Saturday, March 20, 2010

Switzerland for Levelers, part 4: Canaling

Most of us think of Switzerland as a country for hiking, mountain climbing and skiing, but few if any associate it with commuting by boat. Yet that is exactly what I did, traveling from Neuchatel to Murten/Morat along the Canal de la Broye.

In the process I arrived in the Fribourg region, the pre-Alps. The Navigation Company runs regular service in the Three Lakes area and is a perfect vehicle for levelers. Seats on deck or inside are comfortable and the boat's slow speed makes photography a joy. You'll pass bicyclists and walkers going along the lakeside paths, swans cruising by, cornfields, vineyards sloping up from the lake and other picturesque, camera-worthy sights.

 Tip: You can get off at a stop, look around and pick up the next boat that comes along.

I did just that, stopping for lunch in the shady garden of the Hotel de l'Ours in Sugiez. With Mont-Vully at our backs, the Broye River in front of us, I feasted on local perch fillets and local wine before ambling along the "Wine Path" and having a tasting at one of the country's smallest vineyards.

Refreshed, I boarded another boat and continued to the town with a split personality. For 400 years it was shared by two cantons, one French, one German, thus the two names. Murten is the one most people use.

Two wedding receptions aboard separate barges were in full swing when our boat arrived, a festive welcome.

Warning: You'll do some walking here, but it's worth the effort, especially the  climb atop the walled city's battlements.

At one time a retirement area for Roman soldiers, Morat/Murten became a stop on the roadway between north and south Europe, making it strategically important.

Atop the walls you can picture the awesome forces of the undefeated Charles the Bold who camped outside the city and boasted, "I will have Murten for breakfast and Lausanne for lunch."

So valiantly was the undermanned city defended, he failed.

You won't fail to live and eat well here; the cows are milked at 5 p.m. and by 5:55 the milk arrives at the town's gruyer -making plant.

Tip: Take time for a beverage at the Cafe Bern Tor (road to Bern) next to the city gate. Its owner is tasked with tending and cranking the huge clock each day.

For more information on Switzerland, go to and click on "Travel: Europe".


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