• Deborah Kade

Wandering through the Spiez vineyards

September 9, 2019

When I awoke this morning, I noticed the tops of the mountains across the way were snow capped. It is a sure sign Fall is upon us.

Today is fall market day in Spiez. It always takes place a day after their wine festival parade. We like to attend this event.

Michael and I wandered up and down the streets that were lined with merchants selling their wares and then through the vineyards. It was a perfect day!

"Spiez is first mentioned around 761-62 as Spiets.

The area between the Kander and Lake Thun in modern Spiez was home to several large Bronze and Iron Age settlements. Three separate Bronze Age cemeteries with numerous graves contained a wealth of bronze axes, knives and cloak pins from 1750 to 1500 BC. On a nearby hill, the Bürg site is slightly younger and contained knives, arrow and spear heads, a horse's bridle and a razor. The Eggli hill top was apparently a religious site during the Bronze and Iron Ages. The center of the religious site was a granite block surrounded by ash from fires and thousands of shattered ceramic fragments. The Eggli site was probably used from about 1500 until 500 BC. Celtic graves from the 4th to 2nd century BC contained gold, amber and glass ornaments which were imported from over the Alps. A rare funerary urn was buried at Faulensee during the 1st century BC.

During the Roman era, there was no permanent settlement in the area, but some Roman coins and Roman graves have been discovered. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and into the Early Middle Ages, the Spiez area was home to several scattered settlements. According to Elogius Kiburger, the author of the Strättliger Chronicle, in 933 the King of Burgundy, Rudolph II, built Spiez Castle.

Beautiful flowers in the gardens

Cute cat followed me around the garden

The cat pounced in the flowers after a mouse. The cat was lightning fast!

Whimsical sculptures

Shortly thereafter, the Freiherr von Strättligen settled in the castle. Portions of the current castle shield walls  and main tower were built during the 12th century and by the 13th century the town of Spiez existed outside the castle walls. By 1280, the castle was listed as an Imperial fief under Vogt Richard von Corbières. In 1289, the Freiherr von Strättligen was co-owner of the castle along with a succession of other noble families. In 1308 King Albert I of Habsburg was murdered at Windisch  on the Reuss, by his nephew Duke John Parricida. As part of their retaliation for the murder, the Habsburgs withdrew half of the Speiz fief from Thüring von Brandis and granted the whole fief to Johannes von Strättligen. Thirty years later, in 1338, Johannes sold the castle, town, church and surrounding villages to Johann II von Bubenberg who was the Schultheiss of Bern. By 1340, the Bubenberg appointed vogt took orders from Bern, but was obligated to raise troops for the Habsburgs. As Bern was de facto independent from their former overlords, the Habsburgs, this created an unstable situation which remained for over 40 years. After the Bernese and Swiss Confederation victory over the Habsburgs in the Battle off Sempach in 1386, the Habsburgs gave up their land claims west of the Aare River, which included Speiz.

The former Church of St. Laurentius, next to the castle, was first mentioned in 761-62, when the patronage rights over the church were given to Ettenheim Monastery in Breisgau.

The church was one of the twelve Lake Thun churches in the Strättliger Chronicle. The current early Romanesque building was built during the 7th or 8th century, while the crypt dates from about 1000. Outside the church, a number of graves from the 7th and 8th centuries have also been discovered. It was the parish church for a parish that included Spiez, Spiezwiler, Einigen, Faulensee and Hondrich. When Bern adopted the new faith of the Protestant Reformation in 1528, the church became the center of the new Reformed parish.

The castle and surrounding land remained with the Bubenberg family until their extinction in 1506, when it was acquired by Ludwig von Diesbach. Von Diesbach held it for ten years before Ludwig von Erlach acquired the castle and lands. The von Erlach family ruled the town and villages until the 1798 French invasion.

The town charter was first documented in 1406, however there were citizens of Spiez with some codified rights as far back as 1312. A town wall was built early in Spiez's history. However, it fell into disrepair and was destroyed in a fire in 1600. Over time the surrounding villages came to be included in the town charter and their residents became citizens of Spiez. After the 1798 French invasion and the creation of the Helvetic Republic, the von Erlach family lost their land rights and jurisdiction over the village, but retained ownership of the castle until 1875.

Historically the residents of Spiez and the surrounding villages raised orchards and vineyards on along the lake, fished in the lake and shipped goods along the lake or raised crops in the valleys. The vineyards of Spiez were first mentioned in 1338 and remained in operation until an outbreak of disease destroyed the plants in 1900. An attempt in 1927 to restart the wine industry on Spiez mountain and at Faulensee was fairly successful. The villages along the Kander were often threatened by flooding, until the Kander was diverted into the lake in 1711-13. The construction of the Lake Thun road in 1844 and steam ship docks in 1835, 1876 and 1926 helped open the town to the rest of the country. Due to the mild climate and transportation links, Spiez became a popular health and spa town in the 19th century. Beginning in 1856 resorts and hotels, including the Schonegg, Spiezerhof and Faulensee-Bad, opened along the lake shore. The Thun-Spiez-Interlaken (1893), Spiez-Zweisimmen-Montreux (1897-1905) and Spiez-Frutigen-Lötschberg-Simplon (1901–13) railroads all helped the tourist industry and the rest of the town to grow. The growing population led to the construction of a secondary school and seven primary schools around the municipality. In the 1980s the A6 and A8 motorways further connected Spiez and the surrounding villages. In 1990 the Kander Tunnel opened, which helped reduce noise and pollution in the municipality."

We walked from the market down the hill toward the castle. We followed the hiking path until we came to where the Spiez vineyard starts.

Even the Niesen off in the distance had a little snow on top.

The Spiez castle

Making a small detour to the Spiezberg is highly recommended for the impressive views of Lake Thun and Spiez itself.

The beginning of the vineyard 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. The 12 panels provide a wealth of interesting acts about the wine growing year, nature and what else the vine has to offer us besides wine. You can test your senses at 6 adventure stations along the trail. How well are you able to smell and what do you hear. Sixty different grape varieties are grown in the Vine Garden.

Getting ready for the crush

On a hot day, the Spiez Lido on Lake Thun is the perfect place to cool off. 

Beautiful chestnut trees grow in the area.

Wonderful close to the day with the moon rising over the Mönch and the Jungfraujoch.


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