This beautiful section of the Swiss St. James' Way leads past magnificent mountain scenery, along Lake Thun to the Beatus Caves. Instead of walking around the lake via Thun to Gwattegg, we - the Berg&Ski pilgrimage group - chose the short cut by boat from Merlingen to Spiez.
Later, during the pilgrimage with my parish in August 2009, we chose the variant via Thun.
Both variants are described.
In the morning at 08:30 the small group of pilgrims leaves their "pilgrims hostel", the hotel "de la paix" in Interlaken.
Too bad, if the weather doesn't quite play along, otherwise this view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau would be even more magnificent.
The path first leads along the Aare, past the Weissenau ruins, ...
... then through a beautiful nature reserve directly on the lakeside.
After a large campsite, the Camino de Santiago leads along Lake Thun a little above the road and offers wonderful views.
Stairs lead to the Beatus Caves.
The Beatus Caves are always busy in the main season. Hundreds of tourists come here. The entrance fee is not exactly cheap. The guided tour of the cave takes one hour. You have to climb many stairs and overcome large differences in altitude (about 130m).
The grave of St. Beatus. The cave tour starts there. Photography is forbidden inside.
The Beatus Cave lies very picturesquely nestled in the rocks.
After the Beatus Cave, the path leads first downhill and immediately uphill again because a quarry has to be bypassed.
The way leads over this bridge ...
.... under this tree wonderfully through the forest to Merlingen.
Since 2009, a board in Merlingen has been providing information about the way forward. Either the officially signposted route via Thun, or as an alternative via ship to Spiez.
Route of St. James via Thun (2009)
In June 2008 we crossed over to Spiez with the steamboat "Blümlisalp" .
The saloon steamer "Blümlisalp" dates from 1905 and was taken out of service in 1971, but thankfully it was preserved and could be restored. The second maiden voyage took place in May 1992.
In the background the Niesen (the Swiss Pyramid).
The Hotel Marina Seegarten served us as an exquisite pilgrims' hostel in Spiez.
The castle chapel
The original church dates back to 762, so it was a Carolingian primitive church and was one of the oldest mission churches in the Bernese Oberland, along with Einigen and Scherzligen. Its foundation goes back to the Irish messengers of faith who Christianised the Bernese Oberland in the middle of the 1st millennium.
Was our "Beatus" there? If so, the legend is no longer true that he was personally commissioned to Christianise by the Apostle Peter.
Around the turn of the millennium, the early Romanesque basilica, which is essentially preserved today, was built. It is assigned to the High Burgundian cultural area.
The early Romanesque type is clearly recognisable both on the outside and inside of the church. The gradation of the roofs over the naves and side aisles, over the choir barrel and absidences, emphasises the clear structure of the individual building elements. The tower, which received its pointed helmet before 1628, is older than the basilica and probably belonged to the original church.
The simple interior of the church. Picture taken from the raised choir.
Das The Spiez Castle
The first documented owners are the barons of Strättligen, nobles of the Kingdom of Hochburgund, which included large parts of what is now western Switzerland. With the decline of the nobility, the Strättliger family were forced to sell the castle in 1338, together with a number of municipalities in the area.
Johann von Bubenberg, mayor of the city of Bern, acquired the castle. It remained in the family until the last Bubenberg died in 1506.
From 1516 to 1878, Schloss Spiez came into the possession of the important von Erlach family of Bern. It was this family who, through various renovations, gave the complex the face it still essentially has today. For economic reasons, the family was forced to sell in 1878. The rich inventory, especially the then most valuable private library in Switzerland with precious manuscripts, was auctioned off.
On 1 August 1929, the castle came into the definitive possession of the "Schloss Spiez Foundation" and was opened to the public. Urgently needed conservation and restoration measures were initiated.
Spiez Castle, inner courtyard
View from the castle chapel to the bay of Spiez.