Between lake and canyons, under eternal snow
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:
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 in France without an Internet connection. Therefore, you can find a book on Amazon that deals with this course.
If you only want to consult lodging of the stage, go directly to the bottom of the page.
Today, the route plunges from the Brünig Pass into the Bernese Oberland, where the blue and limpid lakes of Brienz and Interlaken rub shoulders with the majestic mountains, the Finsteraarhorn, the Eiger, the Mönch and the Jungfrau which are the pride of the region. It is a beautiful stage, sometimes wild in the canyons. Beyond Brienz, the route climbs three times from the villages on the edge of the lake to the heights and then descends immediately. It crosses villages, where old wooden buildings with often sculpted walls compete in grandeur and majesty. It also crosses the small town of Brienz with its wooden sculptures. It is the local speciality, and a school, unique in Switzerland, teaches the trade there. Further on, the route crosses forests, wild canyons and countryside. It offers continuous glorious glimpses of Brienz Lake below, with its waters changing color with the changing moods of the weather. In this country, the churches are not legion. In fact, they are temples, because the canton of Bern is a Protestant canton.
It bears repeating here. Crossing the Camino de Santiago in German-speaking Switzerland is an enchantment renewed every day. Even if you tirelessly cross meadows and small groves, the peasant heritage is present everywhere, but varies from one valley to another. There is virtually no culture in the region. And in this country of livestock and milk, the wealth of the Bernese peasants has further magnified and brought to excellence the beauty of farms and houses.
Difficulty of the course : Slope variations are significant today (+645 meters /-1050 meters) and it is a leg-breaking stage, quite demanding. The pathway climbs again above the Brünig pass to dive (and the word is not strong: more than 400 meters) on Brienzwiler. Afterwards, light ups and downs await you up to Brienz. Beyond Brienz, the routeh only slopes up and down from one canyon to another, from one village to another until finally reaching the lake at the end of the stage, in Ringgenberg. In this stage, you will cross an incredible number of small canyons, without a drop of water, which are in fact only large screes descending from the mountain or avalanche corridors in winter.
In this stage, courses on pathways or paved roads are equivalent:
- Paved roads: 12.5 km
- Dirt roads: 11.5 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: A long and demanding descent to Brienzwiler.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: tough descent, even in good weather. In places, the slopes easily exceed 25%. Nearly 500 meters of negative sloping.
|Via Jacobi descends from the Brünig Pass on the road just below Hotel Kulm. There, it runs above the road to avoid traffic, which is often heavy during the day.|
|Today is rainy weather, at least at the start of the stage. This will prevent you from having a panoramic view of the valley. The majestic mountains of the Bernese Alps, such as the Eiger, Mönch or Jungfrau, you will hardly see them even in good weather, because the valley is steep-sided. A small pathway then runs along the road.|
|A little further on, you leave the axis of the valley and a small road then climbs to the small Herweg hamlet.|
|Further on, a pathway climbs through the undergrowth to reach a clearing with the small barns of Brääch. In Switzerland, in general, the beech is exploited at all costs and the logs are carefully scattered along the tracks where the tractors pass..|
|Shortly after, the pathway heads towards the large forest of Uochwald which it will cross to Brienzwiler. It climbs a little further in the middle of the beeches, with more rare conifers, especially spruces. Here, it breathes strongly the mountain pastures.|
|Then begins a very long descent into the forest, very difficult in places, often with slopes of more than 25%. This descent is one of the steepest on the Camino de Santiago in Switzerland, on a par with the descent to 4 Cantons lake, at Beckenried or the steep slopes that arrive at Wattwil or Schwyz.
Towards the bottom of the descent, the view opens up over the Brienz Valley and Interlaken.
|Then, much down, the pathway comes out of the forest and crosses the Dorfbach, a dry river, but where the floods must be significant, given the concrete of the protective dike.|
|Shortly after, a road takes you to the heights of Brienzwiler.|
|Brienzwiler is just a beautiful village. There is money in the canton of Bern, even among the peasants!|
|Via Jacobi crosses the village and its magnificent wooden houses of the village, real living museums in themselves. Here, these are not farms, but opulent houses, with brown facades, worn by time. The windows almost touch each other and the curtains are often embroidered. Sometimes, the houses sport small galleries under hipped roofs, decorated with geraniums, the flower symbol of the balconies of the small countries of German-speaking Switzerland.|
|At the exit of the village, the road that leads to Hostetten runs into an undergrowth. Until Brienz, the Camino de Santiago smoothens, even flattens. The road soon heads to a large riding school.|
Section 2: False flats descending towards Brienz Lake.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.
