Das Emmental Bei Ursenbach. Foto/Photo: TES

Two villages, two inns, a medieval bell and nature in Emmental

The source of the Emme, at 2197m between the Hohgant and Augstmatthorn mountains, is the border area of the Bernese Oberland and Canton of Lucerne. The river flows into the Aare at the border of Canton Solothurn near Luterbach. Between lies the Emmental, with Langenthal as the regional centre of the Obere Emmental and Burgdorf as the larger town in the Untere Emmental.

The Emmental is a district of Canton of Bern, with 98,000 inhabitants in an area of 690m2. There are eight cantons with fewer inhabitants and even ten cantons of a smaller size!

Emmental is famous for its Meränggen in Kemmeriboden-Bad and its cheese (König der Käse/King of Cheese). Anyone who says cheese also refers to the agricultural sector (about 10% of Emmental’s workforce).

The numerous mostly large Emmental (wooden) farmhouses, their crops and livestock, lone lime trees on hills and wooden bridges characterise the landscape. From Burgdorf to the source of the Emme, more than 30 wooden bridges span the river, including the famous 60-metre-long Hasle-Brücke near Hasle-Rüegsau.

The author Albert Bitzius alias Gotthelf-Jeremias (1797-1854) knew and wrote about life in the Emmental and its inhabitants (Das Emmental ist ein Hügellland, düster aussehnend von weitem, aber lieblich und heimelig in der Nähe) like no other. He placed the beauty of the landscape in the mostly not very idyllic themes of his time.

In the middle of the Emmental lie the villages of Ursenbach and Dürrenroth. Dürrenroth’s history is as fascinating as its name, ancient bell and two major establishments.


A document mentions the town in 1275 under the name ‘Rota’, probably referring to the red colour of the stream’s water. In 1326, the name ‘Ze der Dürren Rot in dem Dorf’ appears as a dried-up Rot ( the stream’s name). However, the Rotbach flows again, as it has for centuries. 

The village has long been owned by the Teutonic Order of Knights (Deutsche Ritterorde) and the lords of Sumiswald. The mighty castle in Sumiswald still oversees the Emmental. Bern bought the village from the Lords of Sumiswald in 1698.  

The village centre has several characteristic buildings. The church from 1486 (a new construction of an older Romanesque church) has one of the oldest church bells in Switzerland. The St Laurentius bell from 1392 (apparently from the Romanesque church) is one of five bells in the tower.

Landgasthof Bären

The late Baroque guesthouses ‘Bären’ (1752) and ‘Kreuz’ (1806) are not only colossal in size and monumental in status but also complexes with beautiful gardens, hotel-, and restaurant facilities. Both buildings were already Taverns in the 16th century.

Hotel Kreuz

Kreuz owes its name to the cloister in the building. The cloister is closed on four sides with identical oak doors to the north, east, south, and west. The north-south axis refers to the church porch opposite. 

The two guest houses were important places for changing horses on the Lucerne-Bern route in the era of the stagecoach until the arrival of the railways in the Emmental in 1908.

In the ‘Kreuz’, carriages with horses could even enter the guesthouse in the so-called Kreuzstock in lousy weather. Landgasthof ‘Bären’ and Hotel ‘Kreuz‘ are members of Swiss Historic Hotels nowadays.


A few kilometres north is the village of Ursenbach ((Ursibach in a charter from 1139). This village has belonged to Bern since 1414. The main feature of the village is its church and, in particular, the letter of 11 November 1515 from the city of Bern.

The letter of 11 November 1515 (copy in the church)

Bern kindly requested the village inhabitants finance the renovation of the old Romanesque church (12th century). Bern’s will was, of course, law, and soon afterwards, the rebuilding in the late Gothic style was completed, including 14 windows as gifts from Bern, Lucerne, Solothurn, Freiburg, and Basel.

Photo in the church

The current church is the result of this renovation. However, not everything has remained the same since then. Faith changed soon after, following Protestant Bern.

However, the landscape, the many farms, and the great importance of the agricultural sector have remained the same over the centuries. 

The Swiss Alpine Club

The Swiss Alpine Club, section Basel (www.sac-basel.ch) regularly organises hiking trips in this region (and elsewhere).

The SAC (www.sac-cas.ch) organises ski tours, mountaineering and other sports in the high mountains and the Alps and activities in other regions.

(Source and further information: www.emmental.ch).

Impressions of the Emmental