12: Wattenwil to Schwarzenburg

Almost at the end of the canton of Bern

 

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-wattenwil-a-schwarzenberg-par-la-via-jacobi-4-32231873

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 will first pass through the last villages of the district of Thun before crossing most of the countryside and the small villages of the district of Schwarzenburg, bordered to the east by the Scharzwasser River and to the west by the Sengine River, the Sense in German. This region has a particular history, having been sold in equal parts, in the XVth century, by the Dukes of Savoy to the two cantons of Fribourg and Bern. It was then that began the hard period of the double reign which was to last until 1798. This period had an extremely detrimental influence on the development of this small isolated state, often resulting in great poverty, because neither Bern nor Fribourg were disposed to invest a lot in the country. The Swiss constitution of 1798 attributed to the city of Bern alone the total annexation of the region of Schwarzenburg. From now on, Schwarzenburg is a Bernese district.

Having done the route of the Way of Compostela several times, we favored the routes made in clear weather. But, we can also have another, more realistic point of view. The rain also has its charm and the landscapes change. “Morning rain does not stop the pilgrim” is a well-known saying. When we did this stage, the rain was heavy, almost no longer seeing the track. It is therefore difficult to present images where the objective is no more than a large drop of water. So, we redid some parts of the route on a less cloudy day. You will therefore have the feeling of living in a strange universe, traversing the same landscape in very different climates, but that does not change the message, which is to comment and show the route. Let’s sing in the rain!

Difficulty of the course: Slope variations (+588 meters/-392 meters) are quite significant for a relatively short stage. But the most demanding slopes are spread throughout the day. First there is the initial climb above Wattenwil, the most tough of them. Less demanding is the long climb from Riggisberg to Rüeggisberg. And then, the route twists a lot uphill in the undergrowth after crossing the Schwarzwasser River, and just before arriving at the end of the stage. The descents do not represent any particular difficulty.

The roads, as often, still dominate the pathways:

  • Paved roads: 12.8 km
  • Dirt roads: 7.7 km

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

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

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

 

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

Section 1: On the heights of Wattenwil.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: demanding climb on the hill.

 

Via Jacobi leaves Wattenwil on the heights of the village at the level of the temple. The new construction dates from the end of the XVIIth century, with baptismal fonts and bells taken from the old building. The presbytery is housed in an old baroque style mansion.

A small road starts above the temple, crosses the stream of Oeligraben, a tributary of the Gürbe River, and climbs steeply through meadows and fruit trees.

You quickly have a beautiful perspective on the village below..

 

The slope quickly increases, to nearly 10 to 15%, under the ash trees. On the steep slope, houses, which you cannot say are farms or main residences. Wattenwil has also become a commuter village over time.
Higher up, Via Jacobi takes a narrower road.
Here the slope becomes even steeper, at almost 20% incline.
It’s even more demanding when the rain drips from your forehead onto the cape, isn’t it?
You say to ourselves that it is better to have a 4X4 car to live here in winter.

Higher up, you come to the end of the major effort of the day and you breathe a big sigh.
In this stage, pay close attention to traffic signs! There are fake friends who can lead you astray. There is only one correct direction, that indicated by Via Jacobi 4, framed in blue, in the direction of travel ahead. Here also starts the pathway that leads to the Stauffenbühl B&B, very welcome for people who have not found accommodation in Wattenwil.

Here, turning towards the valley, you will have the privilege of seeing the giants of the Bernese Alps, the Eiger, the Mönch, the Jungfrau and the Finsteraarhorn, taking shape in front of you.

 

A pathway then runs through the grass on the hillside.
Shortly after, the dirt takes the place of grass in the middle of meadows and fruit trees.

In front of you, on the other side of the valley, stands the castle of Burgistein, under which runs Via Jacobi.

