Visiting small towns in Bern region

Visiting small towns in Bern region

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davismavis3
davismavis3
18 posts
new member
Jan 1, 2018 - 7:57 PM

Greetings! My daughter and cousin and I will be visiting Europe for the first time next June 2018! We are spending about 2 1/2 days in Switzerland to see where our ancestors come from. The towns are all fairly close to each other: Oberdiessbach, Herbligen, Buchholterberg, OberWichtrach, and Langnau Im Emmental. My question: Are these towns worth visiting or have they become very small and really just bedroom communities? Would we be best to rent a car to get between these towns or can we use the rail system some how to hop from each of these small towns? Should we spend the 2 nights in Bern and use that as a stay point or should we try and stay in a different spot each of the nights? This is all new to me I have no idea what would be recommended. Thank you for any suggestions!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4702 posts
expert
Jan 1, 2018 - 9:04 PM in reply to davismavis3

Hi Davis Mavis

Welcome to My Swiss Alps.

I have spent many comfortable nights at the Landgasthof Hirschen in Langnau. The kitchen is not as ambitious as it used to be...all of the Emmental inns have a seen a decrease in business over the last decade, but Herr Weyrmann fed me well when I was there in the Spring of 2017. The rooms are plain but comfortable. The restaurant is very good, but has a limited menu compared to the grand feast they used to have available. Still plenty of good choices.I think there is at one deluxe and expensive restaurant about a 10 minute walk from the Hirschen....I have not checked it our for over 10 years. The Golden Lion, across the tracks on the other side of the station; it seems to have a hotel attached these days. The location of the Hirschen is much nicer.

Langnau maintains it role as a market town. In the typical Swiss fashion, there are many small industrial companies there, as well as farm related business. It is a junction point for some of the local railways.

This map will help. Zoom in and you can see the railway lines. play with the menus a bit.

map.search.ch/?pos=626850,199166&z=12 8&poi=haltestelle,mobi lity,zug

I turned on the icons for bus and train stops, under Traffic in Points of Interest.

One train stop up the line from Langnau is Trubschachen. There is a valley that runs northward to Fankhaus and beyond. One of the grand farmhouses up that valley...don't know which one...has a "priest's hole" for hiding Anabaptists from the authorities.

There is a lot to see in the Emmental.

This thread will give some clues. I invite your attention to the attached images.

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/langnau-in-may

My favorite inn for the past dozen years or so was the Sonne in Affoltern i. E. The kitchen was excellent. Herr Briggen was a wonderful chef, and kept a good cellar. Now being converted to apartments. ;-(

Instead, I stay at the Bären in Sumiswald, about 12 km away.

www.baeren-sumiswald.ch/home/

Very nice inn, long history in the area, close to Schloss Trachselwald where the Anabaptists were treated rather nastily, good kitchen, good wine list. The Hiltbrunner family has roots in the area; a company owned by the family makes musical instruments, and is a few blocks from the inn. English is spoken by most of the staff. If you speak or read German, you will find the local dialect of "Swiss-German" to be interesting.

Both are a bit north of your area of interest, but the Bären is particularly good.

You can get around the Emmental area by train and bus, which I sometimes do when I am hiking in the area. But, a lot of the service is hourly. For what you are planning, I'd rent a car. Then, depending on where you based, you could use the train and/buses for a sample of the local experience. Some of your villages are near the train lines.

If you want to hike, you can get close to some of the magnificent farmsteads.

Most of your roots are a bit south of the "main" Emmental, but Langnau or Konolfingen could be good bases. The distances between those villages are short.

Herblingen is an outlier- quite a bit north and east...near Schafhausen. Not the same kind of country, at all. A bit over a two hour drive form Langnau, and about 3 1/2 hours by train.

That will get you started. Come back when you have begun to consider a base village. I'd definitely work hard to stay in only one place. However, it might be practical to swing through Herblingen ( or even stay there) after arrival and drive on to , for example, Langnau and stay there. Dopends on your schedule, degree of jet lag, etc.

