The Emmental region
Experience pristine nature filled with carefully-guarded secrets.
Jeremias Gotthelf The home of the author and pastor
Gotthelf wrote countless novels and stories, such as “Uli the Serf”, “Uli the Tenant”, “Mind and Money”, and “The Cheese Factory in the Hamlet”. These works have been turned into successful films.
Gotthelf, the son of a civil servant and pastor, left grammar school in 1814 before beginning his theological training. This led him to become heavily involved in education, working in the fields of school supervision and teacher training. Gotthelf was active in liberal politics and soon fell out with the authorities. In 1824, he became the vicar of the “Church of the Holy Spirit” in Bern, and in 1831 was appointed to the same position in Lützelflüh. Here he served as pastor, and his wife bore him three children. In 1831, men of the cloth were banned from political involvement – Gotthelf’s political activities came to an abrupt end. From this point on, he dedicated himself with great energy to education and poor relief. He championed compulsory public education, with Pestalozzi serving as his great role model.
He began writing and publishing from 1834 onwards, starting with a public-education campaign against alcoholism before taking over the editorship of the “Neuer Berner Kalender” newspaper from 1841 to 1844. After losing his post as schools commissioner in 1845 as a result of his critical and conservative attitudes to state and society, he became an ever less congenial figure; his later works are pervaded by a fundamentally satirical and sinister tone.
Tip: Discover the Gotthelf Centre as part of a guided tour.
Typical farmhouses and gardens
Anyone travelling through Emmental will discover old wooden agricultural buildings, houses and farmhouses sitting by the edges of forests, on mountain slopes, and in the middle of the region’s villages. Steep hip roofs, artfully decorated loggias and a great variety of Bernese arches (so-called “Ründine”) give every house an unmistakable appearance and unique character.
Most of the farmhouses received their distinctive look with long rows of windows, loggias and “Ründine” in the nineteenth century. The wooden buildings, some of which are over 200 years old and often include a loft, have been tended over generations. They are surrounded by geometrically divided farm gardens with low box hedges. Even though the region is situated at relatively high altitude, this garden tradition has been able to establish itself – alongside the dairy industry, cattle industry and agriculture. The gardens have always played an important role to the farmhouses, as a typical household would have comprised a large family of farmhands, maids, milkers and carters.
The Republic of Bern was at this time regarded as one of Central Europe’s largest and most powerful states. Its relations with France were excellent, and the French way of life, with its modern architecture and contemporary garden design, was quite popular in Bern. Many farmers were also able to live well from the proceeds of their cheese production, cattle and grain, as the land was fertile and safe from flooding. Relations with the capital city were also stable, in contrast to Seeland and Schwarzenburgerland, where people battled to survive. Within the sphere of influence of French horticulture, it was only the farmers of Emmental who had sufficient means to engage with contemporary garden design. Rustic pride and the maintaining of farming traditions are still strongly rooted among the locals.
Tip: Explore the Eggiwil house and bridge trail.
Hornussen The traditional Emmental sport
The tradition of this typical Emmental sport dates back to the sixteenth century. It used to be the custom to hit burning logs from the mountain into the valley to drive away ghosts. This, it is believed, is what gave rise to the team sport of Hornussen.
The competitions served as trials of strength, but also to settle disputes between villages. Thus it is said that fierce brawls would erupt between the two teams. The first documented evidence of a Hornussen match took place in Trub in 1655. Since 1902, the umbrella organisation of the Federal Hornussen Association, together with its regional divisions, has been organising the various leagues and the Federal Hornussen Festival. The aim is for the striker to hit the Nouss (puck) far into the Ries (playing field) using a flexible stick between two and three metres in length. The fielding team tries to deflect it early in its flight using shingles, and the distance the Nouss has travelled is then converted into points. Strikers who can use great tension to massively accelerate their stick and accurately strike the Nouss are able to hit it great distances. Incidentally, the term “Hornussen” refers to the horn-like noise which the Nouss makes when it comes within hearing distance within the Ries.
Tip: Emmental Tours offers a Hornussen taster session for groups.
For over 100 years, Kambly in Emmental has been dedicated to baking its specialities, and represents the pinnacle of traditional Swiss biscuit-baking. And it all began with a love story...
When a young Oscar Kambly met a girl from Trubschachen while in Romandy, he fell head over heels in love. His love led him to this farming village in Emmental. He became a baker and confectioner, and later took over the company of the man who taught him the trade. In 1910, he founded the Kambly company together with his brother Paul. Even during the war years, he stuck to his iron principles concerning quality – and ever since, Kambly quality has become almost a figure of speech. Oscar Kambly’s vision was to share with the rest of Switzerland the best that Emmental had to offer – thus, for example, he launched the “Caramels à la Crème d’Emmental” in 1924.
Tip: At Kambly SA, you can watch the Maîtres Confiseurs at work and sample all the delicious treats for free on the Kambly Adventure Tour.