 

Shortly after, the pathway begins to descend slightly. Here is noted the direction of the Stauffenbühl B&B, a stone’s throw from the track.
TThe whole hillside here is covered with beautiful neat houses, most of them flowered. The direction is still that of Burgistein Dorf. You are gradually approaching the castle.
Via Jacobi then descends along the houses to join the main road called Bugisteinstrasse at a place called Burgistein Bir Linde, where there is a restaurant under the lime trees, as the name suggests.
Here, it will take a wide dirt road that climbs towards the castle and Burgistein Dorf.
The pathway climbs gently, almost parallel to the road, but it will avoid the castle.
The climb is short and the pathway slops down to join the road at the entrance to Burginstein Dorf.
The village, whose name on the maps is Weier, and not Burgistein Dorf, sits at the foot of a beautiful pond. It’s very charming amidst its beautiful and incredible wooden houses and newer houses.
Via Jacobi leaves the village, takes a hundred meters on a stony embankment and finds the Burgisteinstrasse, the road which goes towards Riggisberg at the level of the fire station. But, Via Jacobi does not follow the road. It descends on a small country road parallel to the main road.
There are very beautiful farms on the axis, some even built quite recently. There are probably also some residences that are not inhabited by local peasants. What is quite surprising in the canton of Bern is the fact that the manure heaps are only rarely visible to everyone on the side of the road, as they are in the canton of Fribourg.
A little further down, Via Jacobi abandons the paved road for a detour in the meadows. But you can just as well continue on the road. There is no vehicle, or very rarely.

Section 2: Over hill and dale in the Bernese countryside.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: mquite steep climb above Riggisberg.

 

It is a small pathway that climbs slightly on the hill, then flattens along maples, hornbeams and oaks, before crossing the meadows.
Shortly after, it joins the road again at a place called Untere Elbschen.

From here, it’s a little half an hour to reach Riggisberg. Here, when you build a new farm, you know in advance that it will improve over time. Happy country which knows how to perpetuate the beauty of the constructions of their ancestors.

The road slopes down gently for a long time in the dale, in the middle of beautiful farms, fruit trees and large oaks.
Then, a wide dirt road replaces the tar. Here, the beech trees have been cut along the Müllibach stream.
Further down, the stream disappears into the brush near a small house placed like an oratory.
Nature is gentle, charming, near the stream which has resumed its course.
Soon, you see Riggisberg growing in front of you.
Approaching the borough, the tar resumes its rights, and the road then slopes up for a brief moment.
Via Jacobi soon joins the main road. It crosses a borough (2,500 inhabitants), which is an important regional center, where you can find all the shops, even a small hospital and a museum of woven textiles. The castle is away from the village and the route does not pass there. It is the tourist gateway to the Gantrisch region.
Stairs lead to the temple on the hill above the village.
The church dates back to the YIIth century and its bell tower is late Romanesque. During the Reformation, the church was closed and was not reopened until the XVIth century, when it became a temple. It was renovated over the centuries and the last transformation is from the end of the last century.

From the courtyard of the church, by playing a little with the zoom, you have in good weather in front of you the monsters of the Bernese Alps.

A road climbs above the church to the level of the hospital.
Via Jacobi then follows the road for a very short time, leaving the hospital district where magnificent old houses stand. At first, the slope is tough.
So, let’s change a bit to show another reality of the track and progress a bit in the pouring rain. All this puts the landscapes into perspective.
Behind the last houses of the village, a dirt road then climbs with sometimes slopes of more than 10% in the meadows. But the slope is regular and reasonable.
Higher up, tar replaces dirt. A little higher still, the road heads to the magnificent ranch of Haselmatt.
Further on, the road continues to climb quite steeply through the meadows towards the village of Tromwil.

Section 3: Along the beautiful houses of the canton of Bern.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the routes: easy course before a more difficult descent into the dale.

 

The road arrives in Tromwil, in the middle of farms which, even in the rain, compete in grandeur and elegance. Without insulting the other Swiss cantons, let’s say that the country’s beautiful farms are mostly Bernese.
Leaving the village, the small road continues to climb until it joins a larger road that goes from Riggisberg to Rüeggisisberg, direction Mättiwil.

The rain intensifies and the fog descends from the hill. Come on ! We are going to leave the bad weather to come back here in good weather under the sun. The contrast is then striking. Throughout the region, here is the spectacle offered to you if you turn around. Below you can see Thun Lake and, on the horizon, the majestic 4,000 meters of the Bernese Alps, the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. It changes, right? But often, the pilgrim has no choice.

