“Herzroute” (Heart Route) launches Sense bypass

The icing on the cake is topped by a double cream crown

by Heini Hofmann

The “two-wheeled cardiologists” of the “Herzroute” (Heart Route), the world’s most beautiful e-bike panoramic tour (No. 99) between Lake Constance and Lake Geneva, have once again been engaged in an operative activity. After the Seetal heart loop in 2017 (No. 599) and the Napf heart loop in 2018 (No. 399) they have – in form of the Sense heart loop (No. 299) – now laid a third bypass, which was officially opened in Rechthalten FR on 30 March.

At the southernmost point of the longitudinal oval route, an enormous panorama of the foothills of the Alps opens up. (picture “Herzroute AG”)

For a diseased heart it is an emergency operation, but for the “pearl in the cycling country of Switzerland” it is cosmetic surgery. For additional loops in enchanting natural terrain units adjacent to the main route make this “jewel among the Swiss cycling routes” even more attractive. They open up landscape treasure chests into which one would otherwise hardly stray.

Between Sense and Saane

The new additional loop of the “Herzroute” lies in the German-speaking area of the canton of Fribourg between the rivers of Sense and Saane, but also touches Bernese areas along the Sensegraben. The picturesque small town of Laupen in the canton of Berne, where the two rivers merge, is the starting point for the one-day – or, if additional side trips are included, two-day – adventure of discovery on your trusty electric steed. Laupen is known for the war of robbery and devastation of the same name of 1339/40, important for the emergence of the Swiss Confederation, after a victory of a troop of citizens over an army of knights, which was unusual for that time.
While people on their own build walls, nature separates them by indentations, according to the principle of chance. One of these is the Sensegraben, not merely a symbolic trench like the language-conditioned “Röstigraben” between German- and French-speaking Swiss, but a canyon dug into the landscape by river water. However, this is also a linguistic divide, although rather between dialects than languages; and at the same time a religious boundary, since it separates the German-speaking Freiburg area from the German-speaking part of Berne and so the Catholic from the Reformed. But today old rivalries have long been forgotten.

Insider tip – the cherry on the landscape cake

Having had a last little snack on one of the cosy terraces in the old town, the bikers start to tackle the Freiburg hills shortly after Laupen, a dream landscape with narrow roads with little traffic, secluded forests, charming river passages, wayside crosses and chapels as an expression of an alive and dynamic religious culture, as well as with ever new, surprising panoramas. Then you suddenly reach Grenchen, and the name is, at first, irritating. But of course it is not the Solothurn clock and airfield town, but a Schmitten hamlet …
When you reach the Mühletal – with a medieval mill and inn on the lively little river Taverna – you cross the main road and continue in the direction of Ueberstorf, leaving all traffic noise behind you, riding on secluded slopes, but before you reach Lenden, you turn into a wildly romantic valley reminiscent of Grimm’s fairy tales, of highwaymen and dragons. A restaurant in Niedermuhren invites you to take a break and the cheese dairy next door produces the spicy Gruyère. Then you continue along the Taverna, enjoying a highlight of wild romance in the Seeligraben.

Hospitality in square!

Designing a bicycle route that includes as many scenic beauties as possible and is nevertheless free of dangers often leads to difficulties, such as at the end of this creek Seeligraben. Because suddenly the world seclusion of the river of Tavern ends abruptly here, the river disappears, the road rushes. But fortunately it can now be navigated around elegantly – thanks to a deal during the planning phase, which is probably only possible in such a promised area: A private house owner, imagine that, spontaneously (!) had a path made through his garden for the cyclists. Hospitality at its best!
After crossing a plain, cyclists are greeted again by a watercourse, the gurgling Galterenbach, whose name refers to a nearby ice hockey club (Fribourg Gottéron), which is located on its banks. At the same time, the converging contour lines become noticeable again here, and before one realises it, one has cracked the 900-metre-mark.
The Fofenhubel towers proudly over the landscape and opens up a magnificent panorama. From here the view wanders to the city of Fribourg, to Moléson, Chasseral and Weissenstein, and in good weather you can also see the three Seeland lakes.

