Menu

Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

The view from Jura

Jura has had a turbulent past, from being gifted to the Bishop of Basel by the French King of Burgundy in the tenth century to its official allocation to the canton of Bern in the 19th century, and finally independence as the Republic and Canton of the Jura (remaining in Switzerland, though) after a great struggle which finally came to an end as recently as 1979. The Jura region – geographically, if not politically, seeping over the border into south eastern France – forms a mountainous limestone edge to Switzerland and its higher ridges are clearly visible from the Bernese Oberland. Therefore, logically, the view back to the main alpine chain from these ridges is quite spectacular and affords one of the most panoramic views of mountains from Rigi and Pilatus (near Zug and Lucerne, in the east) to the French alps and Mont Blanc in the west. The view here, which I took on a glorious Saturday afternoon last weekend, is from the mountaintop village of Prêles, high above Lake Biel.

In the distance, some 100 kilometres away by road, the main peaks of the Bernese Oberland are all visible: the Finsteraarhorn, Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Gletscherhorn, Aletschhorn, Mittaghorn, Breithorn, Tschingelhorn, Blümlisalp chain, Doldenhorn and all those peaks in between, as well as the smaller peaks in their shadow. The Niesen, which looms over the town I call home, and the Stockhorn, which resembles a small, dark version of Sugar Loaf Mountain, are both clearly visible in the right half of the photo.

In the foreground is the lake near Biel, which has drained since the 19th century not into the river Aare, which used to lead from the eastern end of the lake out of picture to the left, but via the Nidau-Büren channel in the centre of the picture. The canal was dug in order to relieve regular heavy flooding in the eastern area of what is now known as “three lakes country”, and leads from here past the town of Büren to link up with the Aare further to the east.