 

 

The road then arrives in Mättiwil. Here Via Jacobi 4 joins a variant of Via Jacobi, which also starts from Bodensse but passes through Bern. span style=”color: #800000;”>This track will also be described in the site. Here, the farms here are just lavish and amazing.
At the exit of the hamlet, a path smoothens in the countryside towards Rüeggisberg. Here, a few rare crops grow in the middle of the meadows.
The pathway arrives fairly quickly under the recent part of the village.
Rüeggisberg (1,800 inhabitants) is a quiet village flanked by beautiful residences, almost an open-air museum of rural heritage, where you can eat and stay.
The route descends to the cloister of Rüeggisberg, a former Cistercian cloister, which had its hours of glory in the Middle Ages, and which gradually disappeared to be only a large farm, which it still is today. But the site remains quite remarkable.
As soon as you leave the cloister, nature becomes wilder in the hardwoods and wild grasses. A bad pathway descends steeply along the undergrowth along the Grüenibach stream.
We will not say that here is the most exciting part of the stage. The pathway plays yoyo with the road that goes towards Schwarzenburg, then returns a little lower in the undergrowth.
The descent is steep in the tall grass under the deciduous trees which form a dark vault.
At the bottom of the dale, the pathway crosses the Grüenibach stream, then returns to the road again.
Via Jacobi then follows the road to Helgisried and its beautiful and large farms. Here, a horse proudly shows you the prize list of competitions won by its owner.

Don’t be surprised by the stage lights here. We took pictures of an alternate stage of the track returning from Bern to Rüeggisberg. So, it’s an autumn morning. Today the fog makes the landscape spooky and impressionistic.

 

 

In Hegelsried, at the corner of a beautiful farm, Via Jacobi takes a small paved road that descends into the countryside towards the isolated hamlet of Matten.

Section 4: A small passage near the Schwarzwasser River.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: marked descent then respite before climbing back up to the high plateau beyond the river.

 

A small road then runs into the meadows. Halfway down,t Via Jacobi leaves the road to descend into the grass towards the main road, Schwarzenburgstrasse.
The pathway then heads towards the houses of Bühlstutz. Below, you can see the cantonal road.
Bühlstutz is a few houses scattered along the roadside and a large building whose use has not been specified.
Here Via Jacobi does not follow the road. Immediately it takes a smaller road slopes up the hill towards the hamlet of Rohrbach.
The climb is quite steep, but brief above the cantonal road. Soon today, you find the bright sun in the village. Here again, the large farms occupy a space which nevertheless appears reduced.
Beyond the hamlet, Via Jacobi slopes down to the plain, first on the tarmac…
…then through the meadows, after passing several barriers to contain the cattle.
Below, the pathway finds the cantonal road back, the Schwartenburgstrasse at the level of Sagi hamlet. Here the Grüenibach brook still flows.

It is a charming site in the steep valley with a restaurant where the locals flock.

 

Via Jacobi then makes a few meters on the cantonal road to find the Wislisaubrücke, the bridge which spans the Schwarzwasser, a wild river which has dug a real canyon in the molasse.
Beyond the bridge, a wide pathway then follows the river in an undergrowth where hardwoods and conifers mix…
…to end up a little further on the cantonal road, leaving the river behind.
Here, Via Jacobi leaves the cantonal road which climbs into the canyon to cross the small Lindebach stream. Be careful here, if you are used to the shell of Compostela on the tracks of France. In Switzerland, the shell never marks the direction. Just follow the signs for Via Jacobi 4.
The climb is tough, nearly 20% at first, in thickets and undergrowth, often on logs to avoid slipping.
Higher up, the slope becomes less steep when the path crosses the forest in the middle of spruces and hardwoods and exits into the clearing.

Via Jacobi then runs through the grass to the top of the hill and the slope remains very steep.

 

At this time of year, you go from shadow to light. Below, the canyon is dark, but as you approach the plateau above the sun shines brightly.
 

At the top of the hill, the slope softens and a small gravel road leads to a place called Granegg, where not only cows are raised.
The small road then crosses the plateau, with meadows of course, but also a little corn, along the countless farms, so numerous are they.
Shortly after, the road arrives at Henzischwand. The farms are all more remarkable than each other and often flowered in the region where cattle are king.

Section 5: Almost at the end of the canton of Bern.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without difficulty, except near Schönnentannen.

Then, the small road heads towards the hamlet of Kühmoos. Goats like to play whoever will take over the heights.
Here, the farms line up one behind the other along the road.
The countryside here is so clean that you never see a pile of manure lying around. Even dog droppings are eliminated. Further on, the tar gives way to dirt.
Shortly after, a dirt road will run quite a long time between meadows and corn.

