10: Ringgenberg to Spiez

Along Brienz and Thun Lakes

 

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-ringgenberg-a-merlingen-spiez-par-la-via-jacobi-4-32201909

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.

Interlaken, as the name says, is the city between two lakes. It is a magnificent, enchanting site, no one will be able to deny it. The lakes of Brienz and Thun which join on the outskirts of the city, the wonderful 4,000 snow-covered mountains all year round overlooking the lakes, you quickly understand why Interlaken attracts so many tourists, especially Asians and Arabs.

But, so it is with many beautiful places, tourism here is no more than a big business. The bulk of the business is concentrated on the Höheweg, the main artery of the city, with its multitude of luxury boutiques, watchmakers and **** hotels. Some restaurants display menus in more than 10 languages, including three different Asian ones. Because here, Japanese, Chinese, and other Asians rub shoulders without problem with the rich from Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia or the Arab Emirates. Hotels provide prayer rugs, with rooms sometimes equipped with compasses, to easily find the direction of Mecca. Cruises on Lake Brienz offer a halal buffet. There are over 5,000 beds available in Interlaken. Today, the Tourist Office registers more than 100,000 overnight stays from Arab customers. One sometimes has the feeling, walking around without the city, of being in Abu Dhabi. Here, the free trains circulate constantly between the two stations located at the two ends of the city, a train also connected to Lucerne, the other tourist destination par excellence in the country, a train that, many times, the opportunity to cross in the previous steps.

However, the pilgrim can avoid all this mess. The route runs along the AareRiver and only enters the city marginally. It only runs through Unterseeen, the less touristy part of the city, to reach the shore of Thun Lake, run later through the famous caves of Beatenberg, before plunging back to Meiringen, on the edge of the lake. There, the pilgrim has no other choice, if he wants to go to Santiago di Compostela, to take the boat to Spiez, on the other side of the lake.

Difficulty of the course: Slope variations today (+469 meters/-463 meters) are very reasonable. It is a course without any difficulty, almost flattening until Neuhaus. Thereafter, ups and downs are a little more demanding, especially near the caves of Beatenberg, where the slope is tough.

In this stage, the routes on the pathways are clearly more numerous than those following the paved road:

  • Paved roads: 4.5 km
  • Dirt roads: 12.6 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 few undulations before reaching the river and the city.

 

 

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

 

Rainy day over Ringgenberg and Brienz Lake. So, we will do as for the previous stage, tell you the beginning of the stage by borrowing images taken at another time of the year, at the beginning of spring, on a day of great weather.
Via Jacobi leaves Ringgenberg near the church on a small road that starts where the Lucerne-Interlaken Express rushes into a tunnel.
The road quickly turns into a tarred path and climbs, quite steeply, towards the heights of the village in a small spaced grove where small beeches grow.

Further on, the pathway passes over the railway track, which plays with the tunnels a little above the lake.

 

It then reaches the top of the hill, and there, a road flattens on the hill.
Here, the road runs along opulent residences, with breathtaking views of Brienz Lake and the mountains opposite.
Further on, the road reaches the forest until you find a pathway that descends towards the lake.
The slope is steep on a small pathway shaded by tall trees. Here, the beeches compete with the oaks and the spruces are not outdone vis-à-vis the Scots pines.
Shortly after, the slope is less tough on a pleasant and bucolic track as desired.
Further down, the slope increases again on the small pathway that will run under the cliffs.
The railway track comes out of the tunnel here, and the path will follow the track for a few hundred meters.
On the horizon is the bridge over which the train circulates, crossing the Aare River, the great Bernese river that flows from Lake Brienz to reach Lake Thun and empty into the Rhine River, much further.
Since it has stopped raining and we can remake images, let’s go back to a time when there is chlorophyll on the trees!
The pathway runs alongside the railway line until it crosses the river. It is here that the Aare River emerges from Brienz Lake.
Here the route descends to the edge of the river, where a few small pleasure boats are parked. It passes through small housing estates belonging to the village of Goldswil, located on the heights of the lake.
The route soon passes under the arches of the large bridge where the cantonal road from Ringgenberg to Interlaken-West runs.

This is where the large cruise ships on Lake Brienz are stowed, because downstream the Aare River is no longer navigable.

