You can start the virtual stroll at the place of your choice by selecting a key location from the list below.
A bench wagon
In Ballenberg, your walk will sometimes cross the carriage of a wagon straight out of the past. If you too would like to treat yourself to an old-fashioned ride, you can book it at the ticket office at the entrance.
Aargau buildings (17th/19th c.)
We come to strange buildings that once stood in the canton of Aargau, with characteristic thatched roofs. Until late in the 19th century, straw from grain fields was used as roofing material and as raw material for the braiding industry.
Aargau buildings (17th/19th c.)
The building on the left is an opulent farmhouse from 1609 from Oberentfelden. A little further, you can see the small house of a day labourer, built in 1803, which used to be in Leutwil.
Aargau day labourer´s house (19th c.)
We are in front of the entrance to the small house of a poor peasant, who also had to work as a day labourer in order to live. It was built in 1803 in Leutwil, near Lake Hallwil. Further on, we see another type of house from Aargau and, to the left, a farmer's house from the Basel Jura.
Aargau day labourer´s house (19th c.)
The house is of the same type as the large peasant farmhouse next door, only smaller, with cramped rooms and low ceilings. The owner was a poor farmer who tended orchards and plantations and also worked as a day labourer, helping in the summer with haymaking and doing forestry work in the winter. This poverty has meant that the house has never been modernised in any way and is of rare authenticity.
Aargau dwelling (17th c.)
This late Gothic style dwelling house was built in Villnachern around 1635, two years after a violent fire destroyed part of the village. It probably belonged to a rich owner, wealthy enough to have such a small but very neat house built.
Aargau farmhouse (17th c.)
There used to be many roofs thatched with straw in the Swiss Midlands. Only a few remain. The house from Oberentfelden bears witness to those former thousands of large multipurpose houses with tent-like straw roofs.
Aargau farmhouse (17th c.)
These thatched houses were so widespread that, until the 1850s-1900s, many villages in Aargau resembled tent campsites. With all the rustic comforts of the time, of course!
Aargau pig sty (19th c.)
Until the 1950s, pigs were raised in this type of pole construction, with a trough also filled with kitchen waste. The latrine was a simple hut adjoining the pigsty, a common combination at the time. The pigsty came from Brugg, a small town which remained fairly rural until the 1950s and 1960s.
Alter Bären Inn (19th c.)
This traditional country house from Rapperswil (Bern), with rural outbuildings and a dwelling, was converted into a small inn in 1837. Today it is home to a restaurant, the "Alter Bären" (Old Bear), which has retained the name of the original café. A little further to the left, a path leads to the forest and the Wyssensee.
Alter Bären Inn (19th c.)
This traditional country house from Rapperswil (Bern), with rural outbuildings and a dwelling, was converted into a small inn in 1837. Today it is home to a small restaurant, the "Alter Bären" (Old Bear), which has retained the name of the original café. A little further to the left, a path leads to the forest and the Wyssensee.
Basel-Land farmhouse (17th c.)
This peasant house was built in 1675 in Therwil on the edge of the Jura Mountains. Whereas most of the houses were made of wood and covered with thatched roofs at the time, the owner had a house built in white plastered masonry with finely worked stone door and window frames.
Basel-Land farmhouse (17th c.)
Passing at the back of the house, we notice the outside bread oven, attached to the living area. The rural outbuilding, made of stone, wood and cob, housed stables, chariot shed and barn, a construction method that allowed living and working under the same roof.
Bern Jura tilery (18th c.)
This tile factory was built in 1763 in Péry, above Biel, not far from a clay pit and a forest, which provided the raw materials. At that time, the tiler was helped by 5 to 7 assistants. Nowadays, he is assisted in his work by visitors to Ballenberg who wish to learn about this art.
Bernese Midlands
Here we are in front of the typical buildings of the Bernese Midlands and we'll jump straight to places we've already been. On the left, the path leads to the 17th century granary, on the right it passes an 18th century day labourer's house and leads to the large 18th century peasant's house. We will complete these two tracks another time!
Bernese Midlands barn-stable (18th c.)
This barn-stable was built in 1702 in Faulensee and is representative of this type of building: a lower part made of rubble stones was used as a stable, with a hayloft on the upper floor made of loose logs to improve ventilation.
Bernese Midlands cheese storehouse (18th c.)
