Waiting at the bus stop a few weeks ago, looking in a bookshop window to while away the time, I spotted a book: '50 walks in Emmental'. I love Emmental (the region, not the cheese - though I like that too) with its 'model railway' landscape, all hills and flower-decked wooden farmhouses - so I went in and bought it. A few days later (Saturday 12th September), off we went on Walk No. 37, Escholzmatt to Trub, via Bockshorn. I chose this one because it was easy to get to (a direct train), and finished at the village of Trub, which has a very nice old inn where we have stayed on previous occasions. A lovely early autumn day, clear and sunny; archetypal tawny cows grazing in the fields; gardens full of dahlias and sunflowers......... even the train ride there was a real pleasure. In Escholzmatt we spotted a bakery and stocked up on buns before setting off walking. Up and up for most of the first 4 kms, first through fields, then a rocky path through woodland, emerging at the top by the farm at Bock. From here we could see for miles across the surrounding hills, with Napf, the highest of them, towering up on the right. As we stood contemplating the view, the farm dog, a shaggy beast the size of a Shetland pony, loomed up, barking. A nervous few moments until we deduced this was a friendly greeting rather than a threatening one. It did bring the owner out, however, to check what the noise was about; a few words from her, and it subsided into meek silence. We somehow managed to miss the short diversion to the summit of Bockshorn, and decided to pass on this, carrying on along the road. We briefly investigated a path off to the right as a possible alternative, before deciding it wasn't going where we wanted to go, but did take a break here to eat our bakery buns and enjoy the view for a while. What was the one thing we had forgotten to bring? - a camera! Back on the road for a while, past another farm at Ober Altgfähl, with an enterprising little self-service cafe in its garden (we were tempted, but decided to hold out for the inn at Trub), a lovely stretch of field path across the top of a grassy ridge with impressive views in both directions, and onto another road at the end of it. It 'felt right', so we didn't question it - J. had the map, but couldn't be bothered to look at it, and I couldn't be bothered to get my glasses out to look at the book - though the lack of yellow signposts should have been a clue. Thus it was that we went wrong, ended up at the bottom of a field with no way out (barbed wire and a deep valley made that clear), and had to trek back up again, retracing our way along the road until we found the missed signpost. (It had got a bit turned round, and was edge-on as we approached it on the way down, so we just didn't see it.) Back on track, it was easy going for a while, but then went increasingly steeply downhill as we approached Trub. The last signposted path was so extreme, I looked at the start of it, and decided to spare my knees the unnecessary torture, since there was a longer but less steep track down too. Even this was tricky, slippery with loose stones, but eventually negotiated without mishap, and then just a walk through the village separated us from our final reward. On the way, we passed the local cheesery, which also has a sideline in beeswax, with an intriguing gadget outside - a glass-fronted box full of honeycombs, which automatically turns to face the sun, so the wax melts and runs into a container at the bottom. A resulting merry fantasy (non-serious) about fitting sunflowers (which also always face the sun) with tiny solar panels occupied the rest of the walk to the inn, and a well-deserved beer and sandwich. A coach party of Americans arrived while we were there, fresh from their visit to the Kambly biscuit factory down the road at Trubschachen. We got talking to one of them, and she said most of them had Emmental roots in their ancestry, so were particularly fascinated to visit this part of the country. They were certainly very enthusiastic about what they had seen of it so far. From Trub there was a bus to Trubschachen, and our train home. 1 down, 49 to go!
Our next venture, 9 days later, took us from Langnau to Aeschau. Another beautiful day. Lunch (soup/salad) in the station buffet first. As we set off walking, a bus drove up to its parking space outside, and I was amused to see its destination board proclaimed 'Pause' ('Break') with a depiction of a steaming cup of coffee on either side of the word - a bit more imaginitive than 'Out of service'. I wish now I'd taken a picture of it. Footbridge across the railway line, a few minutes along the river at the back of factories and warehouses (an unexpected face of Emmental), then out into the countryside. Enjoyable walking, a mixture of field paths, woodland, and minor roads, again mostly up for the first few kms, then gradually undulating its way back down again. Highest point reached at Howacht, where a herd of disconcertingly curious young cows crowded round us as we paused for a breather, so we didn't stay long. An inviting bench with an impressive view of the mountains (Eiger and friends) seemed a more suitable place to take a break, a few minutes later.
This was a walk where we encountered a lot of animals. As well as the usual cows and cats, there was one farm that had alpacas, and another where there was a field of frisky ponies on one side of the road, and some equally frisky pigs on the other - possibly the happiest pigs I've ever seen, rooting about in the earth, and gambolling about - literally running just for the sheer joy of it. I think pigs' reputation for being fat and lazy is undeserved - given the chance, they are active, intelligent, hedonistic creatures, and it's sad to see them crowded together in little concrete yards, nowhere to go and nothing to do, just lying there in the inertia of boredom. I'm sure the reason they are so pleased to see people is as much the prospect of entertainment as of food. I remember the ones we gave snowballs to, on a walk last winter, how animated they became with something new to occupy their interest. Anyway, these slim, athletic pigs were having fun (especially as the adjoining field had maize in it, and maybe a cob or two fell within their reach from time to time) and it was lovely to see it. There was also one stretch of roadside verge populated by hundreds of little blue butterflies - absolutely magical. Another roadside with lots of wild thyme also atttacted a fair amount of bees and butterflies.
Through non-consultation of map/book, we again(!) missed a turn-off, and ended up doing a rather extravagant diversion before finally ending up in Aeschau. We considered walking the rest of the way to Signau to get the train, but then decided to get the bus there; train from Signau back to Langnau; and another train home to Luzern. Two down, 48 to go...........!
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