Will you be coming from the USA? Australia? Jet-lagged? Speak or read any German? I've assumed tha you will be coming in through Zürich....

Slowpoke

davismavis3
davismavis3
18 posts
new member
Jan 2, 2018 - 12:07 AM in reply to Slowpoke

Thank you so much for the quick response and great information! I will check into all those recommendations We'll be coming from Vienna, Austria (yes originally from USA). Don't speak German though but my ancestors all originate from the areas I mentioned. I'm still trying to decide if we should fly from Vienna to Zurich or take the train or if we should just avoid Zurich and come directly to Bern. So very excited!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4702 posts
expert
Jan 2, 2018 - 1:42 AM in reply to davismavis3

Hi davismavis -

<<"I'm still trying to decide if we should fly from Vienna to Zurich or take the train or if we should just avoid Zurich and come directly to Bern.">>

I live in Connecticut. Grew up in Philadelphia, close to the Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Vienna is nice. We have enjoyed our time there a lot. It is a quite nice, very European large city, with wonderful remnants of the Hapsburgs. I assume that you will spend several days there? We found it to be good for a lot more than that.

The train to Zürich from Vienna is also quite nice...about 8 hours, if I recall correctly. Bern has frequent train connections from Zürich. At least four per hour.Travel time ranges from 56 mimutes to 1 hr 21 minutes. Four per hour from Zürich airport, ranging from about 1 hr 10 minutes, to about 1 hour 40 minutes on a slow train with multiple stops along the way.

This will be useful:

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

Check out the total time including transport to/from airports and the need to arrive before flight time as you consider your options. The trains take you directly to/from the center of the cities. Depending on your schedule, I'd perhaps not stay in the cities. That is, skip Bern and go directly to an inn in the Emmental.

You can rent a car at the airport if that is what you choose. About a 10 % surcharge vs. renting elsewhere, but quite convenient. And, in fact, Luzern ( German spelling) might be an option instead of Bern...you have focused on Bern... canton or city? The Emmental is halfway between the cities of Bern and Luzern. Please look at the map I linked.

There are a lot of tours from Amish country (Pennsylvania Dutch country) to allow the residents (Amish, Mennonites, ...) of those counties west of Philadelphia to revisit their roots, especially in the Emmental.

Do you have any interest in such pursuits? Another way to put it...besides quickly looking at those villages, is there any way that you wish to dig deeper?

Glad to hear that you will arrive in Switzerland with no remnants of jet lag. I hope. ;-)

The region that your ancestors came from is very different from Vienna (Wien, auf Deutsch.) or Bern or Zürich or Luzern cities. Although I don't know the specific area near Schaffhausen that you mentioned, I can tell you that the Emmental will stay in your memories long after you leave. You may not be allowing enough time to really appreciate the unique qualities of your ancestors' homeland.

Please check the images in that link I posted.

I understand that you do not speak German. Do you read or understand any at all?

Slowpoke

davismavis3
davismavis3
18 posts
new member
Jan 2, 2018 - 2:45 AM

Yes it is such a short time! My daughter is 17 and she is touring with the Kansas City Youth Symphony and they are playing in Salzburg and Vienna so we will spend 2 days in Salzburg, 3 days in Vienna, then over to Switzerland for about 2 more full days. Not enough time!! I have done extensive research so I know the towns in which the ancestors came from. I wish dearly I could find where they are buried but I understand that cemeteries are different there than in the US and that it's probably an impossible task to find that. I am feeling that the train from Vienna to Bern (perhaps) would take longer but allow us more time to relax and see the beautiful scenery. Flying would get us over to Bern quicker though so I'm still trying to decide. If we rent a car it would only be for the 2 days in Switzerland. I am leaning towards staying in Bern for the 2 days and then we spend the last night in Zurich so we can fly out the next morning. So many options. I think just a week alone in Switzerland would be wonderful! I will look at the links you provided. Thank you so much!!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4702 posts
expert
Jan 2, 2018 - 3:23 AM in reply to davismavis3

