Switzerland’s Historic Hikes
Isn’t it amazing that you can just take yourself for a walk, and your body starts to release dopamine, endorphins and general good vibes?
I mean, I know I am the human equivalent of a springer spaniel, so it should come as no surprise how much I enjoy walkies, but I am still in awe at the effect a couple of hours of walking in the hills can have on me.
I’m currently in Switzerland, in a small mountain village. Nested in the valley, our houses look out onto rolling green hills leading up to spikey silver and white peaks. Roads twist around the landscape like ribbons and wooden houses are perched in random places on the side of the mountains. It is stunning.
Obviously, the walks around here are phenomenal. But while I expected the nature to be downright stunning, I didn’t expect the wealth of historical sites found on woodland trails. The other day, I ended up in the vast cavern of a former slate mine and saw the thick stone walls of an abandoned village.
But the most common historical feature of walks here is the Bisses, ancient irrigation channels that snake their way through the Swiss landscape. Nowadays, many of these channels have been covered over, creating a distinctive domed path. Some of them are still active, and you can follow the trickling water as it weaves its way around the hill.
Bisses, sometimes referred to as “Suonen” in the Swiss German dialect, are ingenious feats of engineering that have been a part of Switzerland’s cultural and agricultural heritage for centuries. These narrow water channels were initially constructed as a means of transporting water from mountain streams to the arid valleys below, where it was used for irrigating crops and sustaining local communities.
The construction of bisses required tremendous effort and craftsmanship, often involving carving channels into rocky terrain and building wooden structures to maintain the flow.