As early as the 16th century, Bernese farmers began to build granaries where hard cheeses were matured for several months under their constant care. This dates from 1785 and was once in Wasen in the Lower Emmental. Go back a few metres and pass by the side of the farmhouse to see its facade, continue along the path to go to the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
Bernese Midlands craftman´s house (18th c.) and drugstore (19th c.)
This house of a stocking manufacturer, built in Herzogenbuchsee in 1778, marks the beginning of a new era. Traditionally, agriculture, home work and weaving were combined on the farm. Here, dwelling and workshops are still under the same roof, but agricultural activities are excluded. On its right, you see the "Stöckli" of the drugstore.
Bernese Midlands drugstore (19th c.)
This type of building is called a "Stöckli". It was built around 1820 in Köniz in the Bernese Midlands. At that time, it was used as a dwelling for valets and servants. In Ballenberg it became an old-fashioned drugstore.
Bernese Midlands drugstore (19th c.)
All the furnishings and tools of an old-fashioned drugstore are combined in this "Stöckli". A vision from a world where most of the medicines, powders and ointments were made from the plants of an adjoining garden.
Bernese Midlands farmhouse (17th c.)
This farmer's house was built at an unknown date in Eggiwil in the Emmental, the land of the famous cheese. It was first mentioned in a document from 1701. It was an isolated farmhouse typical of the region, nestled at an altitude of 890m in a landscape of hills and forests.
Bernese Midlands farmhouse (17th c.)
Around 1800, linen weaving became an additional source of income in the Emmental. The weaving workshop was located in the cellar and occupied the entire household. Above, the dwelling was in two parts with a common kitchen. One side was intended for the older generation, the other for the young heirs of the farm.
Bernese Midlands farmhouse (18th c.)
This rich farmer's house was built in 1797 in Ostermundigen (Bern), apparently more to display the owner's prestige than to make daily life easier. It houses a shop where you can buy tasty local food products.
Bernese Midlands farmhouse (18th c.)
At the bottom of the path we see a farmhouse dating from 1709, which comes from Madiswil in Upper Aargau, north-east of the Bernese Midlands. It has the particularity of being built for two families: the dwellings and stables are mirrored on both sides of the ridge with a common area in the middle (kitchen, barn and feeding alley).
Bernese Midlands farmhouse (18th c.)
The interior is very dark, here's just to give you an idea. We'll try to shoot better views of this large farm some other time! Let's go out to admire a beautiful wheat granary...
Bernese Midlands granary (17th c.)
This magnificent granary stands right next to the large Madiswil farmhouse. It was built in 1685 to keep in a safe place the provisions of a farm located in Kiesen, in the south of the Bernese Midlands.
Brandboden
In this glade are showed the activities related to wood, forest exploitation and fire. The place was named Brandboden, which could be translated as "ashes combe" (or more literally "fire ground").
Brandboden
In the "Ashes Combe" were rebuilt a lime kiln, a charcoal burning area and a pitch melting oven, as well as two buildings intended to house the craftsmen, restoring them to the appearance they probably had in their original location in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Brandboden
In this "Ashes Combe" you can admire the art of shingle splitting, observe the resin extraction process and the production of lime, attend various activities related to the forest and wood.
Crossroads
Here we are looking at the Therwil farmhouse and in the distance at the houses from Aargau. On the left, we see the path leading up to a beautiful farm from the Neuchâtel Jura. Behind us, the path continues in the direction of the Bernese Midlands.
Grand Tour Viewpoint
This view of the houses from the canton of Aargau is part of the Grand Tour, a selection of spectacular viewpoints established by Switzerland Tourism, the Swiss national tourist office.
In the woods
Leaving this small forest, we will arrive in the "Mittelland", the Bernese Midlands, the whole central part of the canton, between the Jura chain in the north and the first peaks of the Alps in the south.
Medicinal herb garden
Magical herbs grow in this medicinal herb garden. In the past, knowledge of the healing properties of medicinal plants was part of everyday life.
Near the Brandboden glade
We arrive at the "Brandboden", the "Ashes Combe", a glade where we can discover many activities related to the forest and to the wood.
Neuchâtel Jura farmhouse (17th c.)
Built in 1617 in La Recorne, in the heights of La Chaux-de-Fonds, this farmhouse is typical of Jura architecture: large walls and small windows, with only a semi-circular door and a Gothic window frame as a fantasy. The Jura winters are harsh and every opening is a weak point.
