Splash and Bern in the Swiss Alps

Bern

Bern

So the capital city of Switzerland is Zurich, right? Or is it Geneva? Well, it turns out neither. I’m sure any well travelled person would be able to answer without a moment’s hesitation. Nonetheless, it came as a complete surprise to find out that the beautiful, if someone small, city of Bern is indeed the correct answer. And it turned out to be quite the crowd pleaser, serving as a perfect stop on a scenic, and somewhat energetic, tour of the Bernese Oberland.

Rolling countryside, snow-capped mountains and a million miles of clear blue sky greeted us on arrival. It was rather fortunate, as only a few days previously winter was still very much in control, with snow falling as low as 800m. Thankfully, our hosts had clearly had a strong word with the almighty and we were blessed with our first true taste of this year’s summer.

Touring the Bernese Oberland

Touring the Bernese Oberland

We were embarking on a four day whistle stop tour by bike, hike and river, organised by outdoor holiday specialists, Swiss Trails. Our guide and source of local wisdom was proprietor and outdoor enthusiast, Ruedi Jaisli. Blessed with a charming, easy going Swiss smile and a secret talent for music, his enthusiasm for the local area couldn’t be faulted, even if his honesty when conveying distance meant 5kms actually meant 25km.

Thankfully, we were all provided with an excellent steed, in the form of ‘top-class’ touring bikes for the fearless and e-bikes for those who actually had any sense. Unaccustomed to ‘Tour de France’ style climbs, it came as a surprise to some that their preconceptions of fitness were far from accurate. Nonetheless, it didn’t matter. The stunning scenery, beautiful clear air and distant echo of cow bells was all the distraction you could ever need. The Simmental valley from Boltigan to Spiez was the perfect entrée to our outdoor ‘swiss made’ adventure.

After a four hour, 55km cycle, we were not only greeted by our luggage, freshly transferred by Swiss Trails, but the artistic masterpiece that is the Brienzersee. The first of two lakes, divided by the town of Interlaken, turned out to be the deeper, and indeed colder of the two, as we found out to our surprise early the following morning. It was to be a day on the water, and following a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ the night before, we dutifully met on the quay at 6:30am sharp, ready to start the day with a splash. It wasn’t to be the last.

Brienzersee

Brienzersee

As the snow melts in spring, the water runs off the mountains with great aplomb. As such, the river Aare, which rises in the great Aar Glaciers of the Bernese Alps, was running fast. “You’re the first people down this year,” said our guide, “but there’s nothing to worry about”. We were embarking on a three hour expedition from Thun to the capital city, Bern, by inflatable raft. It was to be a rapid, but relaxing, ride on the Aare, negotiating a few spots of white water, whilst enjoying the rolling scenery and looking out for the infamous Bern bears.

Since the 15th century, the city has had a Bärengraben (bear pit) to house its heraldic animals. Although there is still an open-air enclosure within the city walls, we were to pass the Dahlholzli zoo, on the banks of the river Aare, and were instructed to look out for two young bears that were gifted to the city by then Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev. There was of course no sign of them and it was on to far more important matters, lunch!

By this point we’d become accustomed to the generous food portions. Where seconds can sometimes be a rarity in the UK, we were blessed with thirds and even fourths. If it wasn’t for a lot of nodding and broken German/French I honestly think we would have been on to fifths. However, it was lovely fresh meat, fish and vegetables. Simple but delicious and just what was required after a few hours on the river.

But there was no rest for the wicked, Ruedi had other plans. It was onwards, and upwards!

Swiss Trails offers various activity packages throughout Switzerland. Packages can be booked via the Switzerland Travel Centre (STC) and similar packages start at £535 per person based on 5-day packages including flights and 3-star accommodation. To book call 020 7420 4938.

For more information on Switzerland and the ‘Outdoor. Swiss made’ product visit: www.MySwitzerland.com/outdoor

Rob Crabtree
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