Ersigen, der Lohberg. Foto/Photo: TES,

The Emmental, Cheese and Lime Trees

The Emmental in the canton of Berne is known above all for its Emmentaler cheese. The Emmentaler Schaukäserei in Affoltern i. E. tells the history of this cheese in all its scents, colours and facts.

Emmentaler cheese

Emmentaler cheese is known, among other things, for its holes and sometimes large size, to 130 kg. They produce Emmentaler cheese also in Savoy (France), the Jura and Allgau (Germany).

Rivalry with Gruyère

The rivalry between the cantons of Berne and Freiburg and between the Emmentaler and Gruyère cheeses is as old as these ancient cantons.

Cheese was the best method to keep this milk product suitable for consumption in the long run before the invention of the refrigerator. The difference in taste, colour, shape, and preparation of both kinds of cheese is evident, just as Freiburg is a Catholic canton and Bern is a predominantly Protestant one.

The cheese producers of Freiburg had France as their primary market until the French Revolution in 1789 (in combination with the supply of mercenaries for the French king). The French Revolution put an end to this market. Until then, Berne delivered its Emmentaler cheese mainly to Russia, Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland.

After the fall of Napoleon in 1813, Berne’s elite invested large sums of money in distributing Emmental cheese in France. And with success. The powerful canton of Berne even succeeded in getting the Confederation to conclude a treaty with France in 1897, prohibiting the export of Gruyère to France.

The Gruyère producers did not give up and started producing Emmentaler, including its holes in, among other places, La Roche and Bulle.

The anticlimax for Freiburg came in 1909 when the Société de Laiterie of Belfaux sought and found a German-speaking cheesemaker to produce the Emmentaler cheese in the French-speaking regions of Freiburg.

However, quality is the relevant factor in the long run, which also applies to cheese. From 1920 onwards, Gruyère made a triumphal comeback and even an entry into German-speaking Switzerland. In 1920, a report from the dairy station (la station laitière de Pérolles) in Freiburg stated that “the demand for gruyere cheese has increased considerably, particularly in German-speaking Switzerland”.

The Linde and Emmental

This old rivalry between Gruyère and Emmental does not affect the quality of either kind of cheese; tastes differ. Moreover, the hiker in the Emmental will not notice anything of this centuries-old history. What is noticeable in the Emmental, however, is the prominent presence of lime trees.

These trees are sometimes centuries old and can be seen on the tops of hills and low mountains. The neighbouring region of Entlebuch, canton Bern, is also mainly catholic, and many Catholic crosses dominate the tops in this region. The Emmental is Protestant; perhaps the Limes replace the crosses, as is sometimes claimed.

The Emmental is a region with extensive meadows and forests and a beautiful view of the Alps and the Jura and the Bernese Mittelland on the other. Burgdorf’s medieval castle and museum and the beautiful regional museum Chüechlihus in Langnau i. E. offer information, documentation and many interesting facts on nature, culture and history.

Wherever your hiking tour takes you in the Emmental, a glass of water from the spring at Hotel Restaurant Rudswilbad near Ersigen will be a welcome refreshment.

Ersigen is the village with a long toboggan run in 2015. To mark the 750th anniversary of the town that year, a 750-metre long toboggan run was built from the lime tree on the Loberg to the village under the watchful eye of the Alps and the Jura.

One can see the towers of Roche in Basel, the medieval castle of Pfenningen, the Goetheanum in Dornach, 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.

(Source and further information:

Proofreading: Adrian Dubock