The candle in my lantern is struggling to illuminate my path in the deep cold. A snow-covered landscape of firkin forest and hillsides is all around. Every time I stop walking the silence is profound at the ceasing of crunching of feet and rustling of coats. I think I must be in Switzerland and it must be nearly Christmas.
We pass a group of typical farmhouses of the Emmental Valley, isolated in this mountainous country. Immensely broad, hunkered down in the snow, they have gently sloping roofs like half extended wings, delicate wood carvings over the doorway and tiny window panes. Outside the front door I can make out the snowy outlines of a formal garden.
Gathered around the main house are smaller cottages – like chickens around a mother hen – where grandparents, uncles and aunts live.
You may have heard of Emmental cheese but this a part of Switzerland where the Swiss go on holiday. They especially love hiking here in summer among this hilly, forested country in the foothills of the great Swiss Alps. It’s not far from the gorgeous old city of Bern.
I am discovering the magic of winter in the Emmental Valley and our lantern-lit walk started at Trachselwald castle, following a trail through a winter wonderland in the late afternoon darkness.
We reach a clearing to find flasks of warm gluhwein and punsch, homemade Christmas cookies and dried fruit. The guide gets a bonfire going and stakes the clearing with burning torches. Warmed from without and within, the group at first chats and then falls quiet to enjoy the silence.
Down in the valley are the lights of Sumiswald. It is the twinkly season, when every house is lit up and a great branch of evergreen overshadows each doorway. The traditional Gasthof zum Kreuz await with pots of steaming gruyere (plus a dash of kirsch and whatever other secret ingredients make Swiss fondue so delicious).
I’m really ready for Christmas now!
By Natasha von Geldern
I was the guest of Swiss tourism for this night walk but they didn’t force me to eat all that fondue…
PS It was too amazing during the night lantern hike to take photos so I have shared a few I took earlier during daylight hours from a helicopter ride over the Emmental Valley(!)
For more information on holidays in Switzerland visit www.MySwitzerland.com or call the Switzerland Travel Centre on the International freephone 00800 100 200 30. You can also contact them by e-mail: for information email [email protected]; for packages, trains and air tickets email [email protected]