Those of you who read my post about our trip to St. Peter´s Island on Lake Biel may remember, that we took a boat ride from here. The stopover was in La Neuveville. I knew then that I wanted to visit it once. But it took two years before we finally got here. But the wait definitely paid off.
La Neuveville is located just on the border between the cantons of Bern and Neuchâtel but still belongs to the Canton of Bern. Before we came here, I was looking for what’s interesting for kids here. Of course, the Lake of Biel is a great attraction, but I wanted to take a hike out of the port and the historic center of the city (of course it is worth a visit, I’ll get to it). I was thrilled to find the themed trail “La Balade de la Sorcière” (the Witches Trail) on the website of the town. The promotional brochure says the witch invites you not only to discover the secrets of the medieval town by the lake, but also the secrets of plants, trees, rocks, and water. It takes you to the woods and picturesque paths through the vineyards and leads you to the secret waterfalls that once used to be the official bathing place for local witches. Well, tell who would resist this trail?
La Neuveville is about 50 minutes’ drive from Bern. I recommend leaving the car in the metered parking lot near the train station.
La Neuveville Historic Center
We started our themed walk at the Tour de Rive tower. In the Middle Ages, it was one of the two main gates to the town and this was the gate leading to the port. Immediately opposite, there is another historic building, the Cour de Berne, which was the wine cellar of the Premonstratensian Abbey in Bellelay.*
The second main gate of La Neuveville, founded in 1312 by Bishop Gérard de Vuippens, is Tour Rouge. You can get there by going to the main street of Rue de Marché. Actually, you will have it at sight all the time, you definitely can not overlook it. You also cannot overlook the two fountains overlooked, so typical of Swiss cities. Keep an eye on small children so that they do not end up in the open channel flowing through the street.
La Balade de la Sorcière
As we walked through the Tour Rouge gate, we found the sign with the pictogram of the witch we went straight. Then we, probably because of our inattention, did not turn right to Rue Cheminet. Instead, we continued straight ahead and turned right to Chemin de la Baume. With this mistake, we missed the first post – the witch’s garden. Instead, we went through the local vineyards bounded by stone walls. Luckily we joined the trail again on Chemin du Tirage. Here began the steep climb. In a sweat, we got into the pleasant shade of the forest. And a little further was the next (but our the first) post: “Le Gibet” – The Gibbet. The information on the board was not just reading for small children, but death also belongs to life, isn´t it?
Then a steep zigzag climbing along a narrow forest path awaited us. Even though the trail leads along the “normal” hiking trail, you will see the symbol of orange witches on the trees and on the stones. Pity that there aren´t more signs in the town.
After the climb, we reached the highest point of the trail. From the “Le Pavillon” you will have a magnificent view of the town. And you will also learn about other towers that were part of the town’s historic fortifications.
When we had enough of the views, we headed down the trail down the hill. Needless to say, the children enjoyed it, the more they knew that the next stop would be a picnic place.
After the snack, we set out on the trail again. I thought our next stop would be Castle Château de Schlossberg. The direction was correct, but the castle and its gardens are not open to the public.
Approximately 300 meters towards the castle (sorry if my estimate is not exactly accurate) you have to turn right and walk up the stairs to the main road. We first overlooked them and continued down the Ancienne Route du Château. When we realized our mistake, we came back. The stairs lead to the main road that you have to cross to continue the trail.
Soon you will climb down the rocky steps to the small, but very nice La Cascade waterfall. This is where the local witches were once swimming 🙂
Along the Ruisseau de Vaux brook and between the vineyards, we soon got back to La Neuveville.
After a few minutes, we reached the lake. As we walked through the promenade along the water, I found myself on the shores of the sea rather than the lakes 🙂 On the promenade, you will find restaurants and a bistro where you can quench your thirst. There is also a nice playground.
We managed the trail in the time it´s mentioned in the itinerary (2,5hrs), even though we made 2 detours (marked on the map with violet). It’s up to you if you decide to start the trail in the town center like us or vice versa. There are no tasks on the trail that you have to follow. The trail is definitely not suitable for a stroller, the path is narrow and steep, with natural and rocky stairs waiting for you. As I mentioned above, I would appreciate more signs on the trail or street names in the map.
Anyway, whether you decide to go on a trail or not, I definitely recommend a visit to the charming and colorful La Neuveville.
*The source of all the “clever” information in this post come from the Balades en ville/Städtische Rundgänge/City Walks brochure, which is available at the town information center on Rue de Marché 4. The friendly and helpful staff will be happy to advise you about other attractions in the vicinity of the town.
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