Naturschutzgebiet Chaltbrunnental nahe Himmelried. Foto/Photo: TES.

Idyll in the Valley, Panorama on the Mountains

Central Europe was covered by a subtropical sea two hundred million years ago. The Jura mountain range was also hundreds of metres below sea level. Limestone was formed during this period.

The mountains and soil of the Jura, created about 135 million years ago, have a layer of lime hundreds of metres deep. For many millions of years, the limestone remained untouched until the arrival of the Romans in the first century B.C. 

They quarried the limestone. Solothurn ( Saladorum in Latin) and Roman villas, temples and other public buildings in Solothurn and Basel-Landschaft were mainly built from this limestone in the Roman period (until the beginning of the fifth century). After the departure of the Romans, the use of limestone also disappeared.

It was not until a thousand years later that limestone again became a widely used building material. The Baroque city of Solothurn is built of limestone for the most part.

Limestone is available in various types, colours and qualities. Each type is suitable as a building material for decorative purposes or sculpture. Every region, for example, in Laufen, Liesberg or Solothurn, has used a distinctive limestone type.

The Chessiloch

The limestone rocks have exceptional use at Grellingen (canton of Basel-Landschaft). This place is situated at the Birs river and near a railway bridge. Soldiers guarded this bridge during the First World War (1914-1918).

The soldiers painted the heraldry, landscapes and monuments (including the Abbey of St. Gall) of their cantons, emblems of their army units, Swiss symbolism, including Lady Helvetia and William Tell, and even portraits of their generals on the rocks of the Chessiloch. These can still be seen and are an important historical record.


The Chessiloch is also the start of the nature reserve Chaltbrunnental or Kaltbrunnental (part of the Karstlehrpfad,

The idyllic Ibach, Schällbächli, and Chastelbach are just a few wildly flowing streams and their springs. As its name suggests, the valley is cold and humid, with many springs and streams. 

The (sometimes enormous – as large as houses) rocks overgrown with mosses and the many fallen tree trunks in the streams and the valley, the erosion of walls of the canyons and their caves (and cave-dwellers from prehistoric times) and the waterfalls in a setting of high trees through which the sun’s rays shine, revive the times of Jurassic Park. 


Leaving the valley, another world reveals itself, of forests, forestry, valleys, farms, meadows, and their many horses reveal itself in the canton of Solothurn and of the magnificent panoramas towards the Jura and the Vosges in France.

History, philosophy, industry, and religion are never far away in this environment. From the summits of the first Homberg (793 metres) and the second Homberg (898 metres), one can see the towers of Roche in Basel, the medieval castle of Pfenningen, the Goetheanum in Dornach and the huge church of Seewen and several villages.

The Swiss Alpine Club

The Swiss Alpine Club, section Basel ( regularly organises hiking trips in this region (and elsewhere).

The SAC ( organises ski tours, mountaineering and other sports in the high mountains and the Alps and activities in other regions.

Proofreader: Adrian Dubock