<<"Flying would get us over to Bern quicker though so I'm still trying to decide">>

Work it out. Study the timetable. I'm guessing about 6-7 hours elpased from your hotel to Bern if you fly, and about 9 1/2 to 10 by train through Zürich. You probably don't want to fly to Bern, unless you can find a specially good direct flight.. The airport at Bern-Belp is small and south of the city. OTOH, it is relatively close to Oberdiessbach. Don't forget that you waste time in airports...takes a while to get baggage and get out, etc. At least you will be coming from a Schengen country, which can save some time if you fly in, vs. coming from the USA

I definitely would not stay in Bern unless you travel by train. You will waste a lot of travel time going in and out of the city, and parking a car is either impossible or very expensive. Think $50 per night...and higher.

Rent the car somewhere convenient (Zürich airport?), and stay in Langnau, for example. You have not left yourself enough time to waste hours on car logistics. Stay in the countryside. The inns are first rate, and easily accessible.

You might want to skip Herblingen. It is an outlier, from a geographical perspective....

For your flight out, Zürich is an option for the last night. I assume that your flight leaves at about 10Am? If later, you could stay in the Emmental or near Bern and get a fast train to the airport. However, I generally don't recommend that on your first trip. You have to experience the train system to realize how well it does things like that.

There are 5-8 trains per hour from Zürich main station to the airport during the morning hours. They take from 9 minutes to 2o minutes. The airport station is directly connected to the airport facilities. That is often faster than the shuttle bus from an airport hotel to the terminal. OTOH, dropping the car at the airport is really convenient.

Your daughter is a lucky lady. Maybe you should send her home while you all visit Switzerland. ;-) Ha! I know what the reaction would be to that suggestion! Joking, of course.

<<"wish dearly I could find where they are buried but I understand that cemeteries are different there than in the US and that it's probably an impossible task to find that.">>

I'm not sure of the details, so don't quote me. but, I understand that grave plots are rented, and due scarcity of land, are changed out after 25 years. OTOH, the Swiss keep excellent records, and if you contact the Gemeinde (township) ahead of time, you could get likely get some help. Church records are also useful. If you want to take a few hours to dig in while you are there, I can ask some Swiss friends how best to proceed... Reading German helps. ;-(

Slowpoke

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
2419 posts
top member
Jan 2, 2018 - 4:16 AM in reply to davismavis3

>> My daughter and cousin and I will be visiting Europe for the first time next June 2018! We are spending about 2 1/2 days in Switzerland to see where our ancestors come from. The towns are all fairly close to each other: Oberdiessbach, Herbligen, Buchholterberg, OberWichtrach, and Langnau Im Emmental. My question: Are these towns worth visiting or have they become very small and really just bedroom communities?

You can "walk" through these places in Google Street View. That might help you decide whether you actually want to spend any time there, or would be happy (for example) travelling through in a bus and just getting a feel for the look of the area.

>> Would we be best to rent a car to get between these towns or can we use the rail system some how to hop from each of these small towns?

You could probably get around most of them in a day by train and bus, just for a look, although the routing would be a bit convoluted and probably involve some back-tracking. Thun would be a good base if you wanted to attempt this by public transport.

>> Should we spend the 2 nights in Bern and use that as a stay point or should we try and stay in a different spot each of the nights?

I would definitely only stay in one place to avoid wasting precious time packing/unpacking and checking in and out. Thun might be a better choice than Bern.

If at all possible, I would save some time to get a train up to Wengen in the Jungfrau Region to see some superb alpine scenery close up. It would be such a shame to be so close to the Jungfrau Region and not to see any of it!

If you started from Thun shortly before 9am, you could get to Wengen, look around for a bit over 2 hours, and then get back to Thun shortly after 2pm to continue with your interests there. Of course, the Jungfrau Region really merits much, much more time than that, but I understand that your priority is seeing places associated with your family's origins.

