Distance: 20 km Total climb: 130m Total descent: 310m
This city has two names, one in German and one in French, because it sits on the line that divides the two parts of Switzerland. Half the city is on the east side of the river and speaks German, the other half lies on the opposite shore and speaks French. I’m told the French can tell the French-speaking Swiss are not French, but they can’t tell whether they’re Swiss or Belgian. Apparently the vocabulary rules are looser outside of France proper.
As you might imagine, this dividing line is somewhat fuzzy. I started hearing the schoolchildren say Merci outside Wattenwil two days ago, and there was a whole table of French-speakers in the breakfast room this morning. Some of them were having difficulty with the German-speaking server.
The route this morning descends some 200m on an old and historic section of the Jakobsweg. It is a good thing I did not attempt this bit during yesterday’s storm: I would have slipped on these wet smooth cobblestones and slid all the way to the bottom of the hill. The freshly shorn sheep looked well-washed though. We continue along the wooded edge of pastures, and then through forest.
By the time I reached Heitenreid the threatening clouds started to make good on their promise, and even though I had rigged for rain, the bus shelter was very inviting. So we had a 45 minute rain delay. Then I marched onward, being passed by the first of four walking pairs out with me this morning. Lunch – a sandwich made from breakfast surplus – was on a quiet church porch, which gave some shelter from the breeze as well as a nice view of the surrounding rolling countryside. Small town, both Protestant and Catholic Churches, noontime : bell wars.
After lunch continued through pastures and small farms, with quite a lot of pavement walking all told. In Tafers, there are two side chapels that are actually outside chapels, and one was dedicated to St James. The pilgrim association here has been going on since the 15th century.
Across the street was a small grocery, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. So I went in to restock supplies. As I was checking out, the young man who is cashier asks me, “Apfel?” Now, my speaking of German is not half bad, apparently, but my listening needs some work. Still, this just did not compute. Finally we shifted to English and he explained that today was Apple Day, they were giving them away free, and would I like one? Why yes I would. An Apple a day …
No sooner had I stepped outside and finished stashing the new supplies in my pack than another pair of pilgrims stops me. “Are you American?” Why yes. Then he asks my name, and I tell him. “You left your credential in the chapel. We have it!” This is really good news because the credentials are necessary for the pilgrim accommodations at the monasteries, where I am planning to stay tomorrow. I thank them – two young men living outside Munich, one Austrian and one German -with some of my new favorite cookies.
More pastures, some suburbs, and Fribourg looms across the river. This is a big city! So after having made 20km on my own steam, I hop a bus for the last leg into the middle of town. I’m staying at the NH Fribourg, which is centrally located and decently priced (this is Switzerland after all).
Since I’m not inclined to wander far after such a long day, dinner was in the hotel restaurant and classic French. A huge salad of fresh tomatoes dressed with balsamic