On the other side of the river are the luxury hotels, one next to the other.

Interlaken is 5,700 inhabitants. But how many tourists per day? Thousands, probably more. It is the tourist city where mainly Asians and Arabs flock. You can make the detour out of curiosity, if you are interested in seeing luxury boutiques and grand hotels. There is hardly anything else to see in Interlaken. On the other hand, in terms of walks, it is a kind of paradise. Trains depart from Interlaken-Ost station in the Jungfrau region to the famous resorts of Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen or Wengen, with its famous Lauberhorn ski races. And then, with the revolving restaurant on the Schilthorn, there is, above all, the climb to Kleine Scheidegg, opposite the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, which ends at 3,500 meters with an underground metro and an elevator to the Sphinx, an observatory. Magic, the word is not too strong.

The walk on the right bank of the river is very pleasant, often uncrowded by the flow of tourists, who can be found on the other side of the river, between the hotels and the shops. The railway line crosses the river again here, to reach Interlaken East.
A little further on, a large bridge leads to Interlaken-Ost and its shops.
Beyond the large bridge, a small paved pathway follows the bank, heads to the swimming pool, where a small bridge allows you to cross the river.
The crossing of Interlaken is quite long, with almost 4 kilometers. Then, the course continues on the bank. The railway line crosses over to the other side.

Section 2: From Brienz Lake to Thun Lake.

 

 

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

 

Via Jacobi then approaches Unterseen, the most interesting part of the city.
It then arrives at Goldey Bridge, which marks the boundary between the municipalities of Interlaken-Ost and Unterseen, which, in fact, are one. It is the historic heart of the city. Here, in the middle of a beautiful little square, stands the old town hall.

In Interlaken, the Aare River has several locks. One of them is located here, at Goldey Bridge. If you cross the bridge over Spielmatte, you will arrive at Interlaken-West station, the terminus of the Lucerne-Interlaken tourist line. Another line goes further to Spiez, then Thun.

 

Via Jacobi heads in the other direction, towards Unterseen.
Initially, it stays in town, then takes small back roads in the suburb of Unterseen, crossing the hospital.
Further on, it leaves the suburbs on an alley of horse chestnut trees, joins the Aare River near a small bridge, but does not cross it.
Here Via Jacobi sets off for a long dirt walk along the Aare River to Thun Lake. Brienz Lake and Thun Lake are not contiguous. Only the Aare River makes the connection. But, the Aare River, given the many bridges, is not navigable. From then on, you take the boat either to Brienz or to Thun. In Interlaken-West, the boats leave for Thun Lake, but do not go down the Aare River. A channel parallel to the river, the Beatushöhlen-Interlaken West, is used for navigation.
Almost at the end of a long straight line, black with riders, the dirt road passes under a road axis where the two roads that will run along the two sides of the lake intersect. The main axis goes to Spiez, then Thun. The secondary axis, which you’ll follow, much less frequented, goes to Thun by the other bank.
Immediately after, the dirt road arrives at the ruins of Weissenau, the little that remains of a fortified castle erected in the XIIth century.

It then follows a golf course for a short time, then heads to a small pathway in the reeds of the lake, among wild ducks, in the protected park of Weissenau.
Serenity reigns in the beautiful nature park of Weissenau, where small bridges are thrown over the marshes.

Section 3: Strolling by the lake before the effort.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: walk, then some new canyons, and then tough climb to Beatenberg caves.

 

The walk is beautiful in the reeds and bushes. On the Thun Lake, you see pines appear, which you have rarely seen on the way so far.

On leaving the park, you can see Spiez in front of you at the other end of the lake and the mountain of Beatenberg, on your right, where the route runs.