Flour from the village mill The same as 100 years ago
From the moment he founded his company, Oscar R. Kambly I bought the flour for his Kambly biscuits from the Trubschachen village mill. This agreement was sealed with a handshake, and is still in place to this day. Just as it did 100 years ago, the carefully milled flour comes from the neighbouring mill of the Haldemann family, which is now tended by the fifth generation of artisan millers. Vibrant regional tradition and quality.
Kemmeriboden meringues A tradition and true craft
In Schangnau in Emmental, the fourth generation of the Riedwyl-Oberli family runs the Bäckerei Stein bakery. Here they produce the legendary Emmental meringues. In keeping with family tradition, these are all crafted by hand.Peter and Elsbeth Riedwyl-Oberli make the meringues according to an old family tradition. They use neither a recipe nor a measuring jug. The sugar is added with a shovel that has served this same purpose for generations. It’s important to add the sugar gradually into the whipped egg whites – this adds volume to the mixture. Egg white, sugar and the fresh air of Schangnau – these are the only ingredients in the popular Kemmeriboden meringues.
Ramset An old Emmental custom
During the final week of the year, many of Emmental’s inns play host to games of “Ramset”.Ramsen – a Jass-based game of cards, with sausages as a prize – is a tradition dating back centuries. The rules vary from village to village, but sausages are always the prize.
In the past, the inns made their own sausages for this purpose. Today, they are generally produced by local butchers. The sausages are a type of Bernese farmhouse sausage which is smoked over the kitchen fire. In Jass rounds of four to six players, participants play for the deliciously aromatic sausages, which are a real treat when freshly prepared in hot water, or eaten cold after being dried for several weeks.
An excerpt from the Emmental Ramset Jass rules: every player receives five cards; depending on the number of players, there is one “blind man” and one “Stock” (“stick”). Any player dissatisfied with their cards can swap them for the five cards of the “blind man”. The trump suit is declared. The player who deals the cards can swap the “Schläger” (“bat”) using a card of their choice. “Obenabe” (top-to-bottom) rules apply. Ace is the highest card, the second-highest is always the 7 of diamonds, the “Bälli”. “Lend or trump” applies – anyone still holding cards of the played-out suite cannot win the trick, but must instead “hold lend”.
The rules and “Bussen”, or forfeits, must always be agreed before play begins. Anyone who doesn’t win a trick during a round or accidentally picks up, must pay a small forfeit. Additional “penalty rules” are often individually incorporated. The first person to gain 21 tricks wins a sausage. The players jointly purchase the sausages.
Tip: You can find out in the local daily newspapers which inns will host Ramsen games during the final week of the year. The serving staff will be happy to provide you with information.
The long journey to becoming a Christmas tree
More information can be found at suisse-christbaum.ch
Ski-tour guidebook In the realm of the “Hubel and Chnubel”
Travelling into the mountains by train and bus – it’s been 84 years since the last ski-tour guidebook for the mountainous region between Bern and Lucerne was published – it is therefore high time for a new edition.With their new book, the ski-tour guidebook “Emmental & Entlebuch”, authors Christoph Blum, Katharina Conradin, Michael Kropac and Valentin Raemy want to highlight the beauty and diversity of a region which is often overlooked on tour-booking websites, yet which has plenty to offer.
By enjoying ski tours on our very own doorstep, we not only manage to reduce the carbon footprint of our leisure activities, but also make a small contribution to the development of peripheral regions. All of the 52 tours outlined in the book can be reached by public transport – and the guidebook of course also reveals where to find the best meringues, finest biscuits and tastiest Emmentaler cheese at the end of the tour.
The user will find all the relevant information for every tour, including how to get there by public transport, starting- and end-points, shopping facilities, catering and accommodation, the number of ascents and descents, total altitude, and the highest and lowest point.
With the three difficulty gradients “Tiefstapler” (“modest”), “Voralpin” (“pre-Alpine”) and “Crack”, there is also something for every ability level, including for children. Lovingly written additional texts make the book into a favourite, to be read with joy at home by the fireplace.
Ski-tour guidebook Emmental & Entlebuch – in the realm of the Hubel and Chnubel 52 ski tours between Bern and Lucerne. Topo Verlag (publisher), CHF 39.00.
Can be ordered on mountainwilderness.ch. Source: SAC Emmental
“Heimatland!” (“The home country!”) …
... That’s how long the Langnau Fair has been around for!
The Langnau Fair is legendary, and can look back on a long tradition – it was first documented in 1467, and the “Märit” (or “market”) remains important to this day. Around 180 market traders attend each fair. The colourful and varied range of offerings includes both traditional and modern products, ranging from suspenders, socks, cosmetics and iPhone bags through to Bratwurst, “Nidletäfeli” (a traditional kind of clotted cream fudge) and churros. Langnau is proud of its fair, and organises it with care.
... It’s all uphill from here!
No road or train/mountain lift leads up here – Mount Napf can only be reached on foot or by bike. Visitors are rewarded for their effort with an impressive panoramic view.
