While I was waiting for the bike to be delivered, I quickly started thinking of all the places I could go and planned longer and longer rides as my fitness started to build. The first of these trips was up to Suldtal a couple of weeks ago, which showed me that the assistance of the electric motor made getting up our local hills less of a challenge.
Although it’s a lot easier to cycle with the electric assistance, it still takes a fair amount of effort to pedal up the kind of steep hills near where we live. Stay on the flatter areas, though, and the journey remains largely easy.
I decided to take the lakeside Swiss cycle route 9 this weekend and head east from home along the wonderfully beautiful Lake Thun, alternating between sections along the main road and sections through the villages of Leissigen and Därligen. Once out of Faulensee, the main road to Interlaken – modernised and lifted onto concrete supports along the side of the lake in the early 1970s – leads to Leissigen, alongside which a dedicated pedestrian and cycle section is guarded from the traffic by crash barriers.
Despite the unfortunate but bearable amount of carbon monoxide from passing traffic, this part of the route is enjoyable thanks to the smooth surface, the spectacular views, and by being right next to the water. Beneath the elevated pathway, the lake bed alternates between a very shallow, gravelly surface, and deeper sections into which the rocks disappear through the glowing blue water. There are plenty of wagtails along this section, which have made their homes beneath the roadway and which are often to be seen fleeing from passing cyclists and inline-skaters. From the air, my drone captured the turquoise beauty of the sandy lakebed and the beautiful colours I enjoyed when cycling past.
Once at Leissigen, the cycle route takes you into the village, as a number of enviable waterside homes, the main railway line to Interlaken and land owned by the local church sit between the road and the lake. The going is easy, though, as the main road has been diverted through a road tunnel which was bored beneath the village in 1994. 1 It’s fascinating to think that the villages on this part of the lake were mainly reached by boat from further afield until the nineteenth century, when there were only small tracks and lanes connecting farms and homesteads. The first steam ships began trading to Neuhaus (near Interlaken) in 1835; the same year in which the first main road was built on the southern side of the lake. 2
Once past Leissigen, the cycle route returns to the main road: one of the less enjoyable parts of the journey as you’re both in the shade of the walls which hold back the hillside and away from the lake for half a mile or so. Getting this part of the route out of the way, and passing the gloomy, damp section of rocky hillside which freeze into sizeable icicles in winter, you arrive in the third village along this south-eastern end of the lake: Därligen.
The village road lifts above the level of the lake a little here, and I got the first proper view of my destination across the bay. A dozen or so trees have been felled along the shoreline since last time I visited these villages, and have been anchored, untrimmed, in the water to provide shelter for the fish and birds on the lake. I first saw this practice quite a few years back on the lakeside path between Spiez and Faulensee, and it’s great to see that it’s continuing at other places on the lake, too.
Därligen is the last of the villages along the route and offers a commanding view to the Bödeli: the flat plain between the lakes of Thun and Brienz which was formed by glacial deposits arriving from the Lauterbrunnen and Lütschinen valleys. The main road curves tightly around the headland here to avoid the village – visible in the photo below – before the cycle route rejoins it for the last time on this section of the lake.
The road between Därligen and Interlaken West is comfortably wide, along which a clearly delineated part of the tarmac has been reserved for cyclists. A few minutes later, I took the exit for Interlaken West and Neuhaus, where the going becomes much more peaceful and the road leads along the landward side of Interlaken’s golf course. A bike lane leads down to the entrance road to Weissenau nature reserve, which was my farthest goal for the day, some 19.5 kilometres from home. After taking a break and a few snaps with my phone of the adjacent golf course, I turned tail and headed back the way I had come.
Given that I’d stopped off to fly my drone and take the photos in this blog post, the trip to Interlaken had taken a little more than an hour. On the return trip, though, I decided to push myself a bit and cycle straight home: more to find out how long it would take than for any other reason. The surprising answer was 40 minutes, although my thighs didn’t thank me for omitting to taking a break!