Neuchâtel Jura farmhouse (17th c.)
Admire the facade some more before getting in. Look at the wooden gutters that channel rainwater to the 5000-litre cistern you see on the left, rebuilt as it was in the 18th century. A cistern was essential in the Upper Jura, with limestone soil where water infiltrated too quickly, creating only meagre streams.
Neuchâtel Jura farmhouse (17th c.)
Inhabitants, animals, crops and reserves are all under the same roof. Here we are under the large chimney, which collects the smoke from the open fire in the kitchen, from the bread oven next door and from the stove on the opposite side. A concentrated configuration to keep the heat in the coldest of winters.
Neuchâtel Jura farmhouse (17th c.)
Behind the farmhouse, the only large opening is the barn door. The rest is as massive as on the other sides, again to avoid heat loss.
Ticino chestnut-drying house (19th c.)
This small building stood on a sloping ground near Prato, in Val Lavizzara (upper Maggia Valley). In the valleys of Ticino and southern Graubünden, chestnuts were the main food during the long winter months. The chestnuts were preserved thanks to these kilns built in dry-wall stone masonry.
Ticino dwellings (18th-19th c.)
These three semi-detached houses come from the village of Cugnasco, near Locarno. The oldest one, a simple tower house with only one room per floor, was built around 1740, and around 1770 a second detached house was added, followed by a double house around 1860, leading to the small housing complex you see here.
Ticino dwellings (18th-19th c.)
The gallery had many uses: hanging out laundry, storing wood, ripening fruit, drying rye or corn. Inside, there was no living room. A large part of daily life took place in the living kitchen where, in winter, the inhabitants stood around the fire to keep warm.
Ticino farmstead (13th-19th c.)
The construction of this building began 700 years ago and continued until the 19th century. In 2002-2003, 200 trucks were needed to move the farm from Novazzano (Mendrisiotto) to Ballenberg. Like all museum buildings, it was dismantled piece by piece and then reassembled in Ballenberg. A titanic task!
Ticino farmstead (13th-19th c.)
This 44-metre-long complex comprises 50 rooms and 1000 m2 of roof space. This type of farmhouse was the rule in neighbouring Italy, between the Po River plain and the Pre-Alps. They were organised as production units, with fields, vineyards and chestnut groves, and managed by sharecroppers on behalf of rich landowners.
Ticino farmstead (13th-19th c.)
In the inner courtyard there is an "Osteria", a Ticino tavern where you can enjoy a meal or a refreshment before continuing your stroll.
Ticino farmstead (13th-19th c.)
To the west of the inner courtyard (on the left as you pass the entrance), a small door leads to a pretty terrace.
Ticino farmstead (13th-19th c.)
This small outdoor area serves as a terrace for the Osteria and allows you to view the farmstead from a different angle.
Ticino granary (16th c.)
The wood used to build this granary was felled in 1515. It comes from Campo in Vallemaggia, where some of these typical Ticino granaries can still be found.
Ticino smithy (19th c.)
This forge built of granite blocks was used to maintain the tools of the Bodio quarry, near Biasca, which was probably exploited to create railway infrastructure when the Gotthard tunnel was dug (1872-1882).
Ticino trail
Before going along the small vineyard to see other buildings from Ticino, take a closer look at the triple house from Cugnasco!
Ticino trail
Near the end of the small vineyard, we can see a 16th century granary below, which we will soon pass by.
Ticino trail
Caution: here we take the path that goes down to the 16th century granary and not the one that goes into the forest! (It goes up towards the area of the buildings from French-speaking Switzerland and does not pass through Ticino).
Ticino trail
We arrive in front of what is apparently a sheepfold, deserted as we pass. Didactic panels describe the different breeds of sheep that are found in Switzerland. The path makes a hairpin bend and continues downhill...
Ticino trail
The trail continues to slope gently down through spectacular scenery, we hope you enjoy the walk.
Ticino trail
On either side of the path we can see a 16th century dwelling and a 19th century barn-stable. On the slope above the path we can see grain dryers from Leventine, reconstructed on the basis of historical photos, as there are none left.
Ticino trail
Behind us we see a dwelling of Malvaglia/Serravale, built in 1515 and raised by one floor in 1564. Along the path, the remains of a Primadengo/Faido farmhouse, dating back to 1683 and destroyed by fire in 1994 in Ballenberg, have been preserved as a reminder of the frequent fires of yesteryear. Further on, we see a barn-stable built around 1850 in Pollegio and, in the distance, a farmstead which is the highlight of the visit.