On the horizon stand the Fribourg Alps. You are gradually getting closer to French-speaking Switzerland.

 

Then, Via Jacobi turns and joins the tarmac at the entrance to Elisried.

Here, an owner offers pilgrims or tourists to sleep in the straw. The Swiss Germans love this type of accommodation. Here you are a 45-minutes’ walk to Schwarzenburg.

 

The countryside is gentle and beautiful here, with the heaps of cut wood just like in the books.
The road continues until you reach Schönnentannen, where you can find something to eat along the road.

Of course, the cantonal road continues to Schwarzenburg, a stone’s throw away. But, the Way of Compostela likes to take the pilgrim off the easy roads. Therefore, it invents a small part in the grass, and on a slope. If you don’t want to rub yourself in the tall grass, you can, near the restaurant, take the wide dirt road that starts below the road. This route will lead you effortlessly to the borough.

For the others, those who naively believe that the Way to Compostela is immutable and that it is good never to make a detour or take a shortcut, after a bad little staircase, a bad pathway climbs steeply in the meadows at the top of the hill.

From the top of the ridge you can see Schwarzenburg nestled in gentle hills.

 

On the ridge, the pathway crosses a small undergrowth.
Then, it comes out of the trees to walk along the undergrowth in the grass.
At the end of the ridge, Via Jacobi then joins a road that descends to Schwarzenburg, before setting off again across the fields.

A little further down you will find yourself above Schwarzenburg, with no trace of the track. Continue without shaking in the meadows or descend into the forest. If you can’t find the way, take the road too. Schwarzenburg is just below.

 

Schwarzenberg is a small town with nearly 7,000 inhabitants, with all the shops. The train also passes here. The town is full of beautiful patrician houses.
The Dorfbach brook flows in parts of the center.
The activity is concentrated mainly around the small shopping streets near the station. The castle, built at the end of the XVIth century, is quietly located in a park outside the village.

Lodging on Via Jacobi

 
Stauffenbühl
Guestroom, dinner, breakfast B&B Stauffenbühl, Stauffenbühl 140 033 557 83 83

077 413 62 36

Burgistein
Camping, breakfast Camping Elbschen 033 356 36 51
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Aeschenbacher, Breiten 45 033 356 36 69/079 462 73 62
Riggisberg
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Ernst Bäckerei, Vordere Gasse 9 031 809 36 36/079 416 36 71
Guestroom, breakfast Wohnheim Heidi Hofer, Scchlossweg 5 031 808 81 43
Guestroom and straw, dinner, breakfast Bauernhof Böhlen, Muriboden 4 031 809 30 02/079 943 31 69
Rüeggisberg
Gîte, breakfast Andi et Doris Steller, Dorfstasse 12 031 809 18 22/079 866 31 63
Guestroom, breakfast Elisabeth et Jürg Wilen, Unter der Eichen 6 031 331 67 22
Guestroom, breakfast Elsbeth et Alfred Buri-Berger, Haslistrasse 16 031 809 08 30
Guestroom, breakfast Cottage Holiday Stöckli, Dorfstrasse 22 031 809 40 80
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Gasthaus Bären 031 808 81 43
Schwarzenburg
Youth hostel, breakfast Pfadiheim Pöschen, Freiburgstrasse 98 031 731 20 64
Gîte communal, breakfast Mehrzweckanlage 031 732 01 00
Guestroom, dinner, breakfast B&B Mäder, Katzenstyg 48 031 731 28 78
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Salzmann, Wartgässli 44 031 731 28 76/079 627 47 48
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Ramser, Kirchhalde 031 731 16 66
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Nydegger, Bernstrasse 14 031 731 15 77
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Christen, Zelgweg 34 031 731 16 45
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Schmied, Steinhausstrasse 21 031 731 05 47
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Rebetez, Unters Aebnit 9 031 731 26 83/079 624 43 34
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Leuenberger, Torhalten 1 031 731 29 75/079 829 95 91
Hotel**, dinner, breakfast Gasthof Bühl, Thunstrasse 1 031 731 01 38
Hotel***, dinner, breakfast Hotel Restaurant Sonne, Dorfplatz 3 031 731 21 21

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 13: From Schwarzenburg to Fribourg

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