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September 20th 2018
A special vineyard and a beautiful mountain lake
On this last day of my stay in Valais I wanted to escape the forecasted high temperature in the Rhone Valley and decided to go to the small village Visperterminen in the side valley to the south of Visp. Because in Visp the Postal car to Visperterminen would leave only an hour later, I had time to stroll through the old city centre of Visp.
At first glance the city does not seem old nor special: a large railway station, many roads and quite a lot of industrial activities. The city ‘though is already very old. On the website of the Municipality many interesting information is mentioned (in German). Visp is built around the “Burghügel”, an elevated spot, where the inhabitants were more or less safe for enemies’ attacks, but surely also for floods: beside the threat from the river Rhone which in the course of time repeatedly burst its banks, there also was the risk of the water coming from the southern side valleys upstream of Visp by the affluent, the Vispa, which flows into the Rhone near Visp. Since especially the Rhone has been canalised in the end of the 19th century it offered the city the possibility to extend into the flat part of the valley. The city centre however is very beautiful and also very old already. About 1214 Visp was mentioned in official documents for the first time, but it is already much older. It is well-known that the Diocese of Sion around the year 1000 also executed its worldly powers. In the early 13th century the city developed into a market town, because of its strategic position in the centre of the Upper-Valais. The date of December 23rd 1388 is important: that was when the inhabitants of Visp have defeated the many times larger and stronger army of the House of Savoy by cunningly making good use of the severe frost: they flooded the city centre, so all roads became slippery. The Savoyard knights on horseback weren’t capable of defending themselves of even leaving the town… The “Blaue Stein” (“Blue Boulder”), a large boulder lying in the middle of the St. Martinsstrasse, is considered to be a memorial for this battle in 1388, which is also called the “Mannenmittwoch” (the “Mannen Wednesday”) and is commemorated every year.
Visp looks like a pleasant, but also lively city. I came across some funny things, like the head of a “druid” popping up from a planter with flowers in bloom, in the old town, or a mini-library in an old-fashioned telephone booth in the street leading to the railway station. Around noon the terraces looked appealing…
A few minutes before noon the Postal car left for Visperterminen. In the name of this place the emphasis is put on the “-ter-“ and the “-terminen” is a corruption of “Tärbinu” as these headstrong Walser call their village on top of the mountain… The bus slowly worked its way from the valley of the Vispa uphill and the overview steadily improved – but the views did not necessarily become nicer… For years work is being done to improve the coordination of traffic: not only by rail, but also by road, with large constructions, like the project of the motorway “A9”. Already many large tunnels have been built, like the ones near Gamsen and also in the vicinity of Leuk, so that the track of the motorway through the Rhone Valley is mainly running underground. Until 2021 they are constructing the last part of the development: a tunnel underneath the village of Zeneggen in the Vispa Valley towards the west. From the bus the tunnel openings were already visible – and all the construction activities around it. Afterwards the views improved considerably: we saw the famous vineyards of Visperterminen – these vineyards are the highest vineyards situated on the northern side of the Alps: at 1.150 meters. Here the grapes are growing from which the famous “Heida” wine is made, the savagnin blanc ( a kind of Traminer), but on this spot which is situated very much “on the sunny side” of the mountain, other varieties are grown as well. Archaeological excavations have shown that already the Celts have been growing grapes and making wine here. Over the centuries viticulture has been important for Visperterminen, but mainly for personal use. Cultivating the extremely steep slopes and the maintenance of the dry stone walls separating the parcels cost a lot of money and time. That is why large parts of the vineyards declined. In 1979 the tides turned: then some enthusiasts have joined forces, revitalised the viticulture and founded in 1980 the “Kellerei St. Jodern“. Many years later, in 1999, a guild has been founded, the “Heidazunft”; also subsidies have been received: as a result something that is of special importance for this region has been saved and also in a sustainable way. The village of Visperterminen presents itself also as the “Heidadorf” (the Village of the Heida).
After we drove past the vineyards we got the panoramic views, depending on the bends the Postal car was taking! I got steadily more beautiful views of … the Weisshorn! My eye was also caught by the Rhone Valley, where I could clearly spot the Bietschtal Valley, where I had been hiking only yesterday. The white church of Hohtenn was from this altitude and distance quite visible – as it still was the case from the village later on!
Just before half past one the Postal car arrived in the village and most passengers, tourists, dispersed into the narrow streets of headed for the chairlift straightaway. I decided to make a tour through te village with the typical Walser houses. There were some newly built houses (holiday homes), but even these have been built in a similar style.
The parish church, dedicated to St. Theodor (St. Theodul or also St. Joder), has an unobstructed view over the village and the Rhone Valley in the distance. The tower is old, the church itself is of a more recent date. Here as well are a beautiful altar and more modern stained glass windows.
The fact that also here Suonen are still of importance for agriculture is shown in the announcement, which is attached in the communication box of the Municipality, amongst all other items: as from August 22nd the “Wässerwasser” (the irrigation canals) from the Mutji Stollen (tunnel) won’t be supplied with water anymore during the night and from October 1st not anymore at all.
After my tour through the village I went with the chairlift to the Giw Mountain (at 1.972 meters). It was nice to sail through the air sitting in the sun, above the green grass and the murmuring streams, passing the trees, high over the heads of sheep and goats. Arriving at the top, there were various possibilities for a hike, also towards Brig… I chose the 2 hours round walk. This walk took me over easy, wide mountain roads and offered wonderful panoramas over the Rhone Valley. From this side it was clearly visible what distances I had covered in the past days! Here the autumnal colours were already quite present: the red of the blueberries was extra deepened by the bluish green of the alpine junipers. And then add the beaming sunlight to that!
The round tour led into the direction of a mountain lake, near the Gibidum mountain. This “home” mountain of Visperterminen is 2.317 meter high. On the flattened top transmitter stations of Swisscom are situated. The largest of these stations is 72 meter and is also visible from Brig. It is remarkable how short the distances are as the crow flies and how long it takes to walk!
After about 45 minutes I approached the lake, the Gibidumsee Lake, where something special was on display this summer. In the context of 100 years of Drinking water supply Visperterminen a hundred flags were placed in five colours, each symbolising an element: from above to below these were: blue (water), white (metal), red (fire), green (wood) and yellow (earth). The initiators of this project had chosen this set-up to focus upon the importance of good drinking water – on their travels through far countries they had seen and understood the importance of this. These flags are from Nepal. It was a marvellous image: that large lake in which the clouds were mirroring and then these flags that elegantly flapping in the wind. There were quite a lot of other hikers, but their presence was hardly noticeable against this magnificent background.
From the lake that is fed by the Heido-Suone, which is already over 2.000 years old, I also had a fantastic view on the Weisshorn. It was quite windy: therefore not only the flags were moving beautifully, but also the temperature was very pleasant.
On the same plateau as the lake with the flags also stood a huge, artistically staged monument: a “Steinmännchen” (a cairn), built up with many stones. I haven’t seen one that big! Normally these “Steinmännchen” serve as road sign in rough terrain. That was actually not the issue here!
Indeed two hours later I arrived at the chairlift again, which took just a short break (again). So I took a break myself in the restaurant with a glass of “Johannisberg” from the village. After a rather warm walk to the Postal car and a noisy bus ride with many schoolchildren, I reached around 5 o’clock Visp, from where I took the Postal car to Brig.
Today it has been a special day again… Now my stay in this part of Valais has ended. Next year I would like to return here and continue on this trail!