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Beatenberg

Adorable Chick

SWITZERLAND diary : Day 7 - 11th April 2014

At a fifteen minute driving distance to the west of Interlaken is the village of Beatenberg, the southern border of which entirely overlooks the gracious river Thun. Labeled as a part of the beautiful Bernese Oberland region, the area is covered with largely uninhabitable mountains and valleys. However, the NEIDERHORN mountain makes the village a favourite tourist destination all year round. A gondola ride up this mountain peak, from the village, is expected to certainly mesmerise crowds. The village gets its name from St. Beatus , a Scottish-Irish monk, who around the 9th century set out to convert and redeem a certain group of Celtics. Legend has it that during his journey, the monk settled down in a portion of a 'cave series' in the southern Beatenberg area, after defeating a fire spewing dragon who challenged his occupancy of the cave. The village gained prominence due to this and the cave was rightfully named ST. BEATUS HOHLEN . Lying in the lap of the southern slopes of the Niederhorn mountain range, the entrance to the 14 km long cave stands upright on the southern border, above a cliff.

In a bid to gain unique experiences we included this LIMESTONE cave visit in our schedule. The first half of the day No. 7 was well spent in Bern city ( read BERN). It was bright with clear skies and the climate was much warmer that afternoon. A train from the Bern reached us to Thun station. We boarded a bus outside the Thun station to get to the caves. The bus drove for around 40 minutes before finally gliding on the bridge hugging a mountain side, built over the beautiful Thun lake. The St. Beatus Hohlen bus stop is strategically placed on this bridge, bang opposite to start point of the upward climb to the cave entrance. The cave grills its way through the Alps, at a height here. A 'welcome to ST.BEAUTUS HOHLEN' hoarding received us at the start point of the climb, with the caves nowhere in sight. Diligently following the sign boards we walked up the stone steps. A short climb introduced us to a well laid out road, aesthetically fenced with wood. Thereafter, roads and stone steps alternated all along the path winding all the way to the top. The trek grew more pleasant, surprising us at every curve. In the first of our turns, we spotted a stone castle like structure at a height, embedded onto the visible side of the mountain, with roofed walkways branching from either side of it.

This was our target - 'the main entrance to the caves'. The St. Beatus Hohlen waterfall, gracefully cascaded down the mountain side, unravelling itself from right below this entrance. Walking further we crossed a couple of well built stone bridges, that stood arching above the water fall. We also hit upon an impressive short tunnel, that cut itself through a gigantic piece of rock. The tunnel formed a passage on the walkway, with a roundish opening on its side wall, creating a natural window. Adorned with bright yellow & other seasonal flowers and creepers on its outside, with water from the fall spraying right down its natural window, this structure created an ideal photo spot. The waters here, collected into a small stone pond, further re-channeled to merge with the mighty lake below.

Tidy Desk

A petite stone angel blessed us on our way. The thoughtfully created walkways, loaded with wooden benches at every point, made it easy to rest and savour the panoramic views during the climb. Without a break, we got to the top. The entrance was as striking as it seemed from below. Its huge, triple arched stone balcony, featured by a cylindrical tower wearing a typical Swiss style dark brown dome, lying at its western end, was dramatic. We crossed the roofed pathway sticking to the mountain side and reached the entrance. We were surprisingly greeted by a spacious corridor with high ceiling & stone flooring. We approached the reception desk here. A portion of the floor, we were told, was an ancient monastery that is today converted to a restaurant. The instant shade and comfort offered by this noticeably eco-friendly place, was more than welcome after the climb. The souvenir shop here displayed usual stuff. The aerial views of the Thun were amazing. The yellow wooden benches & seating, coupled with random flower arrangements, added to the aesthetics. We purchased our guided-tour tickets before treating ourselves to some coffee and snacks. The ticket included a visit to the cave museum. One can also opt for self-guided tours.

We decided to pay the museum a visit while waiting for the tour to begin. Though the museum covered only a small floor space inside a separate cave, to the right of the main entrance, it brought the entire cave history to life including many zoological and geological aspects.

A large sized wood & stone inscription awaited us at the museum entrance. A quick walk around the cavern got us face to face with life-sized mannequins, depicting the erstwhile cavemen, working hard to get past their daily lives. Engaging themselves with animal hides, sharp pieces of rock and wood was obviously their natural way of life. A huge window was carved and framed on a portion of rock, through which a mannequin of St. Beatus himself, sat surrounded in a dwelling like set up, portraying his possible life style. Today the museum is said to be renovated with loads of opportunities for various interactive sessions. Cutting through the hard rock to create an impressive place of tourist interest bubbling with information, is commendable.

The walk around the museum didn't take us that long. We probably should have stopped a while to browse through the display of historical information. Back at the restaurant benches, we relaxed , still waiting for the 'CAVE TOURS' to begin. We were soon introduced to a pretty & friendly, female tour guide. The 75 minute adventure tour promised to take us down history lane, while screening and understanding various natural formations from millions of years, within the one kilometre distance that it meant to cover. Staying close to each other we followed the guide along with other participants into this amazing stone world. Marching up and down steps, bending our heads and sometimes knees to avoid the caving rocks, we moved at an easy pace. It did get a bit colder inside.