigasse, Gesslerburg.

It is a small road that winds through the old town, where the houses seem frozen in time, perhaps awaiting a new life one day. 

The road continues to climb until it meets a mill by a stream. Although this mill may seem period, it is actually more recent, perhaps placed there to add a tourist touch.

Series of stairs lead to the ruins of Gesslerburg, perched on a rocky outcrop. Although named Gessler Castle in the 19th century in reference to the Austrian bailiff Gessler and William Tell, these figures are actually myths and no historical proof of their existence has been found. The castle would have belonged to a family of knights established in Küssnacht since the 10th century, but the circumstances of its destruction remain obscure. Archaeological excavations have revealed artifacts dating back to the 14th century, but the castle ruin is mentioned as early as the beginning of the 16th century in chronicles. Today, only a pile of ruins remains to be admired.

Then you have to take the winding road that climbs steeply through the meadows to continue the journey. As you quickly ascend the slope, you begin to dominate the town of Küssnacht.

Higher up, the route leaves the asphalt for a wide dirt path that winds and meanders through the meadows, passing near picturesque chalets and tranquil farms.

Perhaps, depending on the season, you will have the incredible privilege of encountering oversized apple trees in bloom. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.

Further on, the path begins to snake more severely through the meadows… 

…until arriving near a large and beautiful isolated farmhouse amidst nature.

The path then winds towards the Hohle Gasse, this legendary Hollow Way where William Tell sealed the fate of bailiff Gessler.

At the edge of the woods stands a modest chapel, the TellsKapelle, embraced by the tranquility of a nearby convent. Founded in 1638, this humble building embodies the immutable testimony of a primitive Switzerland, where many chapels and ex-votos glorify the national hero, thus weaving the mythological fabric of a sacred figure. Tell’s first arrow, piercing the apple at Altdorf, the second, splitting the heart of the tyrant at Küssnacht, inscribes this great saga in the annals of collective imagination, forged by the centuries. Over generations, historical artifacts erected in public squares have evoked the epic of liberation, perpetuating the historical consciousness of the people. But should this glorification be attributed to Schiller? His “William Tell,” born in 1804, propelled the myth to the heights of universal literature, sometimes blurring the boundaries between fiction and reality. For Schiller, like an alchemist of words, only sublimated an already present material, giving the story a new dimension. As for Rossini, the brilliant composer, he enchanted the stages with his masterful opera, albeit somewhat removed from historical reality.

The Tell Chapel of Hohle Gasse, refurbished in 1834, has been adorned since 1905 with two murals by Werner Bachmann. It is striking to note that the governor’s death is depicted on the exterior wall, far from the sanctuary’s tranquility. Gessler has no place in the heart of devotion. Yet, the hero’s shadow also looms inside, where Tell’s death is evoked on the back wall. Like a reflection, Tell’s sacrifice to save a child is impressed in stone, the brilliance of a timeless epic, reminding us that even heroes meet their end.

The path then plunges into dense woods to reach the famous Hohle Gasse, this legendary “Hollow Way.” In 1908, the Confederation acquired the Gesslerburg. However, in the 1930s, the idea of ​​transforming Hohle Gasse into a country road emerged. But why? For centuries, Hohle Gasse had been a vital section of a supraregional communication route. It served for the transportation of goods from northern Italy through the St. Gotthard and Lake Lucerne. These goods were then reloaded in Küssnacht and transported via Hohle Gasse to Immensee, from where they continued their journey across Lake Zug and later Lake Zurich to the Rhine. Likewise, salt, essential for livestock, was transported from the Lake Constance region via Lakes Zurich, Zug, and Lucerne, also passing through Hohle Gasse. Since the Middle Ages, this road section had been traveled by men, mules, then carts, and finally cars. However, this era ended in 1935. Unfortunately, there was consideration to modify this space to widen the road and facilitate the transportation of goods. This would have involved dismantling Hohle Gasse. Schiller’s picturesque descriptions seemed to offer an alternative: “Rocks surround the whole scene; on one of the fronts is a ledge overrun by bushes.” Fortunately, the hollow path was preserved thanks to a collection organized among schoolchildren. Armed with rocks, picks, and shovels, they created a new path from scratch. The inauguration of Hohle Gasse took place on October 17, 1937, with national participation. Thus, the mythical act regained the splendor it deserved. Hohle Gasse had been virtually saved from oblivion, preserving its history, and a bypass road was created.

The hollow path is truly remarkable, almost like a relic from prehistory, although it has lost some of its historical character. But it doesn’t matter; its beauty is simply extraordinary, out of the ordinary. Walking here, brushing against the imposing blocks of moss-covered stone along the rocky walls, one inevitably dives into the dream of Gessler’s castle and the mystical hollow path that inspired a whole wonderful legend. The White Book of Sarnen, dating back to 1470, relates writings on the founding myths of Switzerland, asserting that it was on this path that William Tell shot Gessler with his famous crossbow, anticipating the bailiff’s passage to his castle.

At the foot of the path’s descent, a humble memorial stretches for about a hundred meters, bearing engravings testifying to the epic that took place there. The sense of patriotic sacrifice of Swiss school youth made possible the construction of the bypass road between 1935 and 1937, ensuring the eternal preservation of Hohle Gasse, as evidenced by a commemorative plaque erected in 1935. Unfortunately, the return along the road towards Küsnacht quickly dissipates the poetic enchantment felt before. It is preferable to opt for the bus to prolong this memorable experience in peace.

Accomodation on Via Jacobi

    • Seehof***, Gotthardstrasse 3, Weggis; 041 390 11 51; Hotel, dinner, breakfast
    • Seehotel Gotthard***, Gotthardstrasse 11, Weggis; 041 390 21 14; Hotel, dinner, breakfast
    • Garni-hotel Fohburg***, Seesstrasse 21, Weggis; 041 392 00 60; Hotel, dinner, breakfast
    • Kurhaus*** Seeblick, Baumenweg 20, Weggis; 041 392 02 02; Hotel, dinner, breakfast
    • Hotel*** Restaurant Seehof, Seeplatz 6, Küssnacht; 041 850 10 12; Hotel, dinner, breakfast
    • Hote***l Zum Hirschen, Unteerdorf 9, Küssnacht; 041 399 85 85; Hotel, dinner, breakfast

     

    This is a highly touristic area, with many vacation apartments and Airbnb rentals, the addresses of which are not known. You will also find a few luxury hotels in the region, which are not commonly used by pilgrims. Be sure to book at any cost during the high season.

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