There are many ways to travel between Thun and Bern. By train, by bike or on foot. But the most exciting way is on the water. What could be more delightful than floating along on the waters of the Aare river? "Absolutely nothing" is how Neil Parmenter puts it. And he should know for, after all, for many years he has been renting out a range of craft including dinghies, kayaks, tubes (large floating rubber rings that look like truck tyres) and stand-up paddle boards as well.
"When the weather is fine on a Sunday, the Aare between Thun and Bern is almost as busy as the motorway, although a lot more relaxed." It is at such times that the river turns into a giant playground with people messing around in water craft, relaxing on the banks, or enjoying a barbecue. Some will jump into the water and swim around while others climb every bridge they can find and leap off into the river. "As far as I am concerned, it is this kind of atmosphere that really embodies the traditional warm and welcoming spirit that the people of Bern are renowned for."
The trip from Thun to Bern starts in Uttigen. While you could actually start floating on the water in Thun itself, you would have to cross a dangerous stretch along the route – the big wave between Thun and Uttigen. If you want to avoid this, you can catch the train from Thun to Uttigen (it is only 4 minutes). The entry point is located directly below the station. From here, you can spend the next three hours far away from the humdrum of everyday life on dry land. Just let the river carry you along, for all you have to decide is where and when you will take a short break along the way.
Along the way, you pass five bridges, restaurants and snack bars, several public barbecue sites, and countless gravel banks suitable for a stop-off. Neil tells us that a special highlight is the chance to take one’s time and explore the renatured banks between Münsingen and the Hunzigen Bridge. Neil also tells us that one can make a barbecue at numerous locations along the way – and that there is usually enough wood on hand to make a small fire. He recommends that larger groups make use of the barbecue site by the lido at Münsingen. Here there will not only be sufficient wood for the barbecue, but you can also purchase something to drink at the nearby kiosk and use the public swimming pool and toilets.
Just before you end your stint as a freshwater sailor, when you arrive at the Eichholz camping ground just before you reach Bern you will pass under the historic Muri Bridge. It is the only wooden bridge along this stretch and hence people like to use it as a diving board. It is a good idea to take a break here and watch the colourful proceedings.
If you would like to stay on (or in) the water as you continue towards the city centre, you can leave your conveyance behind and float down as far as the Marzilibad. There is no need to be afraid of being in the water alone. On fine days, the river is usually full of swimmers anyway.