Alpenrose

Last modified on Jan 2, 2018 - 7:40 AM by Chantal
Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
2419 posts
top member
Jan 2, 2018 - 4:23 AM in reply to davismavis3

>> I'm still trying to decide if we should fly from Vienna to Zurich or take the train

The train from Vienna to Zürich is a very nice trip, in particular from Innsbruck onwards.

  • Between Innsbruck and the Swiss border, the trip is particularly scenic - mountains, valleys and villages.
  • Not too long after leaving Landeck-Zams station, there's a castle close by on the right-hand side, which is worth keeping an eye out for (Wiesberg Castle).
  • Just after St Anton am Arlberg (where the train will stop), the train goes through a 10km tunnel under the Arlberg mountain range. When you emerge on the other side, if you look back in the direction you have come from there is a good view of the Arlberg massif.
  • Shortly after Feldkirch, the train leaves Austria and travels through Liechtenstein for about 10 minutes before crossing the River Rhine (quite narrow at this point) and entering Switzerland at Buchs SG. At Buchs SG the train reverses direction, so you get the impression that you are heading back to Vienna! I've seen a few nervous passengers at this point!
  • Between Sargans and Zürich, the train travels alongside the Walensee (Lake Walen, a narrow, very deep lake with the Churfirsten mountains rising steeply from the other side of the lake) and the Zürichsee (Lake Zürich).

>> or if we should just avoid Zurich and come directly to Bern.

Given the very limited time you have, I would not spend any of it in Zürich, but rather concentrate on your villages of interest and try to squeeze in a trip to Wengen.

Alpenrose

Last modified on Jan 2, 2018 - 4:23 AM by Alpenrose666
davismavis3
davismavis3
18 posts
new member
Jan 2, 2018 - 4:51 AM

Thank you all for these wonderful tips!! Google street view - good reminder about that!

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
2419 posts
top member
Jan 2, 2018 - 8:42 AM in reply to davismavis3

Hi davismavis,

I have done a timetable search trying to cobble together all your areas of interest, and this is what I came up with (see attached screenshots Family_history_route and Family_history_route_map). This will give you an idea of what is possible, but there will be other (and maybe better) possibilities (including starting from Bern if you prefer) if you spend some time with the Swiss Timetable (to which Slowpoke has given you the link).

My search consisted of the following:

  • From Thun
  • To Langnau i.E.
  • Via Heimenschwand, Post (stopover 30 minutes)
  • Via Oberdiessbach (stopover 30 minutes)
  • Via Wichtrach, Käserei (stopover 30 minutes)
  • Via Herbligen, Dorf (stopover 30 minutes)

Edit: looking at it again, I probably should have put Herbligen before Wichtrach, but you can fix that if you do your own search!

The following diagram of transport routes in the area should assist you to plot a route with the timetable.

www.postauto.ch/sites/ default/files/content/ liniennetzplane/linien netz-region-bern.pdf

Herbligen isn't shown on the diagram, but is on PostBus route 167 between Oberdiessbach and Oppligen.

The bus stop at Oberwichtrach is called Wichtrach, Käserei according to the GeoAdmin map (screenshot Oberwichtrach attached), so that is what I used in the timetable search.

The Gemeinde Buchholterberg seems to be centred on Heimenschwand, so the destination I used in the timetable search was Heimenschwand, Post, but there are various other bus stops in the area (see attached screenshot Gemeinde Buchholterberg). The map website I used for this screenshot is linked immediately below, and clicking on the bus graphics on the website will give you the names of other bus stops in the area if you have a more precise idea of where you want to go:

tinyurl.com/y8phjkwe

Have fun discovering your family's "Heimat"!

Alpenrose

Last modified on Jan 2, 2018 - 9:20 AM by Alpenrose666
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Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4702 posts
expert
Jan 2, 2018 - 10:38 AM in reply to Alpenrose666

Hi Alpenrose -

Thanks for discovering "real" Herbligen.

I wondered how a town near Schaffhausen got into the list.... I guess that I used the SBB station list to search.

