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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Can you guess who came to breakfast?

The door to the breakfast room was open and in walked a chicken. She walked in like she owned the place. She was very curious!!! By the time Michael got his phone out the chicken walked through the kitchen. Helena was able to grab it and take it outside.

We did learn the chicken belongs to the next door neighbor. It became a game of catch me if you can to get it captured and returned home. Guess the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

It is another very hazy, hot and extremely humid day in the Berner Oberland.

Michael and I had a leisurely breakfast. The rolls were warm and the rich creamy Alpen butter just easily melted. Yummy! I also enjoyed the plums that are in season here. Our friend Frau Meier used to make a delicious plum tart for us when we visited. Plan to go to the nursing home to see if she is still there. She did celebrate her 102nd birthday in December. No one we have spoken to knows how she is.

We walked to the train station and picked up the luggage. It is easier to send it through to the Interlaken West station than have to schlep bags on and off trains, especially since we had to change trains.

Plans changed once we got back to the room. Instead of going to the Giessbach Falls we decided to take the boat ride on Lake Thun to Neuhaus for a late lunch. The lake boats are located close to the West and Ost (East) train stations. Makes it easy to hop off the train and get onto the boat.

The boats come into the channel to dock bow first. Unfortunately, there is not enough room to turn around, so they leave the channel stern first.

We left three minutes late from the dock so by the time our boat was exiting the channel, the historic paddle steamer Blüemlisalp was ready to enter it. This venerable lady built in 1906 is a nostalgic two-deck saloon steamer from the Belle Epoque. Since major renovations on its 100th birthday, this proud Lake Thun steamer is a blend of state of the art technology, stylish ambience and on board comfort.

We got off at the first stop, Neuhaus zum see.

Canton of Bern flag (bear) - Switzerland country flag,(white cross) - flag of Unterseen (semi ibex)

Neuhaus has its own flag

Neuhaus zum see is a lakeside hotel and restaurant on the shore of Lake Thun. Many regional and seasonal specialties are served. There are breathtaking views over the Niesen and Niederhorn mountains.

Michael and I really wanted the trout from the lake cooked with its head on and filleted at the table but it wasn't on the menu today. Quick and easy to prepare dishes were.

I had the fish crisps (fish caught from the lake) with a salad (lettuce, carrots, radishes, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers) and fruit (piece of melon, orange, watermelon) and a cabbage slaw. The tarter sauce was yummy!

Michael had the veal brat with French fries

Their desserts were enormous but we had willpower and said no.

The Neuhaus sailing school is located just opposite our main building. People were sunbathing, relaxing, swimming, paddle boarding, boating, sailing.....

Playing can be tiring!

Would you like to try hydrofoil kiteboarding? I learned the boards are very expensive. One of the main reasons why hydrofoil boards are so expensive is there is currently a surge in demand for them. Due to their unique design and ability to provide an incredible riding experience, more and more people are wanting to get their hands on a hydrofoil board. This increased demand has caused prices to go up, as manufacturers are now able to charge more for their boards.

Another reason why hydrofoil boards are so expensive is the limited supply. Because hydrofoil boarding is still a relatively new sport, not many people know how to make or use them. This has resulted in a smaller number of boards being produced, which in turn drives up the price.

Many people were enjoying the Laguna Beach Bar.

You can go paragliding near by.

The Weissenau Nature Reserve is a short walk away. You can enjoy the silence and the view over the lake while you observe wild ducks, swans, herons and deer in their natural habitat.

Even the dog had fun playing fetch.

What is the cry of a swan called?

Male and female Trumpeter Swans give the characteristic deep, trumpeting “oh-OH” call, with the second syllable emphasized. The call is softer and more nasal-sounding when made with the mouth closed. Trumpeter Swans call to keep the pair or family together, to defend territories, or to sound an alarm.

What does it mean when a swan puffs up?

When swimming, they may hold their wings over their backs in a puffed up position to advertise their strength, and the neck may be held in a strong S-curve as an aggressive posture. In flight, mute swans hold their necks out straight and the legs and feet extend to the end of the tail.

"Swans have no teeth, so how do they chew their food? Instead of having teeth and a relatively heavy jawbone to hold them in place (which would make the head too heavy to be supported by its neck), they have a gizzard.

The gizzard is essentially a muscular organ in a bird that performs the same action as the molar teeth in a mammal, such as a cow.

It grinds the food down into a pulp which makes it easier for the swan to digest. It’s very powerful, too. To help, swans deliberately swallow small particles of grit, which then reside in the gizzard and help masticate (chew) the food.