... Burgdorf, the home of beer
The guiding principle of the Burgdorfer Gasthausbrauerei brewery has remained unchanged since its foundation in 1871: “to offer a regionally rooted, local and independent beer of great quality and unique character.” When the brewery was founded, many of the local residents were so impressed by this concept that they quickly raised the necessary share capital. This investment by locals and the many beer aficionados provided the foundations for the brewery’s success. To this day, Burgdorf’s love of and attachment to its beer is clearly palpable.
... These are the Erläbnismacher (“adventure providers”)
Erlebnismacher AG is an association of various tourism operators which is also commissioned with performing the marketing work for the Emmental Tourist Board, among others.
... What do cheese and a prize cow have in common?
As one of its sponsors, the Emmentaler Show Dairy was permitted to name the prize cow “Roi”. The name derives from “Le Roi d’Emmental”, one of the show dairy’s specialities – an Emmentaler cheese that is matured for at least 24 months.
... In May 2017, the Bretzeli Festival celebrated its 111th birthday!
To mark this anniversary, Kambly organised a grand Bretzeli Festival on 20/21 May 2017 and invited guests to come celebrate with them in Trubschachen. Guests were awaited by exciting activities relating to the Bretzeli (a special kind of biscuit still produced by Kambly to this day). An unforgettable experience for young and old!
The legend of the danger in the mountains
On Mount Hohgant, below the Big Aff and the Little Aff, there is a vertical rock face. Close observation reveals a cross, a pair of boots and a walking stick – as if carved into the rock face. A shepherd once grazed his sheep here. Made sleepy by the sun, he sat on the edge of the rock face, put down his crook and removed his shoes. Suddenly an aggressive ram pushed him over the rock face from behind. As he fell, the shepherd is said to have cried: “Ouch, my lower back hurts! Where are my shoes and my crook?” Ever since, the cross (“Kreuz” in German, which also means “lower back”), boots and crook have been immortalised in the rock face as a warning – to never set aside one’s shoes and walking stick in the mountains, to never go into the abyss, and to never turn one’s back on danger.
Source: Sagenhaftes Emmental (Legendary Emmental), Fritz von Gunten, fritzvongunten.ch
The legend of the knight and the maiden
In a castle, there once lived a fair maiden who loved to eat game above all things. One year, when her birthday happened to fall on a Friday during Lent, she said in the presence of her knights and squires that she desired to feast on freshly killed wild boar. Those present were mortified, and no one uttered a word in reply to her wish. Only one knight, who was her paramour, declared himself ready to go hunting on the instant, if she would but accompany him. The maiden agreed, and the pair departed the castle on their horses, accompanied by many hounds, to ride out to the hunt. But neither the foolhardy hunters nor their steeds or hounds were ever seen again.
The price they must pay for their sacrilegious recklessness and exuberance is to be doomed to hunt with their horses and hounds every Friday at midnight during the holy season. When the weather is truly wild in Entlebuch and the mountainous Napfbergland, and the farmers believe they can hear the sound of horses snorting and hounds baying, they say to one another: “The knight and the maiden are coming”. This means that the knight and fair maiden can never find peace, and are still on the hunt with their steeds and hounds when the weather rages.
The legend of Würzbrunnen
In the age when wolves and bears still inhabited the woods of Emmental, there once stood a town on the hill at Würzbrunnen. At the time, its inhabitants were fighting a bloody war. The enemy, armed with fire arrows, set the town alight. The blazing fire raged for days. Almost the entire town and all its treasures were “bis uf d’Würzen abbrunne”, literally meaning “burned down to the herbs and spices” – burned to cinders, in other words. Almost – because, as if by a miracle, the little church remained unharmed. Centuries after the town was destroyed, the decision was made to dismantle the church and re-erect it further down the valley. An impossible undertaking, as it turned out. Everything that was carried down into the valley with great effort during the day, was returned – as if by magic – to its original place at night. And so it is that this little gem of a building in the Upper Emmental remains nestled in the beautiful countryside that surrounds it.
Source: Sagenhaftes Emmental (Legendary Emmental), Fritz von Gunten, fritzvongunten.ch
Gold rush in the Napf Region An El Dorado for amateur gold-panners
Celtic gold coins – so-called rainbow bowls – dating from the first century B.C. were found near Mount Napf. The Romans presumably once lived in the region. The name of the River Fontanne would suggest this.
The profession of gold-panner was repeatedly mentioned during the fourteenth and fifteenth century. In 1523, the City State of Lucerne decreed that panned gold from Lucerne’s waters should be handed over to the state treasury, which would reimburse its value. Due to its purity, the panned gold was highly sought after by goldsmiths.
Anyone was permitted to pan for gold; yet it was fishermen in particular who pursued this sideline. In 1771, the amount of panned gold submitted to the state increased sharply. The reasons for this were the increased death rate and low birth rate on the one hand, and hunger and inflation on the other. People barely had enough to get by on, and the gold enabled many a family to survive.
Around 1900, when the purchasing power of gold decreased ever further, the trade died out.
Tip: Emmental Tours offers courses and group excursions.