Trail to Bernese Midlands
In 2020, Ballenberg dedicated its temporary exhibition to the most famous farm animal, the cow. Here we pass its entrance at the back of the large farmer's house from Ostermundigen (which houses a shop on the other side) as we walk down the path leading to other buildings from the Bernese Midlands.
Trail to Bernese Midlands
This path on the edge of the forest leads up to buildings on the Bernese Plateau that we have not yet seen, and then to an area devoted to Romandie (French-speaking Switzerland).
Trail to Bernese Midlands
In the distance we can see the beautiful Basel-Land farmhouse in a bucolic landscape of pastures and mountains.
Trail to Bernese Midlands
Ballenberg is a living place, not a frozen museum. The cows are authentic and placidly watch the visitors pass by.
Trail to Bernese Midlands
There are many places in Ballenberg where you can picnic and even barbecue. You can see one of them here on the left, on the edge of a small forest.
Trail to Bernese Midlands
We are approaching a 17th century peasant house with an 18th century cheese loft to its right.
Trail to Bernese Midlands
In this overview we see on the left a Fribourg farmer's house from the 17th-18th centuries and on the right a Bernese barn-stable from the 18th century, which we will soon pass by.
Trail to Bernese Midlands
We continue westwards towards the buildings from the Bernese Midlands. Behind us, the path heading east leads to the areas focused on the north-eastern and central parts of Switzerland.
Trail to Romandie
Before taking the very steep path that climbs towards the buildings of Romandie (French-speaking western part of Switzerland), we will visit the largest building in Ballenberg: the farmstead from Novazzano.
Trail to Romandie
The path to French-speaking Switzerland passes behind the large farmstead from Novazzano before plunging into the forest. It is steep but presents no difficulties.
Trail to Romandie
A few more metres through the forest and we will arrive in the area dedicated to French-speaking Switzerland.
Trail to Romandie
As everywhere in Ballenberg, the landscape is bucolic and walking around is a pleasure.
Trail to Ticino
The bucolic path goes down towards the Ticino area through a small forest.
Trail to Wyssensee
This path leads through the forest along the Wyssensee to the "Brandboden" where you will see old-fashioned lime and charcoal kilns.
Up to Jura mountains
We go up towards the small part of Ballenberg which is dedicated to the Jura dwellings. This is not the canton of Jura itself, but the mountain range that stretches from the north of the canton of Vaud to Basel.
Up to Neuchâtel Jura farmhouse
A few metres of forest and we will arrive at the Jura glade.
Vaud granary (16th c.)
This granary built around 1500-1530 comes from Ecoteaux, above Vevey. At the time, the Vaud Country was still a possession of Savoy and this granary is a mixture of styles: the lock is reminiscent of Savoy, the steeply sloping roof and the corner posts decorated with carved discs resemble the Gothic wooden granaries of Fribourg and Bern.
Vegetable garden and shed
We are now arriving at Ostermundigen's large farmer's farm with its local products shop, alongside a beautiful vegetable garden. The small building we see is a shed once used for the Mühledorf fire pump, built in 1834.
View over the valley
A narrow path leads down to the part of Ballenberg that is dedicated to Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton south of the Alps. At the bottom of the valley runs the Aare, the long river that flows down from the Alps into Lake Brienz and on to the Rhine.
Villa (19th c.)
It was the family home of a textile manufacturer from Burgdorf (Bern). It was a very rich place, with servants. The style of the villa, inspired by rural architecture, was very fashionable at the time.
Villa and stable (19th c.)
Entering Ballenberg via the west entrance (Hofstetten and Brienz side), you will first see, on the left, a stable from 1861 (Luchsingen, Glarus) and, on the right, an industrialist villa from 1872 (Burgdorf, Bern).
Western Switzerland
Unfortunately, we ran out of time to shoot panoramas in the area dedicated to French-speaking Switzerland, on the paths that leave here to the left and to the right. We will extend the stroll one day or another, when we return to Ballenberg!
Wyssensee
Covered with vegetation, the lake looks like a glade in the heart of the forest. At the edge of the path, a few benches invite you to take a short break before continuing the walk.
Wyssensee Forest
Don't expect a nice walk by the lake, the Wyssensee is nestled in a beautiful forest and remains invisible for most of the way.
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