Vreneli greets from afar

The village of Rechthalten, which is leaning against the Fofenhubel, invites you to stop for refreshments. A few kilometres further on, on the Egg above Plaffeien, at the transition from grass to forest culture, you briefly scratch the 1,000-metre-mark. The second highlight of distant views awaits you here: the view wanders towards the Alps, over hill cascades and mountain massifs – to the Gantrisch and the Vaud Alps. Afterwards it’s downhill again via Brünisried. Here, in the realm of the independent and cheerful Seislers (with an even more accentuated dialect), the route briefly uses the main road to save itself into the offside as soon as possible.
And again, on the romantic ridge of the Maggenberg, there is a new panorama highlight with a view over to the (Bernese) Guggershörnli, the natural monument for the sadly beautiful folk song “ds Vreneli ab em Guggisbärg u Simes Hansjoggeli vo änet em Bärg”. The trail continues downhill to the village of Heitenried with its castle. The Sense, however, remains covered in its wooded abysses. Wayside shrines, way crosses and chapels adorn the path – all the way to the Bernese exclave Albligen on this side of the Sense, where the restaurant “Bären” invites you to rest. If you are on Freiburg territory again, you go along the valley flank with a view of the green region Schwarzenburgerland.

The star appearance at the end

Gradually one begins to ask oneself where the scythe, which gives its name to the whole round trip, is hiding. After a tortuous descent the river is found. Over the Riedern half-timbered bridge you reach the Bernese side, where now a wonderful shore path follows the river. In summer it is wonderful to refresh yourself in the cool Sense water and to be massaged in the whirlpools of the small rapids.
Finally, the way back to the starting point is a relaxing experience for the steel horses and their riders, because there is no altitude difference. Between Thörishaus and Laupen you can cycle comfortably along the Senseweg and reflect on what you have experienced on this enchanting route: A piece of lovable but unknown Switzerland has opened up for cyclists and inspired them with a lot of charm.

A cooperative effort

This “Herzroute” bypass Sense, indicated as local cycle hiking route no. 299, is now the newest section in the worldwide unique variety of the slow traffic network of cycling in Switzerland. It is an ambassador for a region that is still little developed in terms of tourism, but is richly blessed by nature and offers ideal conditions for slow tourism. The new circuit owes its name to a unique specimen, namely “the last untamed river in Switzerland”, as the Fribourg State Councillor and former National Councillor (and until 2018 President of Pro Velo Schweiz) proudly points out.
This latest “picture book journey on two wheels” was made possible – apart from two sponsors – by the goodwill of the Freiburg Association of Municipalities in the Sense Region and the three municipalities on Bernese soil that were already involved in the construction of the “Herzroute”. In addition, the Canton of Fribourg is supporting the project with an amount from the “new regional policy”, an instrument to promote structurally weak areas. “Schweiz Tourismus” helps with marketing, but not financially. The planning, signage and promotion of the new enjoyment of cycling was the responsibility of the proven Herzroute AG mini team in Burgdorf.
It is astonishing how much can be achieved with little personnel and a relatively small budget when you work with your heart and soul! And the great thing about it is that it is a win-win project for creators and beneficiaries, for visitors and visited individuals. While the last innovation, the Napfschlaufe, was still referred to as the “icing on the cake” of the “Herzroute”, now the very latest construct, the Senseschlaufe – thinking of a Freiburg speciality – will top the velocipede hit parade as a promising “double cream crown”.        •

The most important in brief

Overview of the longitudinal-oval additional “Herzroute” loop Sense, starting from Laupen. (picture “Herzroute AG”)
  • Starting point is the historic town of Laupen (easy arrival and departure by train).
  • The “Herzroute” loop Sense is a 70 km long day circuit with 1,200 m altitude difference.
  • The oval route offers two shortcuts: Ledeu-Albligen (31 km, 550 m above sea level or change between St. Antoni and Heitenried on route no. 4 (48 km, 760 m).
  • On the loop of the Sense, you cross a total of 14 Fribourg and three Bernese municipalities, including the village of Albligen, a kind of exclave on the “wrong” side of the “Sense” ...
  • This route can also be extended to two days, with more leisure for regional pleasures.
  • E-bike rental station Laupen (rentabike.ch) near the station (reservation recommended).
  • Battery exchange station for rental bicycles in Rechthalten (guests welcome: carry charger).
  • Free route planner reference (herzroute.ch or 034 408 80 99) with all important information.