All of that does make Thun a logical choice for a base, but I think that a stay in the northern portion of her interests would give a better feel for the countryside. With all those places close together, a car is less necessary. Having the wrong Herbligen was forcing a car into the route. Still, if the journey includes getting out and walking around, a car could offer useful flexibility. I did not check for all possibilities, but I notice Avis locations ( I generally use Avis) in Thun and Worb.

Slowpoke

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4702 posts
expert
Jan 2, 2018 - 3:17 PM in reply to davismavis3

Hi DavisMavis-

Why not stay in Oberdiessbach?

www.loewen-oberdiessbach.ch/conte nt/lokalitaeten/index_ ger.html

Scroll down, 5 bedrooms. Typical of such an inn.

I used the menu tools under "Points of Interest" in this map to find accommodations.

map.search.ch/L%C3%B6w en,Oberdiessbach,Burgd orfstr.5

map.search.ch/?pos=611748,188060&z=64 &poi_id=5dba45da2d0af3 2d-tel&poi=cafe,hotel,res taurant

Not all are listed, and there is no measure of character or quality. That inn has three stars by the official Swiss Hotel Association ratings. That rating is based on the facility and he amenities such as an elevator, in room TV or WiFi, etc...e.g., if it had a swimming pool it would step up to 4 stars. It is in no way a measure of cleanliness, service, restaurant quality, etc. I routinely stay in 2 star and 3 star inns.

However, the names show up if you mouse over the icons and then you can search the web; that is how I cam upon the one noted.

I'd readily consider staying there myself. Although I'd also look around a bit more. The main road, on which it is located, has a steady level of traffic, but I'd not expect it to be a really noisy location. The rooms might be on the back side, nearer the train line. That line does not have heavy rail traffic.

There are nice places near Konolfingen, where I have stayed and I recall that there is an old and famous one somewhere near Zäziwil. I'll keep looking.

I stayed a few times at the Sternen in Grosshöchstetten. The rooms were cheap, because they had never updated them. The restaurant used to have a stunning wine -cellar and a really good kitchen.b However, both declined to "ordinary" so I went elsewhere. The same was true of the well-known (in Swiss circles) Bären in Signau, which has now changed owners many times and is an unknown quantity for me now.

There is a small restaurant with 4 or 5 rooms in Wichtrach:

www.kreuzwichtrach.ch/

About 400 meters from the Bahnhof.

Finally, if you decide that one or 1 and 1/2 days in the area of the villages are enough, Alpenrose's suggestion of Wengen is excellent...in clear weather.

In 4 1/2 hours or less by public transport from Thun and return, you could have nice lunch at Männlichen up above Wengen. Less time if you ate in Wengen, where plenty of places are situated so you can see the Jungfrau.

Slowpoke

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Lucas
Lucas
7106 posts
expert &
moderator
Jan 4, 2018 - 11:03 AM in reply to davismavis3

A quick note about coming from Vienna - I just did this trip by trains for New Years (3 nights in Vienna and 1 night in Bratislava).

We took the overnight train between Zurich and Vienna (departs at 21:30 roughly and arrives at 08:00).

My wife and I love the night trains for travel - comfortable (a but tight as my wife is the short one and she is 6'2") You get transport and a hotel night combined into one price.:) We got 2 free prosecco bottles and a good breakfast included as well (2 bed compartment).

We took the day train back (13:30 - 21:00 roughly). It was fine....daylight for the first few hours at this time of year. You see a few nice castles and a nice view coming into Salzburg - but nothing I would write home about (especially after you travel around Switzerland).