Shortly after, Via Jacobi arrives in Neuhaus, at the end of a golf course, near a small marina.
Here you do not risk getting lost with the number of signs that show the way. You are 1 hour walk to the caves of Beatenberg and almost 3 hours to Merligen, where you will take the boat to Spiez.
Beyond the marina, a small dirt road climbs to find a tunnel that goes under the road to the lake. The road that goes to Thun is a secondary road.
Here, Via Jacobi crosses the Lombach, a stream that must sometimes be devastating to see the protective dikes.
It then follows the road to the lake a bit…
…before heading to a small undergrowth, just above the road, in the middle of leafy trees and pines.
You guess by looking in the distance that the paved road is tortuous and that there are many structures to pass over the lake.
Further on, Via Jacobi slopes back down to the road and runs a few hundred meters in its company.
But, it does not stay long on the sidewalk, along the road. Quite quickly, a small road, then a dirt road, descends towards the lake.
At the edge of the lake is the hamlet of Sundlauenen. You guess that here, there are apparently a lot of second homes.
Immediately, the route will undulate in the forest, crossing in series the large canyon of Sundgraben, then the smaller of Fitzligraben. You crossed beyond the Brünig Pass, an impressive series of these canyons which descend from the mountain above the two lakes. They are in fact more than potential streams, narrow canyons, with sometimes steep sides, where large floods are capable of piling up enormous quantities of stones or tree trunks, or avalanche paths in winter.

Shortly after, the pathway passes to the other end of Sundlauenen. Here you can try your hand at checking the weather the way it was used in prehistoric times.

Sundlauenen is at the foot of the caves, under the lake road which goes through tunnels. Here, the sweetness of life reigns.

The Camino de Santiago has been accommodating with the pilgrim today, being almost flat so far. But here is a sign announcing the caves of Beatenberg. So here the life of the pilgrim will change. The slopes will become tough, very demanmding. But not long…

First, a small pathway climbs through the undergrowth to find the road to the lake, above the village.
Higher up, the pathway leaves above the road which twists in the cliff above the void.
So here, it’s just fun. Small stairs pass under the cliff, with a view overlooking the lake.

Section 4: On the flanks of Thun Lake.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: leg-breaking track, up and down, with often marked slopes.

Benches have been fitted out to relieve the walker.

Then, the slope softens a little and a paved pathway leads to the caves.

There are several of St Beatus, which date back to legends from the very early Middle Ages, between the XIIh and XVIth centuries. The French Saint Beatus is said to have crushed the head of a serpent in a cave. Ours, St Beatus of Lungern, finding refuge here, would have chased away a fearsome dragon.
Illuminated alleys, up to 1000 meters inside the mountain, allow to discover the underground waterfalls, the stalagmites and the stalactites. The caves also house a prehistoric site and the cell of Saint Beatus. If you have the time or the interest, go for it. The tourist has to try a little harder from the parking lot to access the caves. The pilgrim does not care. He has already climbed and the Jacobi starts again from the heights.

IHere, all around the site, the pathways are paved. The ordinary tourist does not like to walk in the mud of the roads.
For the pilgrim, a small pathway descends, sometimes steep, on the other side of the caves to cross the Choltbach stream.
It descends until it finds itself at the entrance to a huge quarry, apparently little used, but immediately slopes up again to skirt the quarry. This is the only boring moment of a stage which otherwise takes place on very beautiful tracks.
At the top of the quarry, the gravel road slopes down again in hardwoods and conifers.
At the bottom of the short descent, the pathway finds a wooden bridge thrown over the Budelbach brook. The water hardly flows here either. It is little more than a canyon that plunges into the lake.
Then, the slope becomes tougher, and the pathway descends to get closer to the lake. Behind the pines, you see a few rare houses by
The pathway will then oscillate, most of the time steeply downhill in a forest composed mainly of deciduous trees, where beeches dominate, as generally in Swiss forests.

Shortly after, the pathway reaches the place called Nastel. Here you are half an hour’s walk to Merlingen. Everywhere, directions are given to climb Beatenberg, where there is a high station overlooking the lake.

For a few moments the slope calms down along the stone walls.
A little further on, the pathway crosses over the railway line which rises from Beatenbucht, at the edge of the lake. The little train climbs to Beatenberg mountain.
Further on, the slope becomes steeper again on the way.

The pathway then arrives at the place called Fischbalme, where you can still climb the Beatenberg mountain or descend to the edge of the lake at Beatenbucht.

Here, Via Jacobi continues straight until you see Merligen below.
A small road then descends towards Merlingen. On the other side of the lake, you can see Spiez. Along the way, the road crosses the Grönbach brook.
Merlingen is a few shops, a large hotel, which is unsurprisingly called Beatus.

