Lake Biel and Regional Villages Attractions
The Bieler See (Lake Biel) or Lac de Bienne (alt. 429 m/1,408ft: area 39 sq. km/15 sq. mi), forms the boundary between two geological regions, the limestone formations of the Jura and the molasse (soft greenish sandstone) of the area around the lakes.
On the north side of the lake the slopes of the Jura fall steeply down, with the German-speaking villages of Tüscherz, Twann and Ligerz, once belonging to Burgundy. The shore on the south side, less visited by tourists, is flatter, and in prehistoric times was occupied by numerous lake-dwellings built on piles. At the south end of the lake lies the popular resort of St Peterinsel (St Peter's Island), the southeast side of which is the haunt of large numbers of waterfowl.In 1878, as a result of the control of the River Aare, the level of the lake was lowered by some 2 m/7ft. The Aare, which had previously flowed past the lake 7km/4mi to the east, was then diverted into the lake by the construction of a canal at Hagneck and brought back to its original bed by another canal from Nidau to Büren. As a result soil and debris carried down by the river were deposited in the lake.A circuit of the lake provides an opportunity of seeing the beautiful scenery of its shores and a series of attractive little towns and villages, in the area in the canton of Berne. Three-quarters of the area is planted with the white Chasselas grape, a fifth with the red Pinot Noir. Vines are also grown at Ligerz, Tüscherz, Vingelz, Tscugg, La Neuveville and Alfermée and on St Peterinsel.
A walk from Biel to Tüscherz and Twann (two hours), returning from Twann by boat or continuing on foot to Ligerz (half-hour), is a memorable experience. The road around the lake runs southwest via Vingelz and the old Burgundian settlement of Alfermée to the village of Tüscherz (alt. 435 m/1,427ft; pop. 2,800), which has a railroad station and landing stage and continues to Twann (French Douanne: 434 m/1,424ft; pop. 900), a sleepy little village of narrow winding streets and old houses which has preserved its medieval character. Excavations here in 1974-76 revealed remains of the earliest farming settlements (between 3000 and 2000 B.C.).
The next village after Twann is Ligerz (French Gléresse: 433 m/1,421ft; pop. 500), from which there is a cableway to Prêles (Prägelz), on the Tessenberg (length 1,200 m/3,937ft, height difference 379 m/1,243ft, time seven minutes); from the terrace below Mont Chasseral there are superb views. Good walking through the Twannbach gorge and to Schernelz.
La Neuveville, Switzerland
The last Bernese commune on Lake Biel is La Neuveville (German Neuenstadt: 438 m/1,437ft; pop. 3,900), the "Montreux of the Jura", with narrow streets, old gates and towers which belonged to the town's fortifications, and a 1,000-year-old church, the Blanche Eglise, with a wooden ceiling and Gothic frescoes (restored 1988/90). The road now enters the canton of Neuchâtel.
Le Landeron, Switzerland
The first place beyond the cantonal boundary from Biel is Le Landeron (433 m/1,421ft; pop. 3,400), a medieval market town with house fronts of the 16th and 17th century. The largest flea-market in Switzerland, the Fête de la Brocante, is held here annually in September.
Le Landeron Museum
The Le Landeron Museum features details about the first traces of human habitation which include the remains of a pottery workshop (961-957 BC).
From Le Landeron continuing along the south side of the Lake Biel, the next town is Erlach (433 m/1,421ft; pop. 1,050) with an old castle which is now a cantonal school hostel. The administrative district of Erlach also includes the farming and vine-growing villages of Vinelz and Lüscherz.
The most popular excursion on Lake Biel is to St Peterinsel (alt. 435 m/1,427ft: Hotel), a place of idyllic beauty. Once an island it can be reached from Biel or La Neuville by boat, or (since the 19th C. regulation of the River Aare) on foot from Erlach on the "Heidenweg". The inn was originally a Cluniac priory (founded 1120, dissolved 1530); the room in which Rousseau stayed in 1765 is shown to visitors. The return route from Erlach crosses the Aare canal and just before Biel reaches Nidau (alt. 430 m/1,411ft; pop. 8,400), which is separated from Biel only by the Zihl canal, and is the starting point of the Nidau-Büren canal; thus in effect Nidau lies on an artificial island.
Aarberg (alt. 455 m/1,493ft; pop. 3,300) 11km/7mi south of Biel, a unique little medieval town, was founded about 1220, and was for centuries one of the countries most important road junctions. Its main features of interest are the Stadtplatz with its ring of well-to-do citizens' houses and the old wooden bridge over the Aare. The castle (end of 17th C.) contains a gallery of coats-of-arms from over 80 provincial governors.
Lyss (alt. 444 m/1,493ft; pop. 8,300: swimming pool and ice rink): walks along the Alte Aare, the old course of the river (rich flora and fauna).
Buren an der Aare, Switzerland
Büren an der Aare (alt. 443 m/1,453ft; pop. 2,900), a little town, bright with flowers, lying between the Aare and the forest, with many fine old buildings. The town hall (ca. 1500) and the provincial governor's castle from 1620 with picturesque Gothic stepped windows are worth visiting.