The lack of teeth also has the advantage of reducing the weight of the bird, another feature to help reduce the energy needed for flight."

Swans have an amazing breathing system.

"When it comes to breathing, swans are far more efficient than is found in mammals, like us humans. Birds are much more efficient in their design, again, this is partially linked with flight because during flight birds need to breathe up to 10 times faster to enable sufficient oxygen to be delivered to the muscles to enable flight to occur.

This increase in efficiency over mammals occurs for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, the density of tissue inside the lungs is far greater than that of a mammal, meaning more blood can flow through them, which means a greater rate of gaseous exchange, compared to a lung of similar size found in a mammal.

Secondly, in a bird’s lung, the air only flows in one direction, rather than in a mammal’s lung where the air meets a dead end and so has to flow into and out of the lung along the same path. Birds have a breathing system where the air passes through the lungs – air entering the lung goes along one path, air leaving the lung, passes out along another path."

This is how it works:

"1st Step

When a bird inhales through its nares (nasal openings on the bill), the air flows down into a chamber called the posterior air sac.

2nd Step

Shortly afterwards, the bird exhales (air from a previous breath) and when this happens, the air that’s residing inside the posterior air sac moves into the lungs.

3rd Step

Next, the bird inhales (this time new air moves into the posterior air sac from the atmosphere), the air that’s inside the lungs completes its one way path through the lung into another air chamber, called the anterior air sac.

4th Step

Finally, the bird exhales again, this time pushing the air inside the anterior air sac, back out into the atmosphere (at the same time, air taken into the posterior air sac during the third step passes from the posterior sac into the lungs).

This ensures that the lungs of a bird gets a near 100% flush of air with each breath, rather than having some air residing inside the lung, as is the case for a mammal, like a cat.

Therefore for an animal like the swan, the lungs optimize their contact with fresh air, meaning more oxygen can be extracted per unit volume of air during each breath (and more carbon dioxide removed from the body), compared to that of a mammal."

"Birds are warm blooded, like us mammals, but birds have their temperature even higher than ours. The body temperature of a healthy human being is around 37 degrees Celsius, but for a bird like a swan, their healthy body is around 40 degrees Celsius.

When we think about it, it makes sense that swans need to be warm blooded and have a relatively high normal working body temperature. Swans live in relatively cool environments (some species, like the Bewick Swan, live in the Arctic) and if they were not warm blooded they’d either freeze to death, or, have incredibly slow reactions.

Think about non-warm blooded creatures, like lizards, and how slowly they move in the early morning, before the Sun’s heated their bodies and you’ll see what I mean.

Where does the body heat come from? It certainly does not come from the temperature of its food – their food is stone cold and it actually needs heating up (by the bird’s body) before the swan can properly digest it. So, where does the warmth come from?

It comes from the chemical breakdown of the food.

A swan’s body is made from billions of cells, and living cells need fuel to enable them to work – that fuel is the food it eats. The job of the digestive system is to take the food and make into a form that the cells of the body can use, as a fuel to enable the cells do their job.

When the cell performs its function, it releases some of the energy from the fuel (i.e. food) as heat, as a by-product. Although, the heat is described as a ‘by-product’, that heat is essential to the health of the cells; if they get too hot or cold, they’ll die.

So, in a nutshell, that’s the origin of a swan’s body heat; the heat released by chemical reactions inside the swan’s living body cells, as they burn fuel to perform their function.

The advantages to a swan in having a relatively high body temperature include:

Faster reflexes; for every 10 degrees Celsius increase in body temperature, there’s an increase in the speed of nerve transmissions of 1.8 times. Therefore this explains why birds have such fast reactions to their environment – the actual signals down the nerve fibres travel faster as a result of their body temperature being high.

More powerful muscles; for every 10 degrees Celsius increase in body temperature, the muscle power contractions increase by 3 times. This is clearly very important for a heavy bird like a Mute Swan. Mute Swans have an average weight of about 11kg (slightly more for males, slightly less for females) and getting this large mass off the ground requires a lot of power. In fact, the design of a swan (and the Great Bustard, heaviest flying bird in the world) is at about the upper limit in which a bird could conceivably fly. If the bird was any heavier, the wings would have to become disproportionally larger to enable lift off.

There’s one major disadvantage to having such high body temperature – the swan needs to eat a lot of food to sustain this, hence the large amount of time a swan needs to spend every day to foraging."

Swans have very good eyesight.