But, for the pilgrim, it is above all a landing stage, as big as a pocket handkerchief, which makes it possible to reach Spiez, on the other side of the lake. Here, there is a boat, at least every hour. The crossing is short, with a stopover at Faulensee, also on the other side of the lake.

When you’ll arrive at the harbor of Spiez, you have the castle in front of you. Stairs lead to the castle.
The castle of Spiez and its church form an ensemble of great artistic value. Already mentioned in the VI IIth century, the church was rebuilt around the year 1000 in Romanesque style, and was endowed in the XIIIth century with mural paintings. It served as a parish church until the beginning of the XXth century. The castle, from the same period, has an imposing Romanesque keep, but main buildings in Gothic and Baroque style, exterior and interior. The city is not extraordinary and extends all in length and in height until the top of the hill, near the station, which is the nerve center of it.

 

Lodging on Via Jacobi

 
Interlaken
Guestroom, dinner, breakfast Camping Interlaken, Brienzstrasse 033 822 44 34
Youth hostel, dinner, breakfast Jugendherberge, Untere Bönigstrasse 3 033 826 10 90
Guestroom, breakfast Backpapers Villa Sonnenhof, Alpenstrasse 16 033 822 16 43
Hotel, breakfast Hotel Alplodge, Marktgasse 59 033 822 47 48
Hotel, breakfast Hotel Alphorn, Rothornstrasse 29 033 822 30 51
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Happy Inn Lodge, Rosenstrasse 17 033 822 32 35
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Hotel Artos, Alpenstrasse 45 033 828 88 44
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Hotel Stella, General Guisan Strasse 2 033 822 88 71
Hotel***, dinner, breakfast City Oberland, Hoheweg 7 033 827 87 87
Hotel****, dinner, breakfast Hotel Royal St Georges, Höheweg 139 033 822 75 75
Hotel****, dinner, breakfast Hotel Carlton Europe, Höheweg 94 033 826 01 60
Hotel****, dinner, breakfast Hotel du Lac, Höheweg 225 033 822 29 22
Hotel****, dinner, breakfast Hotel Krebs, Bahnhof 4 033 826 03 30
Hotel****, breakfast Hotel Bellevue, Marktgasse 59 033 822 44 31
Hotel****, breakfast Hotel du Nord, Höheweg 70 033 827 50 50
Unterseen
Guestroom, breakfast Anette Schüssler, Schulhausstrasse 5 33 821 68 86/079 555 92 10
Hotel**, dinner, breakfast Hotel Rössli, Hauptstrasse 10 033 822 78 16
Hotel***, dinner, breakfast Sunny Days, Helvetiastrasse 29 033 822 83 43
Hotel***, breakfast Landhotel Golf, Seestrasse 31 033 821 00 70
Hotel***, breakfast Hotel Beausite, Seestrasse 16 033 826 75 75
Neuhaus
Bungalow, breakfast Camping Manor Farm, Seestrasse 033 822 22 64
Hotel***, dinner, breakfast Neuhaus Golf und Strandhotel, Seestrasse 121 033 822 82 82
Sundlauenen
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Gratwohl, Waldhaus 974 033 251 15 34/079 555 92 10
Hotel**, dinner, breakfast Hotel Beatus, Staatstrasse 985A 033 841 16 24
Merlingen
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Gasthaus Traube, Seestrasse 225 033 251 15 34
Hotel*****, dinner, breakfast Hotel Beatus, Seestrasse300 033 748 04 34
Spiez
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Eva Frei, Studweidstrasse 38 033 655 05 66
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Tschirren-Müller, Eigerweg 17 033 654 53 93
Guestroom, breakfast Susanne et Matthias Malbach, Lochmühleweg 3 033 655 00 38/ 079 405 01 52
Guestroom, dinner, breakfast B&B Kunz, Thunstrasse 98 033 654 14 92/078 657 89 10
Hotel, breakfast Gasthaus Seeblick, Schachenstrasse 43 033 650 81 81
Hotel**, dinner, breakfast Hotel Seegaten. Schachemstrasse 3 033 655 67 67
Hotel**, dinner, breakfast Hotel Bellevue, Seestrase 36 033 654 84 64
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 11: From Spiez to Wattenwil

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