It’s always a pleasure to go to Valais. Every time I go, the imposing mountains with their enormous glaciers, passes stretching out high above and sprawling forests are as impressive as ever. I wanted to use my visit to the World Nature Forum, which was built in Naters in 2016, to get a bit of background information about the Alpine region.
I take the train from Bern along the picturesque Thunersee line and enjoy looking out at the mountainous landscape. After going through the Lötschberg Base Tunnel, I arrive in Brig. It’s just a short walk from Brig station over the Rhône to Naters. You can see the World Nature Forum from far away – a modern, white building in the centre of the town.
The smell of good coffee and croissants greets me as I walk into the exhibition. There’s a long breakfast buffet set out between the cafeteria and the 3D panorama of the Alps. If I’d known that there was a Püüru-Zmorgu (a traditional Valais breakfast) with local delicacies here every Sunday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., I would have combined Sunday brunch with my museum visit.
Discovering the Alpine world with a golf ball and virtual rucksack.
I read about melting glaciers and the forces of nature in the Alps almost every day but I don’t know much about the actual geological processes. I’m keen to see what insights the World Nature Forum has to offer.
I’m given a golf ball and virtual rucksack in the form of a digital card to help me get around this World Heritage exhibition. On the ground floor, I put the red golf ball in the “Ways of Water” installation for the first time. I’m excited to follow the ball’s progress through pipes, tubes and flaps. I wave my virtual rucksack over the special collection points. Later on, I’m advised to enjoy the individual hiking tours – depending on where I put my digital card.
I climb the stylish ice age stairs to the first floor and enter the themed exhibition area dedicated to high mountains.
Can I imagine what ice, water or glaciers actually weigh? I lift the weights in the installation and soon realise that glaciers are unbelievably heavy. By trying it out on the pivoting model, I can also discover for myself how a glacier flows down into a valley. I learn how mountains emerge, how water shapes the landscape and what Switzerland would look like without the Alps. The fascinating story of the Dakota plane crash on the Gauli Glacier is told by a miniature model of the aeroplane and atmospheric audio narration.
There are no boring exhibitions here!
Long gone are exhibitions with visitors bored by complicated information labels. That’s not to say these exhibits don’t display the necessary information, it’s all just in pleasantly short, snappy texts with lots of visual material. I especially like the interactive experiences and play. It’s easy to imagine inquisitive kids and adults spending hours here listening to, feeling, looking at and giving the installations a try.
The panoramic film: Valais from its best side.
I am totally unprepared for the beauty of the panoramic film. The moving images on the 100 m² screen carry me off to tall, snow-covered mountains and let me experience the four seasons and Valais’s spectacular natural surroundings. It was worth coming to the World Nature Forum if only just to see this film.
The Alpine town of Brig and the Stockalper Palace.
No trip to Brig is complete without a visit to the baroque Stockalper Palace. I visit the arcade courtyard with the nostalgic postbus carriage and relax on a little bench in the palace gardens. On my foray through the picturesque old town, I discover narrow alleyways with cute little shops.
Visiting the eagle on the Simplon Pass.
From Brig, the postbus reaches the Simplon Pass in 45 minutes. With views of the mountain slopes and valleys, the postbus journey is an experience in itself. Here, I can witness what I learned in the World Nature Forum exhibition before, but this time it’s all live and in situ.
Once we arrive on the Simplon Pass, I feel the cool breeze and wrap my scarf around my neck. The famous eagle statue towers high on a hill, watching over the mountains. I enjoy the high Alpine plateau and the yellowy red autumnal colours of trees and shrubs.
I take the bus back to Brig after an extensive exploratory tour. In the train back to Bern, I relax with my memories of the day with the Valais and Bernese Oberland rolling by.
Autorin: Helga Bächler