|Immediately after, Via Jacobi leaves the paved road for a dirt road that runs into an undergrowth where a stream flows in the middle of the passage. Here, the woods are mixed, made up of spruce and small hardwoods, especially beech.|
|The pathway then gets to a place called Bifing, before crossing the Eistlenbach stream a little further on. A stone’s throw away is the magnificent open-air museum of Ballenberg, which is a concentrate of the peasant architecture of Switzerland in the past..|
|Further on, the pathway leaves the wood and arrives on the tarmac at the village of Hostetten beim Brienz and its wooden houses, almost as beautiful as in Brienzwilwer.|
To say that people here know how to work with wood makes sense. At the exit of the village, a factory, specialist in wooden toys, offers amazing stylized cows.
|Via Jacobi then takes the road to Schwanden under the care of a bull of the Simmental breed.|
|Quickly, the road gives way to a wide dirt road that runs into the countryside. Here, there are only meadows, no or few crops. The region is devoted to dairy cows and the Simmental cows have largely taken over. The small gray cows (Braunvieh) of eastern Switzerland are no longer found. The Bernese peasant remains fairly attached to his original breeds and here you do not see the Holstein armies frolicking in the meadows that you’ll find further in Gruyères.|
|Then, the pathway runs through undergrowth of beech and oak trees…|
|…before going out into the countryside, where you can see Brienz Lake in front of you.|
|Shortly after, the pathway begins its descent towards Brienz, first through a small undergrowth.|
|At the exit of the wood, it passes over the heights of Lauenen, a suburb of Brienz.|
Section 3 :The beautiful crossing of Brienz.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.
|But, the pathway does not stay on the axis of the village, passing along an undergrowth where the Lammbach brook flows. Then, it crosses the Schwandenbach brook, shortly after the merger of the two streams, to find itself on the road to Brienz.|
|The road that runs through Brienz is a secondary road. The Brünig axis passes on the other side of the lake. Via Jacobi then follows the road to Brienz, then takes a smaller road to pass under the railway line and reach the lake.|
Further on, the road crosses the Glyssibach River, laid out between dykes. All the rivers that descend from the mountain, in fact canyons, carry large stones and have little or no water. But, the floods must be violent here, considering the extent of the protections put in place.
|You then arrive on the “strandweg” (path to the beach) which follows the bank. The city center is within walking distance.|
Here begins the permanent exhibition of wood carvings of which Brienz holds an international reputation. It’s just beautiful, an art that has left tradition for contemporary modern art. You are far from the eternal and traditional sculpted fountains, so present in the country.
|The “strandweg” then arrives at Brienz station. You find the Lucerne-Interlaken Express, which you left at the Brünig Pass and which made a small jump towards Meiringen at the other end of the canton, near the large passes.|
If you want to take a day off here, enjoy taking the steam train up the Rothorn mountain on incredible inclines. The view up there on the lakes and the Alps is exceptional. In good weather, of course.
|Beyond the station, Via Jacobi continues its stroll along the edge of the lake, in the middle of wooden statues, sculpted between fear, sweetness and tenderness.|
|Near the port and the beautiful wooden houses, flows the Trachtbach brook which crosses the city.|
|Via Jacobi then arrives at the center of the borough (3,000 inhabitants). You can follow the riverbank or walk up to the main street. The houses are all more charming than each other. It is really difficult to understand why tourists flock to Interlaken, in a frantic city where there is not much to see, and largely desert Brienz, a real open-air museum, calm and serene.|
|A store offers a host of sculpted objects, including small wooden cows made at the Hofstetten factory.|
|A few more statues (including one in metal, curious, isn’t it?) to put under the pupil, and Via Jacobi leaves Brienz on the side of the church.|
|It must be said clearly here. For people prone to vertigo, do not follow Via Jacobi from here. On the way, there is a rather vertiginous suspension bridge, shaking moreover. It’s not dangerous at all, but the void is important. If you belong to this category, take the train from Brienz to Oberried, where you will join the track back.
For others, Via Jacobi climbs the road behind the church near the school of woodcarvers.
|There are still some nice houses here. What soul and what poetry in these Bernese houses!|
|The road crosses the Müllibach stream, and climbs to Chilchacher hamlet. The slope is quite steep here.|
|The lake looks very small below. Here, the slope calms down and Via Jacobi goes into the undergrowth on a wide dirt road. Here, beech and maple still dominate, with sometimes also spruce.|
|Further on, the dirt road crosses the undergrowth to reach Ried, near the Hellgraben. Here, the mountain is severe and draws real canyons (in German, graben means ditch). This is aptly named. Hell means hell. You are almost there!|
Section 4 :A real gymkhana above Brienz Lake.
