Habsburg and Wildlife along the Reuss
31 January 2022
The Reuss is a river of about 160 kilometres with two sources: the Gotthard Pass and the Furka Pass. It is not the longest river in Switzerland, but it has a respectable record.
For example, it flows through the Schöllenenschlucht. Until the 13th century, this gorge was an impregnable obstacle to crossing the Gotthard.
However, no mountain was too high for the inhabitants of Uri in Central Switzerland. They managed to bridge the gap around 1230 by constructing bridges, a feat of engineering. Trade and the conquest of Italian territories on the other side of the Gotthard began.
The formal ruler of this area, Habsburg, then showed great interest in this inhospitable region. However, the young Confederation (die Eidgenossenschaft) beat Habsburg in 1315 and 1386. The Eidgenossenschaft had succeeded with Uri, Unterwalden and Schwyz as (co)founders.
The Reuss flows into Lake Lucerne near Flüelen and out again near Lucerne. Lucerne was also in the sphere of influence of Habsburg. The Italian trade, prosperity and sensational military successes of the young Eidgenossenschaft urged the town to join the alliance in 1332. The Reuss and Lake Lucerne had become lucrative trade routes.
The river could not care less and continued northwards into the Aargau. This area also belonged to Habsburg until 1415. That year, the Eidgenossen conquered Aargau and governed it as a subject territory Untertanengebiet by a joint administration (Gemeine Herrschaft) of eight cantons (Uri, Lucerne, Zurich, Bern, Zug, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Glarus).
The beautiful medieval towns of Bremgarten and Mellingen and the monasteries (e.g. near Hermetschwil and in Bremgarten) bear witness to this past. For example, the old town gate of Mellingen shows the coat of arms of the eight cantons, with the double eagle of Habsburg in the middle.
Although the Swiss Confederation was already an independent entity of sovereign cantons (Orte) in the fifteenth century, the Emperor of Habsburg was still formally recognised. In these profoundly religious times, it was blasphemy to overthrow an anointed or crowned ruler.
That is why the Republic of the Seven United Provinces formally still recognised their sovereign King Philip II of Spain in the Union of Utrecht (1581), their treaty of independence.
The Reuss finally flows into the Aare near Windisch (Canton Aargau). A walk between Mellingen and Bremgarten along the banks of the Reuss follows this Habsburg and confederal past and the present-day beautiful nature and reserves.
The Reussebene is a protected area (Naturschutzgebiet) of national importance. It is included in the Federal Inventory of Landscapes and Natural Monuments (Bundesinventar der Landschaften und Naturdenkmäler (BLN), L’Inventaire fédéral des paysages, sites et monuments naturels (IFP).
And with good reason, as shown by the Eichenwald reserve Emaus, the Foort Eggenwil, the Flachsee at Unterlockhofen and Rottenschwil, die Rüsshalde Stetten and the marsh and forest areas.
Beavers, kingfishers and reed beds accompany the hikers along the Reuss. Trees that beavers have cut down can be seen along the entire route. Reed beds with swarms of water birds even have a taste of Hollanditis. The hiker can imagine himself in some Canadian wilderness or the Rocky Mountains.
Another recommendation for this hike is the low height difference between Mellingen and Bremgarten.
The Swiss Alpine Club
The Swiss Alpine Club (Schweizer Alpen Club, SAC/Club Alpin Suisse, CAS) regularly organises hiking trips in this area (and elsewhere).
(Source and further information: www.sac-cas.ch).