11: Spiez to Wattenwil

A beautiful walk in the Bernese countryside

 

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-spiez-a-Wattenenwil-par-la-via-jacobi-34389161

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.

Berner Oberland occupies the entire south of the canton of Bern. The heart of this region is Interlaken, between the two lakes of Brienz and Thun. But, it also continues further west with the Simmental, the country of origin of the big cows of the same name, and to the north in the Thun region. Your route today follows these axes, to arrive at Wattenwil, a small agricultural village in the district of Thun, on the border of the canton of Fribourg. Today, you’ll cross a country of a more agricultural nature, and cheese holds a large place in the region. The beautiful houses are always present.

Difficulty of the course: Slope variations today (+411 meters/-363 meters) are very reasonable. It is a course without any difficulty, with slight ups and downs, even if the slope is rarely a little more accentuated near the Kander River or at the start of the course on the hill of Spiezberg. Warning! It is very difficult to find accommodation in Wattenwil. Take your precautions and book in advance. Fortunately, the number of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago in Switzerland is limited.

Routes on paved roads slightly exceed routes on pathways:

  • Paved roads: 12.6 km
  • Dirt roads: 9.2 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: On Spitzberg, above the city.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: some serious slopes to reach the hill, then course without problem.

 

 

Most accommodation is in town and Spiez is a hilly town. You probably noticed the day before. It is therefore necessary to slope down to the harbor to continue the route.
This morning, bad weather is announced and the port is dark. But for the moment, it is hardly raining and the sun accompanies you. Via Jacobi leaves Spiez through the high gate of the castle which you may have visited the day before, at least what is open.
It leaves the castle and slopes up Schlossstrasse. Here, a sign directs you to the Homeland and Vineyard Museum (Heimat und Rebbaummuseum).
Via Jacobi bends to the right on Rebbergweg, but you can slope up a lane higher on Spiezbergstrasse, where the beautiful museum house is located. From there you can return to the Rebbergweg. Whichever option you choose, you must take the route that climbs up to Spiezberg, and not turn back up to the station. The Rebbergweg at the start is a small road that slopes up through the vineyards.
Soon, a paved pathway replaces the road. As you slope up, you can clearly see the town of Spiez, its castle and its harbor.
Then higher up, Via Jacobi climbs small stairs to the top of the vines to reach the edge of the Spiezberg forest.
A small dirt road will first run along the edge and then enter the beech forest. There are sometimes a few rare oaks and ash trees, even chestnut trees.

On the other side of the hill, you can see Thun Lake and the famous Justistal valley above Merlingen. This valley is famous for its “Chästeilet“, which has been taking place for almost 300 years. At the end of summer, the cheese is distributed among the farmers in a ritual observed for centuries. But, there are not only shepherds present. Hundreds of cheese lovers also go there to buy the precious trophies.

The pathway climbs gently through the forest until it almost reaches the top of the mountain, let’s say the hill.

Here you climbed 100 meters above the lake.

From there, the dirt road descends gently into the forest.
At the exit of the forest, a small road crosses the suburbs on the heights of Spiez.
From up there you can see the lake and even Interlaken in the distance.
Further down, a small pathway leads to a tunnel that runs under Thunstrasse.
Right next to it, Via Jacobi leaves the town of Spiez, passing under the railway line at a place called Spiezmoos Nord. It took almost 4 kilometers to cross the city on the heights.

Via Jacobi then flattens on a small road that leads to Einingen, but quickly leaves the road for the undergrowth.
A pathway then wanders through the woods. Beech is the king of the forests here, with here and there a few maples and spruces.
The forest pathway which quickly becomes a small dirt road will undulate for quite a long time sometimes in the forest, sometimes in more open spaces.
When the forest opens up, you can see the lake, with the Justistal in the background. The railway line passes close by.
On leaving the wood, Via Jacobi joins a small road in the hamlet of Riederen.

Section 2: Near the lake and the Kander River.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without difficulty, except little steep at the passage of the river.

