Distance: 9.2km Total Climb: 200m Total Descent: 230m
The hotel breakfast room was the madhouse one might expect with a bus load of Chinese tourists. The offerings were quite varied, including cold meats and cheeses, yogurts, fresh fruits, cereals and muesli, and a hot line, plus juices and the coffee maker. I’m afraid the food was disappearing faster than the kitchen could replenish the trays.
It took a few minutes to work my way over to the cathedral, dedicated to St Niklaus, for my credential stamp. The stained glass windows appeared to be early 20th century, and the interior decor was an interesting combination of French and German styles. Certainly more Gothic than Baroque.
From the cathedral, the Jakobsweg route (now Chemin St Jacques) works uphill through a pedestrian shopping street that is just beginning to come to life this Saturday morning. At the main train station, several hiking routes converge, so pay attention to the markings and your Swiss Mobility app. Once north of the tracks, it continues uphill through residential districts towards the edge of town. It is likely possible to make this bit by bus (from the cathedral to the edge of town) but today is a shorter day, it’s not raining (yet), and I do enjoy the walk.
Lunch was at the parish church cemetery in Villars-du-Glâne; lest you think me ghoulish, I must point out the French dead are very hospitable. They always provide a bench and fresh water. The French-speaking Swiss follow suit.
Then it was down a big hill, to make a very interesting river crossing. The bridge there dates to before 1250 (when stone replaced the preceding wood) and there might have been a bridge there since prehistoric times. Apparently the lay of the land drives these things for thousands of years.
So these past few days I have been walking the actual historical Jakobsweg route. It is not always the case – sometimes the best route got paved over as a highway, or the hiking association decided the view would be better from that hilltop over there. After the bridge, the route continued in historical fashion; you can see how deeply the trail has eroded over the years (more than 3 m or 10 ft).
- The Abbey is 30 minutes off the Jakobsweg route, that-a-way.
- Keep going.
- Keep going.
- Not that building. Keep going.
- Keep going.
- Oh all right you can turn here. I tried to keep it a secret.
- Keep going
- You’re here! Reception is the 4th door down
This is a Cistercian monastery dating back to 1185, home to about 20 monks. Of all the times I’ve stayed overnight in monasteries, I’ve never been able to take a rest day or attend services, so I’m really looking forward to this time.
Cistercians are the white monks – their choir dress is a while wool habit. Outside the church, I see some in the white habit with a black apron and others in a gray cotton habit (which one might think of as a working uniform I suppose). Vespers was conducted in French, and the psalms are sung to antiphonal tunes that were new to me (that is they didn’t sound recognizably Gregorian). Dinner was in silence for those at table, while a reader read a piece in German. We visitors ate in a separate room and never saw the monks together. After dinner we visitors all did the dishes together in silence. (For folks at Grace: try to imagine the kitchen on Tribe Sunday, in silence.) I’m lodged in the guesthouse, in a spacious room with two windows overlooking the garden and main building. From 7pm onward they observe the Great Silence (you’ll remember this from Call the Midwife).
Lodging: Kloster Hautrive