General overview of the difficulties of the course: leg-breaking course until you reach the suspension bridge over the canyon, then a steady descent.
|A pathway then descends on the side of the canyon towards a small farm where yaks are raised.|
|Then, it slopes up a little in the beech undergrowth to reach the reasonable canyon of Ofenbielengraben. In the region, people dread periods of flooding, for sure.|
|Immediately, the pathway climbs a little more in the undergrowth, then undulates for quite a long time in a very airy undergrowth, where you can also see maple trees…|
|…to end up near the Mattgraben canyon.|
|A little further on, hikers or pilgrims are stopped in front of a metal structure. Are they scared to cross the Unterweidligraben canyon suspension bridge? It is an impressive bridge, 70 meters long, 1 meter wide, which oscillates under the rhythm of the walkers on the bridge, but very secure. It is no problem for anyone without delusional vertigo. Feel free to look down. The void is impressive here.|
|A wide dirt road then descends for about 2 kilometers in the hardwoods. In Switzerland, oak trees are never as numerous as in France. Beech is truly the king of large hardwoods, and small maples are its overlords. There are few tall hornbeams in Switzerland, except the hornbeam sprouts which share the hedges with the hazel trees. The slope is never excessive here.|
Section 5: The track descends to Oberried, then climbs again.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: still difficult, with sometimes steep slopes.
|When Via Jacobi emerges from the woods, tar replaces dirt. You are on the heights of Oberried, a little above the lake. You can still see Brienz in the background.|
|Further down, the dirt road still crosses the discreet Hirscherenbach brook.|
…et arrive sur les hauts du village.
|From the heights of the village, it descends to cross the railway line and arrive on the road to the lake.|
There are of course some beautiful wooden houses in Oberried, but they are less numerous than in Brienzwiler which remains the reference among the villages crossed on the way.
|Via Jacobi descends to the edge of the lake and runs along the bank.|
|Then, it leaves the lake and slopes up towards the end of the village, after having crossed the small river which flows in the canyon of Louwigraben.|
Shortly after, it joins the lake road at the end of Oberried.
|Via Jacobi does not stay on the edge of the lake. A small road climbs in the countryside, with sometimes severe slopes. Along the way, you may come across yaks. .|
|Near the place called Talacher, a small dirt road replaces the tar and goes uphill in the undergrowth.|
|Here, the slope is less steep and the pathway passes the canyon of Grytgraben, without the slightest trickle of water, in dry weather.|
|No water either in the wild canyon of Farlouwigraben, at the top of the climb. What is striking in this stage is the contrast between the wildness of the canyons, almost at the end of the world, and the serene softness of the shores of the lake.|
|Shortly after, Via Jacobi begins its descent towards Niederried on a dirt road.|
|The beginning is in the undergrowth, on fairly reasonable slopes. Here, the cuts of wood are above all beech, the number 1 firewood in Switzerland.|
Section 6: The track rejoins the lake at the end of the stage.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: ups and downs, with sometimes very steep slopes.
Then, the clearings become more present, and the tar replaces the dirt.
|The village is then in sight, near the lake and the road crosses a small stream, of unknown name, at the top of the village.|
|The road then plunges towards the lake…|
|…first joining the road to the lake, in the middle of the village.|
|Now it’s raining and the rain will come with us, falling hard. Cameras are not all amphibious yet, and no shooting becomes possible.
From then on, almost by magic, we change the period, and find ourselves at the very beginning of spring on a day of good weather. .
|Via Jacobi leaves Niederried on the road that goes from Brienz to Interlaken, and at the exit of the village, it leaves the main road to climb into the forest.|
|In the region, many insignificant or terrible canyons descend from the mountain, like so many flood or avalanche traps. Here the route crosses the Weidligraben and transits a little at the edge of the forest above the road.|
|Further on, a stony pathway begins to climb steeper in the woods.|
|Here, the forest is beautiful, made up mainly of beeches, with also oaks and conifers, including pines and spruces. Beech trees are easy to identify in early spring. First the trunk is very characteristic and especially the dead leaves persist on the lower branches during the winter. We speak of marcescence for this particularity that certain trees have of keeping some leaves dry until the appearance of new ones. This characteristic will not allow you to distinguish beech from hornbeam, because they both obey the same principle, like oaks for that matter. But, as we have often repeated, great hornbeams are only rarely present in Switzerland. On the other hand, there are small offspring of hornbeams, the classic hornbeam of hedges. Hazel trees, whose leaves are very similar to those of hornbeams, often have the most abundant catkins, created in autumn as soon as the hazelnuts are produced.|
|Shortly after, the pathway flattens along blocks of gneiss under oaks and beeches. In these forests, there are gigantic pedunculate oaks, where the ivy takes pleasure in clinging to the rough ridged bark. Ivy neglects beech trees and their smooth bark more.|
|Further on, the pathway hands to a fish farm where the water flows happily.|
|Here, loggers diligently clear and manage the forest, and piles of beech and oak wood line both sides of a wide dirt road.|
|Then, the pathway leaves the forest, near a gravel pit and a sawmill, at a place called Rosswald.