 

 

Riederen is a small hamlet with beautiful houses including a magnificent guest house in stone and wood.
Then, Via Jacobi leaves the road and slopes down through the fields towards the railway line.
It crosses the railway track near the hamlet of Chumm. Here you have the lake and the Justistal in front of you. Via Jacobi descends onto Thunstrasse, the cantonal road that passes on this side of the lake.
At the bottom of the descent, the road then flattens to the entrance of the village of Einingen and then enters the lake part of the village.
At the entrance to the village, the bar-restaurant is also a shop, arranged with taste, which offers a range of heterogeneous products.
The road crosses the village, arrives near the small church of St Michel, whose source healed the sick. It was an important VIIth century church, the mother of the 12 churches that were erected in the Thun region. The current building dates from the XIth century, transformed in the XVth century. The interior is sober. It is no longer a Catholic church, but a temple, the canton of Bern having adopted the Protestant confession at the Reformation.
But now the rain will suddenly change the landscape and we walked to Wattenwil in the pouring rain. So, from here let’s go back to the stage at a nicer period of time.

Via Jacobi slopes up to the Thunstrasse, crosses the road, then continues to climb in the part of the village located above the road, where it then passes under the railway line. Be careful here, as there are many direction signs. Always take the direction of Via Jacobi 4.

Then, it runs along the railway line above the village.
A small road descends to find stairs that lead to an undergrowth.
The vegetation is exuberant in the undergrowth where beeches, oaks, maples and hornbeam reign. The slope is steep to descend to the river.
The pathway in the wild grass leads to the Kander River and its wild waters, in a deep gorge. The river originates in the Bernese Oberland, flows near Spiez and empties into Thun Lake. Here, the suspension bridge is less scary than the one previously encountered in the canyons on the Brienz side.
Beyond the bridge, the pathway climbs steeply in the dark wood. Nearby, the railway line also crosses the river.
Sometimes in climbing stairs help the walker. The pathway soon emerges from the undergrowth, finding a small road.
But, Via Jacobi does not follow the road and climbs on a wide dirt road towards the hill to the place called Stattligturm, close to the houses of the large village of Gwatt.
An adorable little pathway then flattens through the grass on the top of the hill. Further on, lies the city of Thun and its castle, at the end of the lake.
Great hornbeams can be found here, which is rare in Switzerland, where above all beeches dominate the landscape. The pathway stays on the ridge above Gwatt, one of Thun’s suburbs.
On the left of the track, you see the small mountains of the foothills of the Bernese Alps. Further on, the pathway soon reaches the end of the ridge.
It then descends from the ridge, heading to a place called Gwategg, a stone’s throw from Gwatt.

Section 3: Over hill and dale in the Bernese countryside.

 

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: some sloping passages before finding an easier route.

 

A wide dirt road then descends towards an undergrowth where there are almost only fine and slender beech trees
Behind the undergrowth, where in the clearings you can also see ash trees, a species not very abundant in Switzerland, Via Jacobi crosses the motorway that connects Interlaken and Bern.
Just after, it runs to a place called Alti Schlyffi, where it crosses the Glütschbach stream. Here you are a good hour’s walk to Amsoldingen, the most important village in the region.
Further afield, Via Jacobi dawdles for a very short time on the road before finding a dirt road that begins to climb in the hardwoods.
The dirt road passes higher near the first farms of Bodmatt.
The entire crossing of these farms is on a steep slope, in the middle of meadows and a few fruit trees.
A little up, the dirt gives way to tar near the beautiful houses at the exit of Bodmatt.
Shortly after, the small road joins the main road which climbs towards Asmoldingen.
Via Jacobi then follows the gently sloping road in the middle of the houses, many of which are undoubtedly occupied by the peasants. Traffic is gentle on the axis.
Further on, it leaves the road for a pathway that heads below into the forest.
The forest is beautiful here, relaxing. Maples rival the venerable beeches in height and scope.
Further on, the pathway leaves the woods in the meadows and flattens along the trees, where there are many hazel trees in the middle of the spruces, hardwoods and hornbeam sprouts.
You may hear gunshots in the area. No, it’s not hunters, it’s soldiers from the great fortress of Thun who practice shooting in the forest below. It makes noise, it looks like war.
Further on, Via Jacobi leaves the woods and heads to Tannacher hamlet in the middle of the Simmentals. These cows do not always have the same color, and the coat can vary from white to brown. The people here are undoubtedly true patriots, and it is very common to see a large Swiss flag planted in front of the farm.
Here you are a stone’s throw to Amsoldingen and tar replaces dirt near Aarbach village.
This part of the country is countryside, real countryside. Soon you see the steeple of Amsoldingen in the near horizon.

