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Biking the Emmental Valley

Biking the Emmental Valley

Photo courtesy of Bern Tourism

What Switzerland might lack in big-city glamour it more than makes up for with showstopping natural landscapes. Its alpine peaks are well known as the setting for snowy adventures. But during warmer months, the country’s valleys offer their own kind of charm. Biking through the lush Emmental Valley in the canton of Bern, best known as the home of Emmentaler cheese (called Swiss in the U.S.), gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in rolling fields and plenty of tranquil beauty.

The morning of my bike trip dawned heavy with mist. As someone who rarely rides, I was slightly worried about overcoming the valley’s up-and-down terrain while being pelted by cold, wet rain. The Swiss joke that it never rains here—they’re only filling up their many lakes. Thankfully, the watering session didn’t last very long. Eventually the clouds parted to let a bit of sun peek out, illuminating truly Instagram-worthy panoramas of green fields dotted with towering fir trees, the Bernese Alps looming large in the background. As we rode, we occasionally passed sprawling farms and stopped to take selfies alongside bell-wearing cows and adorable, fuzzy sheep.

It was my first time on an electric bike, and I soon fell in love with how it allowed me to pedal only casually, even uphill, the machine’s power propelling me forward. The route wasn’t difficult, but the Emmental’s topography isn’t flat, and while the first hill or two were almost forgettable, I was glad to be on a set of wheels that gave an extra push once we reached hills 11 and 12. I had rented the bike—a Flyer—through the Käseroute (cheese route) app, which also laid out the almost 22-mile itinerary.

We stopped for lunch at Hof Schaufelbühl, a family-owned farm with storybook architecture, where we reenergized with fresh salads, finely sliced charcuterie and nutty, buttery cheese. The break also included a visit to the farm’s hayloft, a barnlike space with beds made of straw. Hof Schaufelbühl, taking advantage of the boom in agritourism, often welcomes travelers who want to experience a different type of accommodation. After relaxing a bit longer with coffee and tea, we set out for our final destination, the town of Burgdorf.

The second half of the day was a mix of carefree riding and slightly more complicated stretches when we cycled down rocky, winding paths with a hill on one side and what looked like an abyss on the other. Then pristine green farmlands gave way to lively villages where school kids played a noisy game of soccer (or Fußball in German) and shaded woodlands amplified the rush of the Emme River, which once was used to transport Emmentaler cheese down to the rest of Switzerland.

As we cycled away from the idyll of the valley, I took a moment to relish the experience—both physically and mentally invigorating—and then pulled from my pocket a cube of Swiss cheese that I had smuggled from lunch and popped it in my mouth, just to extend the sensation a little bit longer.

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