We got delayed by an hour as there was a freak wind storm around St. Gallen yesterday that actually pushed over a train carriage....right off the tracks!

davismavis3
davismavis3
18 posts
new member
Jan 4, 2018 - 3:41 PM in reply to Lucas

Thanks! I was considering an overnight but then we really wouldn't get into Switzerland until Friday and that would only give us Friday and Saturday to see the sights. The night train looks very cool though!

davismavis3
davismavis3
18 posts
new member
Jan 5, 2018 - 12:31 AM

I'm starting to feel torn now between staying in Interlaken and Jungfrau! Everything seems to be fairly close in proximity. I feel we can drive to/through the small towns in one day and then have the second day to explore either Interlaken area and/or Jungrau. What is your preference between the two cities? Not sure we care to go high up into the mountains though.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4702 posts
expert
Jan 5, 2018 - 1:17 AM in reply to davismavis3

Hi davismavis -

Switzerland is full of good places to visit, for many days on end. One good way to make choices is to ask your self-

"What will I regret if I do not spend enough time on it, while I am there?"

The transport system allows you great flexibility, as does renting a car. Car may be better in rural areas, but public transport will work.

<<"I'm starting to feel torn now between staying in Interlaken and Jungfrau! Everything seems to be fairly close in proximity. I feel we can drive to/through the small towns in one day and then have the second day to explore either Interlaken area and/or Jungrau. What is your preference between the two cities? Not sure we care to go high up into the mountains though.

Look at the maps I linked early on (Mapsearch.ch). Those two arequite close, as you note. Interlaken (a city) is not a good destination; rather, a transfer point. Jungfrau ( note spelling) is not a city. If you don't want to go up in the mountains, forget about it. That is why you go into that region. Solves that problem ;-)

If you can focus on your priorities, as first described, I guess (?) you can build your itinerary from there on.

If you wish to spend time in the Gemeindrat, following up leads for burials or otherwise, you should allow at least a couple of hours just for that....

Slowpoke

Last modified on Jan 5, 2018 - 1:28 AM by Slowpoke
Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
2419 posts
top member
Jan 5, 2018 - 3:06 AM in reply to davismavis3

>> Not sure we care to go high up into the mountains though.

Could I ask why not? :-)

Alpenrose

davismavis3
davismavis3
18 posts
new member
Jan 5, 2018 - 3:09 AM in reply to Slowpoke

So I don't think we want to spend both days in "rural" areas. My dad is a dairy farmer in Northwest Missouri (7th generation from Swiss farmers!) so we get plenty of "country visits" with farm and cows here at home. One day for visiting the family homesteads, YES! Day 2 - maybe a city where we can walk around, shop, see some sights, neat buildings, etc. I think my daughter will want to shop a little. I had a friend, former travel agent, tell me to visit Interlaken so that is why I was considering that.

davismavis3
davismavis3
18 posts
new member
Jan 5, 2018 - 3:12 AM in reply to Alpenrose666

Not so much opposed to going up in the mountains but with such a short amount of time I don't know that it would interest my teenage daughter so much to spend our day that way. Plus I'm not a "hiker" by nature. If we could do it in about 2-3 hours in the morning and then have to visit a city of some place to shop, tour, eat lunch, etc. I am open to suggestions. Do you suggest something in close proximity that would make a good quick trip up and back?

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
2419 posts
top member
Jan 5, 2018 - 8:54 AM in reply to davismavis3

>> Not so much opposed to going up in the mountains but with such a short amount of time I don't know that it would interest my teenage daughter so much to spend our day that way.

Do you think she would enjoy the view in the photo attached? You can get to that lookout in Wengen in about 10 minutes from Wengen station, along a mainly level, paved road through the centre of the village (see photos attached). There is a very short uphill bit towards the end, which you can see in the photo Wengen_Dorfstrasse (2). The lookout is just around that corner. I have also attached a map.

No hiking required! Plenty of places to each lunch in the village. Views you will never forget. The trip up in the train from Lauterbrunnen is also stunning.

>> If we could do it in about 2-3 hours in the morning and then have to visit a city of some place to shop, tour, eat lunch, etc. I am open to suggestions. Do you suggest something in close proximity that would make a good quick trip up and back?

I already have, in my earlier post: Wengen - photos attached.

Alpenrose

Last modified on Jan 5, 2018 - 9:02 AM by Alpenrose666
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