Section 4: Meadows, cows and lakes, that’s the program.

 

 

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

 

Then, the road arrives fairly quickly in the relatively new housing estates of Amsoldingen (800 inhabitants). The construction of these new districts, where many commuters live, probably working for the most part in Thun, has altered the originally agricultural and artisanal character of the municipality.
In the center of the village, there are magnificent and incredible wooden houses, the century of construction of which cannot be determined. If you have time, stop at the restaurant in the village. The fondue is just exceptional. Or stop by the cheese dairy where you will find delicious cheeses from the region, including Alpkäse (alp cheese). This will comfort you in the idea that there are still peasants here.
The Saint-Maurice collegiate church, where the remains of a VIIth century church have been found, was built in the Xth century in pre-Romanesque style. The interior is remarkable. The church, which has undergone several transformations, especially on the outside, is part of a complex comprising a castle, rather a private manor house today, and agricultural buildings.
Via Jacobi leaves the village behind the castle in a set of old wooden houses that inspire fullness and happiness. We can never say enough about the major effort of those responsible for spatial planning in this part of the canton of Bern. Even new wooden houses already look a little old.
Shortly after, the road leaves in the middle of the countryside, skirting in the distance the lake of Amsoldingen which you hardly see, in a setting which has probably not changed for centuries. Sometimes, but it is rare, the peasants planted some cereals, undoubtedly for the cattle.
And the small road flattens, quiet, in the middle of the meadows, along these jewels of farms.
But farms still carry on the roadside enchantment. Some have an awning characteristic of certain parts of the canton of Bern. You will never get tired of this open-air vernacular heritage.
Via Jacobi is now approaching Uebeschi and the road runs along Uebeschi Lake, on the side of the road.
Then the country opens out on a kind of large plateau, with few undulations, where there are only meadows, so to speak never crops. The cows should eat grass first and foremost here, not corn.
Uebeschi is a stone’s throw away, on the road.
It is a smaller village than Asmoldingen, more compact, with old farms, but also new houses. Here also some local people have to work in Thun or even in Bern.
The road climbs to more than 10% slope to leave the village.

Section 5: Meadows, cows and streams, that’s the program.

 

 

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

 

At the exit of Uebeschi, a small road leads into the countryside. Here, a little statistic for the pleasure of being in the countryside. The canton of Bern alone has nearly a quarter of the country’s farms (11,000/55,000) and dairy cows (123,000/587,000). By comparison, Geneva has less than 1,000 cows!
The paved road, but little attention is paid to it here, undulates in the countryside. The gaze lingers rather on the Simmental cows in the meadows, the magnificent farms. Sometimes a few fruit trees have been planted. Wherever you look the hills are just farmhouses that fade into the horizon.
Soon the road passes at a place called Honegg, half an hour’s walk from Blumenstein.
Further on, the road begins to descend into the dale.
It passes near the magnificent farms of the place called It passes near the magnificent farms of the place called Schubhus.
Shortly after, a pathway and a small road alternate when the Via Jacobi heads towards Bühl.
In all these hamlets, harmony reigns between the beautiful farms and the old bourgeois houses preserved with great care.
The pathway then plunges into the exuberant vegetation to reach the Fallbach stream.
The walk is then pleasant along the stream to the first houses of Mühle.
Here again there is a collection of remarkable houses, farmhouses for the most part, often with geraniums in the windows.
The walk then continues along the stream, sometimes wild, sometimes irrigated, to Blumenstein.
At the entrance to the village, Via Jacobi passes on the other side of the stream.
When you see pinnacles in the canton of Bern, they are most often administrative buildings. You are in a Protestant country and churches are rarer than temples.
Via Jacobi then crosses the village, along the Fallbach brook. An extraordinary house borders the road. It must be said that in German-speaking Switzerland, and more particularly in the canton of Bern, galloping town planning has avoided the establishment of these lice of new housing estates, without character, which youe find today at the outskirts of many villages, especially in French-speaking Switzerland. But, it must also be said that here remain above all peasants, even if the city of Thun is only about ten kilometers away.
At the exit of the village, Via Jacobi follows the road that leads to Wattenwil for a while, but at a place called Blumenstein Bad, it abandons the road for a dirt road that flattens through meadows and farms.
There is also maize here, which is rare in this part of German-speaking Switzerland, where there is hardly anything but meadows and cows. Here, the farms are sometimes a little more modern, more functional, but that’s also rare.

