Today it is a rainy and rather warm mid-February day in 2017. I set out to discover the Benkenspitz or “Bängeschpitz”. This is a narrow forest “wedge” of Benken (Switzerland) extending into France between the two French villages Hagenthal and Neuwiller (the border between Switzerland and France is drawn in pink on this Swissmobility map).
This “wedge” called “Benkenspitz” is some 900m long and some 100m wide. The narrowest place is at the “entrance” in the south – just 62m wide. In the Internet I found some secondary information that says this forest “wedge” has already belonged to Benken, when Basel acquired it in the early 16th century. It is assumed that this might have been a good place for hunting. Actually I came across quite a few hunting stands in this area both on the Swiss and on the French side.
My blog “Around Basel – looking for old boundary stones on a sunny cold day” talks about my cold winter walk to the boundary stones between Oberwil (that until about 1800 belonged to the Bishopric of Basel) and Benken (that – with Biel – had been acquired by the town Basel soon after 1500). Today it is rather warm and rainy. The Passwang is still covered with snow.
I am on the Bielhübel in front of the water reservoir with its natural pond.
Not far from here are the beautifully restored boundary stones from the 17th and 18th century that mark the border between Oberwil (Bishopric of Basel) and Biel-Benken (belonging to Basel).
I continue my way above Biel and come across a lady on a very, very dirty mountain bike. “Have you seen anyone on a mountain bike – I have lost my husband… no?… “Matthias, Matthiaaaas”… I do not want to frighten the animals, there is so much deer around here… I am from Spain… Matthiaaaas, Matthiaaaaaaass…” and finally Matthias replies and she is happy. “You are looking for boundary stones?… there is one not far from here…”, she says knowing well the history of Biel-Benken. Right, here it is, shortly before reaching the Swiss hiking path marked in green at the Swiss-French border.
From here I continue along the Swiss-French border between Neuwiller and Biel-Benken. A small footpath follows the boundary stones, marked with the Swiss cross on one side…
… and with the “F” for France on the other side (1816 – this was just after the Congress of Vienna in 1815).
Later this well prepared hiking path ends and continues as a muddy path. EXACTLY where the nice path ends and the mud begins is – guess what – the border between France and Switzerland.
I cross this road to continue following the boundary stones. I meet a lady with two dogs. She comes from Neuwiller in France and takes out dogs of various owners. We speak French with one another while one of the dogs barks loudly at me – with a French accent.
After having paved my way through a muddy meadow, I cross the road connecting Benken with Neuwiller. Again, it is very clear, where the border is. Baselland (Basle Country), the canton of cherry trees, says good-bye to the cars crossing the border and driving to Neuwiller in France.
I cross the road and follow the ditch that is the border between Switzerland and France. This one boundary stone is nicely coloured on the Swiss side.
Still following the ditch I approach the “entrance” of the Benkenspitz. It starts on the meadow between the two forests.
I first see the boundary stone to the west of the “entrance”. I am confused, but then I find the stone marking the east of the “entrance” to the forest “wedge” and enjoy the view of the Jura hills in Switzerland.
I continue along the east line – one boundary stone after the next to make it all clear, where Switzerland ends in this narrow wedge and where France starts.
A huge tractor cuts trees – in France. I have reached the end of the Swiss wedge called “Benkenspitz” and return back along the west border – again well marked.
I leave the Benkenspitz behind me and continue to follow the French-Swiss border. This is an interesting cooperation: A Swiss traffic sign (only residents are allowed to drive here) and a French hiking sign of the Club Vosgien.
And – across of this French-Swiss cooperation – be aware, following this hiking sign takes you to France, only allowed when having nothing to declare!
Along vineyards the boundary stones lead me down towards Benken.
I take the bus back to Bottmingen – good that public transportation works so efficiently.