"Good eyesight plays an important part of a swan’s life. For example, they need to eat a lot everyday and to a very large extent, swans locate most, if not all, of their food items, by sight.

A swan’s sight also forms a key element when it comes to recognizing other swans; their mates, offspring and intruders to their territory. I have seen many times where two partners are swimming towards each other from a large distance away, but they have not recognized each other. They then adopt an aggressive raised wing display as their body language, rather like they were dealing with an intruder. However, when they get close to each other, there’s a characteristic head-bob nod, in friendly acknowledgment and they join each other in a harmonious manner, with some more head nodding and looking at each other in the eye.

Swan’s eyes are located on the sides of the head, which are very well suited for spotting predators and other dangers, but the price to pay for good sideways vision, is poor forward sight. It’s this poor forward sight which makes them very susceptible to flying into overhead power lines, the largest man made cause of death and injury.

The structure of the eye makes swans very able to see into the ultra violet part of the electromagnetic spectrum. So, it’s entirely possible that a swan’s view of the world look quite different to that of a human. For example, some objects are very good at reflecting ultra violet light, but we can’t see them because our eyes are insensitive to that radiation. But a bird, like a swan, could be able to see them because they have the necessary cells in the retina (the back of the eye is called the retina).

The feathers of many birds are very highly reflective to ultra violet rays. Could it be that although all swans seem to look the same to you and me, seen through the eyes of an ultraviolet viewer, they may look very different because each different bird’s feathers reflects the ultra violet light to a marginally different extent? Who knows? It’ll certainly be very interesting if research throws some light on the matter.

One surprising aspect of a swan’s eye is that it has what we call a nictitating membrane. This is essentially an extra eyelid that is transparent that acts just like a pair of goggles underwater. As you know, when swans dip their head below the water surface to feed, they use vision to locate their food. If the swan didn’t have this clear window (i.e. the nictitating membrane) in front of the eye when feeding underwater, their vision would be very blurry, just the same as if we opened our eyes under the water. But when you put goggles on, everything is so much clearer – it’s just the same with swans, they have their own built-in goggles.

Other creatures that have a nictitating membrane include sharks, crocodiles, seals, polar bears and diving birds."

"Have you ever heard of the term, 'bird brain' – a derogatory term meant to express someone, or something, as being stupid? The implication being that birds have little brains and as a result, are somewhat simple and unintelligent. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is that birds have relatively large brains – anywhere from 6 to 11 times larger than a similar sized reptile. They need it, too. Swans exhibit complex social behavior and make a variety of sounds used to communicate to other birds and animals - even Mute Swans, mute by name, but not by nature.

On top of those, the swan needs a high capacity brain to cope with all the other things that go on. Complex tasks such as flying and maintaining a constant temperature day and night, even when the air temperature is up and down like a yo-yo.

After lunch we hopped on another boat, the Beatus, and headed to the final stop, Thun.

The Niesen overlooks Lake Thun, and forms the northern end of a ridge that stretches north from the Albristhorn and Mannliflue, separating the Simmental and Kandertal valleys. The summit of the mountain is 2,362 meters (7,749 ft) in elevation.

Because of its perfect pyramid shape, the Niesen is recognizable from far away.

The Niederhorn, elevation 1963 meters or 6,440 feet, is a peak of the Emmental Alps.

The Valley between is called the Justistal. The Justistal, the entrance to which is clearly marked by the distinctive Niederhorn, is a winter (skiing) and summer (hiking) paradise. Its name comes from Justus, a monk who once spread the gospel in the Lake Thun area together with his fellow monk and companion Beatus.

We went by Spiez. This is such a quaint little town.

On the slopes of Spiez’s local mountain a one-hour viticultural trail reveals the secrets of winemaking in a fun way.

The start of the trail is just 15 minutes from the train station, behind the winemaker’s cooperative building on Seestrasse. You can walk the full one-hour adventure trail or just part of it, as you wish. Flyers are provided in small boxes that direct visitors to the 12 information boards. Alternatively, you can also use your smartphone for an interactive experience. Scan the QR code on the boards to watch 12 short films that portray a year in the life of a winemaker.

Schlosskirche Spiez (Spiez castle church) and Spiez Castle

A toast to family and friends. Wishing you all much health and happiness!!

In Thun, we disembarked, crossed the road and caught the train back to Interlaken. We only had a 5 minute wait. The Swiss have made going from one form of transportation to another so simple and easy.

Michael and I are very hot and very sweaty but we had so much fun!

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