Switzerland: Thun to Interlaken

Paddleboarding Thunersee near Thun

This is a day I couldn't decide what I wanted to do.  It was the first day since I landed in Switzerland that it wasn't forecast to rain. I was originally going to rent a car and travel off into parts unknown but something was pulling me back to my past. I've found myself retracing my steps from many years past lately. It's a bit disconcerting. Mentally traveling back in one's own time stream can yield uncomfortable results. Twenty years ago I, with a friend, hostelled it through Basel and Interlaken on our way to Gimmelwald (not to be confused with the nearby, and more well known, Grindelwald). This was the year all my wandering of this world began. I haven't stopped since.

Walking/hiking is the best way to get to know Switzerland. There are more walking and hiking trails in Switzerland than there are roads.

I started out that morning with some trepidation. This part of the Bernese Oberland and the route to Interlaken and up to Jungfrau through Thun is extremely touristy in spots. Entire tour buses filled with people with inappropriate footwear for the Alps travel through here.

 Thun. Walking down the banks of the River Aare.

 Thun. Looking east into the Bernese Alps.

Thun. Hauptgasse. All closed up on Sunday.

It was a Sunday so stores would be closed. I hoped that would keep the level of tourist insanity down a bit since I, being the more sort of independent traveler kind of tourist, don't enjoy large crowds of people, all of whom seem to need to ask me for directions. I don't know why this is. It always happens to me, no matter where I go in the world, people ask me for directions. I can't even walk from the subway stop to the building I work in here at home without people asking me directions on a daily basis. Apparently, I need to work harder on looking completely lost.

 Walking up to Thun Castle. 

Thun Castle looking moody. It dates to the 12th century.  This is not photoshopped. Shooting into the sun has some interesting effects.

Walking back down from the Castle.

So I jumped on the train from Basel to Thun. Thun sits on the western tip of Lake Thun or Thunersee, where the Aare River flows out of Thunersee. Humans have occupied this area for thousands of years. Celts, Romans, Burgundians, and Alemanni all influenced Thun's history. It's name comes from the Celtic dunum, meaning fortified city. And its Thun's castle people come to see, surrounded by the Bernese Alps and the amazing teal waters of Thunersee.

 Eurasian Coot.

Eurasian Coot. Yes, the water really is that color. And so are the bird's eyes.

Common merganser or goosander. This little guy was showing off. First scratching...

I wandered over the Aare, crossing the river using the wooden bridge and then wandered up to the castle (which is being renovated). I wandered a stonewall-lined walkway the takes you by the base of the castle. Flowers grew out of the stone wall and snails too, nestled in the cracks between the rocks. I walked down to the banks of the Aare and watched pochards, coots, common mergansers, and mute swans swim by. Chaffinches and nuthatches scattered as I walked down tree-lined lanes.

 ...then testing the water with his beak.



Then I boarded a boat and cruised to Interlaken. The boats on many of Switzerland's lakes are part of the national public transportation system. I think traveling the lakes by boat is probably one of the best ways to go. The boat from Thun to Interlaken stops at several towns or villages along the way including Oberhofen, Spiez, Faulensee, Merlingen and Neuhaus.

Niesen, also known as the Swiss Pyramid. 7,749 ft. Click for larger view.
Looking west toward Thun. Click for larger view.

Looking east toward Interlaken.

Seestrasse (Lake Road) winding its way through the cliffs on the north side of Thunersee.

A closer look at the road carved into the cliffs.

The boat drops you off at Interlaken West. Interlaken has changed greatly in twenty years. Its so much more built up and full of tourist shops. Places where we wandered and sat on the shore of the lake are now houses and shops, memories of what was wild now lay under concrete. But not all is lost. I got off the boat, walked up the ramp to the street and hooked a sharp left and started walking along the Aare river out toward the Weissenau nature preserve near Neuhaus. This route also takes you past Wessenau castle.

Thunersee. Looking southeast in Weissenau.

I walked along the water watching carrion crows, black birds, white wagtails, and yellow wagtails flit through the trees and along the banks of the river. A pair of chaffinches mated in a pine tree. I passed cows happily munching grass, the sound of their cowbells echoing across the water. There's even a flock of sheep that seems to spend its entire existence grazing the slope between the banks of the Aare and the pathway.

Cows with bells. The last time I walked here it was also a Sunday and all I heard was church bells echoing around the lake as each town's bells carolled. This time it was cow bells.

Brimstone butterfly. Probably a female.


Chaffinch, male.

When I finally got to Weissenau, it was late afternoon, the sun was shining and Great Crested Grebes were in full mating ritual mode. Grebes are famous for their synchronized mating dance. I've never seen this before, wasn't expecting to see it, and that was what made it even more magical.

Great Crested Grebes courting. Female on left, Male on right. Stinky shot but it will have to do.

Great Crest Grebe building a nest in the reeds. Wiessenau.

Click for larger view.
This was one of the most fascinating interactions between bird species I've ever seen. Male and female Great Crested Grebes were courting. A Coot took offense somehow. You can see it charging the pair in the second frame. The female Grebe fled. The male dives underwater going to the right of the frame. And you can see the Coot chase him following him from above.

Eurasian Coot.

Birds sited: Carrion Crow, Common Merganser (or goosander), Eurasion Coot, Pochard, Eurasian Nuthatch, Chaffinch
Other: White-lipped banded snails

Birds sited: Blue tit, Coal tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Eurasian Coot, Pochard, Great Crested Grebe, White Wagtail, Gray Wagtail, Blackbird, Starling, Collared Dove, Great Cormorant, Mallard, Mute Swan, Common Swift