Section 6: Stroll along the river.

 

 

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

 

The dirt road then gradually approaches an undergrowth.
As soon as you enter the undergrowth, the pathway crosses the Fallbach brook for the last time, lost in the green of the bushes, which here joins a larger river, the Gürbe, which flows through the undergrowth.
The forest is beautiful here again, dark and restful, under tall beeches, maples, oaks and sometimes spruces.
Further on, you hear the muffled sound of a river grow louder and the pathway will graze the Gürbe River.
At the exit of the undergrowth, the pathway arrives at Sägerei (The Sawmill), where a wooden bridge is thrown over the Gürbe River. It looks like an old bridge, but it is of recent construction, dating from the end of the last century.
Here you are a stone’s throw to Wattenwil, less than 30 minutes away. Then, a nice and pleasant pathway flattens along the river in the deciduous undergrowth. Sometimes you see the river cascading over the stones.
The pathway passes in front of the platzgen club, a Bernese sport which consists of throwing large leaden stars into a target of wet dirt, a sport listed as an intangible heritage by UNESCO. On the horizon, Wattenwil is getting closer, but you guess that it is a very spread out and very dispersed village.
The pathway then gradually approaches the village.
You will abandon the soft murmur of the river when the dirt road joins the road at the entrance to the village.
Some beautiful patrician houses are present in the village (2,850 inhabitants). But, there is not much to see or do here. The village is less elegant than those you passed through today. It is just more functional, with shops. The only difficulty is relative to the accommodation available. There is no more accommodation at the hotel, which is now only a restaurant. There are only two guest houses in the village, and another one 1 km further, after a serious climb. So, decide in advance if you don’t want to sleep under the stars. Fortunately, few pilgrims cross Switzerland. But if the Camino de Santiago in Switzerland were to develop further, there is still a lot of work to provide accommodation for walkers.

Lodging on Via Jacobi

Einigen
Guestroom, dinner, breakfast Rosmarie et Walter Loosli, Höhenstrasse 75 033 654 34 73/

079 659 44 73

Zwieselberg
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Andreas Habegger, Bühl 59 033 657 25 29/ 079 257 68 02
Guestroom, dinner, breakfast Sonja Allenspach, Unerre Gasse 55 079 526 37 38
Amsoldingen
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Dora Keller, Dorfstrasse 20 033 341 17 64/079 227 36 64
Guestroom, dinner, breakfast Rosmarie Hirschi, Waldeweg 3 033 341 12 77/079 762 50 43
Guestroom, dinner, breakfast Erich und Marianne Liechti, Steghalten 22 033 341 12 74
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Gasthof Kreuz 033 341 11 60
Uebeschi
Guestroom, breakfast Mathilda Abegglen, Untermosi 96 033 345 63 28/079 516 57 11
Guestroom, dinner, breakfast B&B Berger, Lidenbühl 164 033 345 77 85/ 077 418 64 90
Blumenstein
Camping, breakfast Camping Platz, Badstrasse 26 033 356 21 54
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Jozefina Trachsel, Wäsemligasse 3 033 356 05 83
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Casa Sotero, Riedbachstrasse 1 033 356 29 29
Guestroom, breakfast Evelin Winzenreid, Allmedstrasse 16 078 744 01 85
Guestroom, petit déj B&B Zbinde.-Bàahler, Wäsemligasse 7 033 356 16 09
Hotel, dinner, peti déj. Gasthof Bären, Bärenstutz 5 033 356 46 36
Wattenwil
Guestroom, dinner, breakfast B&B Künzi, Hofmattweg 2 033 356 19 09/079 660 11 27
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Gerber, Gmeissstrasse 4 033 356 17 15
Guestroom, breakfast Brigitte Liechti, Burgisteinstrasse 5a 033 356 12 34/079 734 58 60
It’s difficult to find accommodation at the end of the stage. Book anyway.
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 12: From  Wattenwil to Schwarzenburg

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