Bern: When a drive is more than a drive

Every couple of kilometers, I would squash the Mini Cooper's brake peddle to the floor, pinning my girlfriend to the back of her seat while making various requests such as "get a picture of that hawk" or "let me stop, the light is perfect right now". Thankfully, she is a sport... and the anti nausea pills she took before we set off on our trip didn't hurt either. The drive from Bern to Gantrisch in the picturesque Swiss country side was taking us longer than we planned.

We glided slowly through town after town, with 5 KM stretches of hilly country side breaking them apart. Most of the towns we passed were nestled on the foothills of the mountains, however we would occasionally need to go over a pass. The paved but narrow roads would take us a up a couple thousand feet before dumping us down into another town straight out of the movie Heidi.

Eventually, the towns became farther apart. The final destination was Zollhaus, where we would park our car. The plan was to take a bus up to the top of the Panorama Way in the middle of Gantrisch country and hike about 13 km back down to Zollhaus. Somehow we had forgotten that we only had a limited window to do the hike before it got dark. We were behind schedule to begin with and with all of our stops, it was starting to look like it was going to be more of a sprint than a hike.

When we reached Zollhaus, I ordered a beer at the only restaurant in town in order to get the skinny on our hike. The town, like many others in the Swiss country side, only had a main street that sliced it in half... the restaurant and a few houses on our left and some sheep and a mill on the right. The owner of the restaurant told us that the hike could be a bit tricky due to the slick conditions, and with our late start, it may be better to do the hike another day. We were a bit disappointed, however we decided that doing only a part of the hike with less elevation change would still be possible.

The 50 minute hike to the top of Selibuehl summit elevated our heart rates and provided some breathtaking views of its own, however it was the drive to the mountains from the city that really made the day memorable. The changing landscapes - city, suburb, towns, mountains - and the stops along the way.

It reminded me that when traveling, even on your way to do something, there is always a secondary experience layered underneath the surface. That's one of the things I enjoy most about travel, somehow it tunes you into these layered experiences that would otherwise be missed because we are too busy with the goal ahead of us. Even though we didn't obtain our "goal", the day was not any worse because of it, perhaps it was improved. For me, the goal of travel is the experience, rather than an attainment of something. So pretty much everything that you do is the goal. In our 9 to 5 lives, there is always a deadline looming or more work to do before you reach the next level of success. Travel cuts through all of that, provided you don't engage an in extra-travel-affair with work on your blackberry. It allows you to be in the moment, and that's where we should always be, shouldn't we?

Taken en route from Bern to the Gantrish Panorama Trail (ca. 50 minute drive)
A stunning lake (its called the Schwarzsee or Black Lake) that is about a 15 minute drive from Zollhaus. The lake is about 1.5 km long, and it also makes a nice hike, if you don't have time to do the full trip.
Gantrisch Panorama Trail 2
Panorama Trail Map from It's possible to drive all the way to the base of Selibuehl and only do a short climb (approximately 50 minutes round trip) to the 1750 Meter summit. The entire trail takes between 7 and 8 hours.

For the trail information in German, you can go to

For an English website, you can use or

Almost to the top of Selibuehl I snapped this photo.
I took this on a bridge right before ascending a thousand feet or so over a pass.




Subscribe for Updates
Never miss a blog post again
468 ad