Destination: The Witches Trail, La Neuveville, Switzerland
Shall we go for a hike tomorrow? I suggested to my dear husband one evening during the so-it-seems-never-ending-lockdown. And he was with me, ready to hit the road like always (Luckily, going outside has not been forbidden in Switzerland as long as you are willing to avoid the crowds…)! The only problem was finding a good roundtrip, suitable for our kids and permissible under the special lockdown-circumstances. As we have learned before, there are not that many short round trips… or maybe there are but we just haven’t found them?! After all, Switzerland is full of hiking trails. I have been on the verge of desperation so many times trying to figure these out… and equal amount of times it has proven to be mission impossible (Ha! Even Google doesn’t know it all, after all.). But since the lockdown was ongoing reality, walking one way and taking a bus back to the starting point was naturally not an option. Also gondolas were out of question. Already feeling my defeat I went to google anyway. Let’s try Jura Mountains for a change, I thought, thinking there would definitely be less people around and about.
For once I got lucky! From Bernese Jura, I found a hiking trail called The Witches Trail. It sounded interesting enough, motivating the kids would not be too hard. On a following morning we packed our car and headed to La Neuveville, located on the shore of Lake Biel. We found a parking space nearby the train station and discovered that La Neuveville is an adorable medieval little town. The beginning point of the Witches Trail was easy to find, it was located on one of the two city gates, Tour Rouge. Following the orange and black signs with pictogram of a witch was relatively easy. You just had to keep your eyes open for them. The first stop of the trail was at the verge of the little town. The Witches herb garden was cute, and I found my favorite herb rather fast. Maybe I should get some of this Coca-Cola bush to my own garden too… unless it is only meant for real witches!
Little Prince Charming had wanted to do the trail with his like-a-bike, and we had thought it would be okay. After all, the little guy is a real mountain biker, he has done so many trails with his little green bike that I wouldn’t believe it if I wasn’t there to prove it myself. Only thing we didn’t take into consideration was that even if Jura Mountain Range is not that high, it is REALLY steep. I mean, in this particular case compared, the Alps are a joke. Going towards Alps, you actually never know where exactly the flatlands end and mountains start, because it is kind of slowly sneaking on you. But with Jura it is easy. You just run into a stone wall that goes directly upwards and there it is. Ok, maybe you got the point…
Anyway, after leaving the Herb Garden and Coca-Cola bushes behind us, we followed a path witch led us out of the town and to the beginning of the steep climb. Our Little Prince Charming was proceeding like a snail in the snow and it took us half an hour to go just a few hundred meters. Not to mention that we had to stop during these few hundred meters to have lunch because our two little travelers were suddenly starving… After lunch on the bench, I offered to carry Little Prince Charming’s beloved mountain bike, but being stubborn as he is, he had decided to DRIVE his BIKE, so he was DRIVING his bike, never mind that it was almost impossible for him to move forward. Both kids were complaining every step of the way until we got to the next stop, The Gibbet, and to the beginning of a narrow forest path… somehow, as always with our kids, the forest magic worked again. Complaining stopped at the exact moment when we entered the forest. Now even little Prince Charming was willing to give up driving his bike, and was happily walking along the forest trail. Up and up we went until we reached the top.
Le Pavillon is located to the highest point of the trail. The view over Lake Biel and the Alps behind it is magnificent. We sat there for a long time just marveling the view and enjoying the warmth of the day. Little Prince Charming found two insects tangled up together and couldn’t figure out if that was really one insect or two, and where was the head and where the bottom and so on. He was trying to count the legs and got even more confused of this strange creature. Oh the wonders of nature. We didn’t bother to explain it to him with too many details… Meanwhile, Sweet Little Princess was building up a trap on the doorway of her imaginary castle (Le Pavillon was serving as a perfect set up!) in case some intruders would want to enter. Once the trap was finished, we enjoyed some dessert we had brought along, and got to do so without any intruders ;)
The day was growing older and it was about time we continued our little hike. From this point onward it was all downhill. Needless to say, the kids enjoyed it. And as soon as possible, Little Prince Charming was back on his bike again. But going down with a slope this steep is not exactly much easier than going up… We managed about half-way down when we started noticing that both kids were completely exhausted. This trail must be cursed, said Sweet Little Princess somewhere in between the top and bottom. She felt like she couldn’t take another step. And Little Prince Charming was losing his balance way too often with his little bike, though naturally not admitting to anything. We reached The Witches Picknick place and had a snack there. After short crisis meeting behind the backs of our children we decided to take a shortcut back to La Neuveville. Even though we still hadn’t reached the best parts of the Witches Trail: The Castle Chateau de Schlossberg and La Cascade waterfall were still laying somewhere ahead of us.
Personally I was a bit disappointed that we had to give up before seeing the waterfall which would have been a must-see to someone like me who loves water. But hey, life is life. And walking down the hill in between wine yards with a lake view in front of us was a beautiful experience too. We reached the car and headed back home tired but happy. Little Prince Charming was sound asleep on the back seat and there was peace and quiet on the earth. Secretly I was already planning a round two. We would have to come back another time, since the game ended 0-1 to the Jura Mountains. They really beat us flatland inhabitants bad this time!
A Hiker’s Guide for planning a hike:
Location: La Neuveville, Berner Jura
With a car: Navigate to SBB Railway Station La Neuveville. There’s parking space close by.
Public Transportation: check out the timetables from sbb.ch
Length: 4, 5 km
Ascents/Descents: 258 m
Duration: 3 H (average. With a three-year-old it was more like 5 hours… ;))
Technical / Fitness Level: Family Friendly / moderately difficult. Not accessible to baby strollers.
Cost: none, except some coins for parking
Open: To our knowledge, year around. Accessibility due to weather conditions
More Information: click here. The website available in French, German and English
Good to know:
- La Neuveville can also be reached by a boat. Boat Trips on Lake Biel are a beautiful experience and definitely worth taking if you have time
- There are some Wines and Cellars on the area available for visits
- Interesting place for a visit if you have spare time: The History Museum of La Neuveville