|A small pathway then descends gently towards Ringgenberg, and you can see rising on the horizon in the snow, the foothills of the great 4,000 m of the Bernese Alps. Here, beautiful black cows are raised. From what origin, who knows, apart from the owner? They are not cows of the Hérens breed, the beautiful black breed of Switzerland. It looks like angus, or Salers. But, there are also black Simmental cows.
|Then appears on the way a curious crew of hikers. Goats as luggage carriers, this is the first time that we have been given to witness such a spectacle.|
|Then, the tar will replace the dirt road descending gradually towards the village, of which you can more and more guess the castle.|
|Here, people have a certain passion for dry stone walls, which are erected with schists, granites and gneisses, which crop out everywhere in the region.|
|The small road then reaches the village, passing above the cantonal road and the railway line.|
|Via Jacobi crosses the cantonal road and heads towards the station. So, here, we will follow the railway line, in the direction of the castle.|
|You’ll run under the castle-church of Ringgenberg.|
|The lords of Brienz erected a castle on the hill in the XIIIth century. Then, after a local revolt, the castle was destroyed and in the XVIIth century a church was erected, the current church. At the end of the 1XIXth century, a clock and an organ were added to it, which became famous because Felix Mendelssohn played there.|
|Ringgenberg (2,700 inhabitants) is a large borough, essentially made up of wooden houses of all ages. The only problem with this village is that it is crossed right through by the cantonal road. But there are very nice houses here.|
|The masonry part is usually very discreet and the wood almost always touches the ground. Some houses are still covered with shingles or have wooden moldings.|
In a large part of the canton, land use planning must be very strict. The Bernese peasant is proud of his houses and for new constructions, apparently wood must be used, in the hope that it will age as well as in the houses of yesteryear.
Lodging on Via Jacobi
|Accueil jacquaire, dinner, breakfast||Pilgerherberge, Dorfstrasse 4||076 473 90 93|
|Guestroom, breakfast||B&B Brienzwiler, Kreuzgasse 3||033 951 01 23/079 517 64 48|
|Guestroom (straw), dinner, petit déj,||Chr. Abplanalp, Eichhof||033 951 14 51/ 079 434 43 70|
|Hotel, dinner, breakfast||Hotel Bären, Brunigstrasse 42||033 951 13 23|
Hofstetten bei Brienz
|Guestroom, dinner, breakfast||Landgasthof Alpenrose, Dorfstrasse 27c||033 951 14 10|
|Guestroom, dinner, breakfast||Silvia Fuchs, Scheideweg 19d||033 951 14 18|
|Youth hostel, dinner, breakfast||Jugendherberge, Strandweg 10||033 951 11 52|
|Bungalow, dinner, breakfast||Campingplatz Aaareg, Seestrasse 22||033 951 18 43|
|Guestroom, breakfast||B&B Flühmann, Rosenweg 5||033 951 26 01|
|Hotel, dinner, breakfast||Brienzerburli, Hauptstrasse 11||033 951 12 41|
|Hotel***, dinner, breakfast||Hotel Brienz, Hauptstrasse 254||033 951 35 51|
|Hotel***, dinner, breakfast||Hotel Seehotel Bären, Hauptstrasse 22||033 951 24 12|
|Hotel***, dinner, breakfast||Seehotel Sternen, Hauptstrasse 22||033 951 35 45|
|Hotel***, dinner, breakfast||Hotel Weisses Kreuz, Hauptstrasse 143||033 952 20 20|
|Guestroom, dinner, breakfast||Stauffer Sonja, Grauechstrasse 7||033 849 15 21/079 525 43 34|
|Guestroom, dinner, breakfast||Urs & Elsbeth Streuli, Untergasse 18||0323 849 14 44|
|Studio, cuisine, breakfast||Panoramastudio, Panoramastrasse 4||078 952 10 21|
|Hotel, dinner, breakfast||Hotel Rössli, Hauptstrasse 35||033 849 11 54|
|Hotel, breakfast||Hotel Bellevue, Hauptstrasse 32||079 123 45 67|
|Bungalow, breakfast||Camping Talacher||033 822 11 28|
|Guestroom, breakfast||B&B Leuchtturm, Hauptstrasse 172||079 359 98 35|
|Hotel**, dinner, breakfast||Hotel Bären, Hauptstrasse 128||033 822 19 31|
|Hotel, breakfast||Hotel Brienzersee, Beudenstrasse 49||033 822 29 42|
|Hotel**, dinner, breakfast||Hotel Seeburg, Seeburg 55||033 822 29 61|
|There is no difficulty of finding accommodation on this stage. Book anyway for security.|
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