Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Laupen: Present bike ride and past battle

Warning: I’ve started my posts in Word now, which means I can add umlauts easily, but also means I will be more long-winded…  So just look at the pictures if you don’t want to read this much text!

Today was a lazy day, but yesterday I took my trusty steed on another adventure.  We left at 10:15 am and started on the same route out of town toward Köniz that I took in the last post.  I was wearing shorts and was wishing that I had on my long johns it was so cold!  The sunny days feel like summer but the overcast days are more like October or November!  When I got to Köniz I saw a route sign I had missed yesterday and I thought it might be a quieter road to the town where I was headed.  It was a nicer road and started out in the right direction but then it looked like it was veering away from where I wanted to go so I checked my online map on my ipod and realized I could get back on track by making a right turn just down the road.  It turned out to be a good detour and I got to see a little new country.

From the small town of Niederscherli, I got on Switzerland Mobility Route 99 (also known as the Herzroute “Heart Route”) toward Laupen.  I can’t emphasize enough how incredible these routes are.  They take quieter back roads and I often feel like I am biking down the driveway to a farmhouse, complete with plenty of cow poop, which it turns out I am!

The route went between the house and the barn!
 Other times the route becomes a trail.  In this case, I am heading onto a dirt track through a valley complete with a stream running next to me.

The route sign is on the right - heading into "im graben", a narrow valley.
Then, after some climbing out of the ravine and going through some farmer fields, the route topped out at an incredible view.  Once again, it was too cloudy to see the mountains - but they were there behind the farms and houses.

This is near Bramberg, where part of the battle I will describe later took place.
After the high point, it was a nice long downhill into Laupen.  I almost missed the exit for the castle but I saw the sign for "Schloss" and made a quick left.  The first thing I saw was the trebuchet (bliden in German) that Vera had told me about.  It is well over 30 feet long.

That is a huge weight on the left, and the right can FLING things up and away!
If you have seen the "Northern Exposure" episode where Chris launches a piano from a huge trebuchet you know how this works.  If you haven't seen it I highly recommend 3 minutes of your time for this clip:

They also had a sturmbock (storming ram) and Vera kindly translated some information on it for me:
This massive wooden construction is built from logs cut in the nearby woods. From the ridge of the construction a long log is attached by several chains. A destructive iron point is fixed to the front of the log. The log glides on round pieces of wood or wheels. To protect the construction from burning projectiles, the builders covered the roof of the storm ram with wet skins. The ditch (around the fortified village) has been filled beforehand with layers of branches and earth, so that the storm ram can advance to the village wall. The soldiers then begin to bring the storm ram into motion. The iron point rams into the wall and loosens stones. The goal was to create a breach.  In the case of Laupen, however, the defendants knew how to deter the attack.

The battle of Laupen was in 1339 and began because Fribourg wanted Bernese territories as Bern was getting more and more powerful. With help of soldiers from Habsburg (Austria) and Burgundy they laid siege of the fortified town of Laupen for 10 days. On June 21 the Bernese army successfully attacked the army of knights and footfolk of the Fribourg coalition.  And, for the first time, the soldiers of the Bernese coalition wore the white cross on their doublets (like the white cross on the flag) so they would be recognized.  Thanks, Vera, for all this great information!

Sturmbock (Storming ram)
The castle in Laupen dates from after this battle, but it is still old (especially by American standards) with the date 1523 on one part of it, and those dates are often after the original construction).

View of Laupen from the castle
It had taken me 2.5 hours of biking to get to Laupen so I stopped at a cafe for the mittag menu - the daily lunch special.  It was a much larger lunch than my usual cheese sandwich.  I had a salad, followed by pork and vegetables covered with gravy and really good french fries on the side.  I was going to pay the bill when they brought me dessert - a creamy yogurt with whip cream and pistachios.  Yum.  I really just wanted a nap after that but decided I had better head back towards Bern.  At lunch, there was a young couple who had also shown up on bikes and they had a map with them that showed a lot of detail, so I was able to find a shorter route (34) that headed back to Bern.

Mittag "lunch" aquaintances with the good map!
The new route headed back up, up, up out of the valley away from the river Sense, and then went through the town of Bramberg where the other part of the Battle of Laupen had taken place.  Today, Bramberg is a typically pretty Swiss town with a really darling school.  Note the medieval fountain in front, and the modern glass entrance bringing light into the school.  I might get a little nostalgic when I see kids going back to school soon!

An attractive school in Bramberg
Soon I came to the point where my old route and my new route diverged.  The road to the left was actually the short cut to Bern despite the signs that confused me for a bit!

Note how nicely the Swiss label their bike routes!
Soon, I saw a large monument on a hill.  It doesn't look large from here but it was quite impressive.  Once again Vera translated that this was built in 1839 to commemorate the battle of 1339.  I should have walked up to get a closer picture...

Monument to the Battle of Laupen
Getting closer to Bern, there is a more modern wood construction holding someone's wood.  The industrious Swiss appear to be ready for winter.  There are wood piles by every farmhouse and often by the houses in the towns as well.  This pile is well protected!

Note how high the wood is stacked inside!
The final view is just before coming into Bern.  Looking back on the road I've taken with a field of poppies on the left.  More adventures to come!

Looking back on the route

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