The legend of the cave revolves around its namesake, St. Beatus, a monk living around 100 AD, who chose the cave in which to spend his pious hermitage. To his annoyance, however, he discovered someone was already living there; a horrible dragon, who shot lasers of fire from his blazing eyes. St. Beatus, however, would not be run out of his cave so easily, and held his cross up to the beast, invoking the Holy Trinity. Thrown into a hysteric fit, the dragon ran down the cliff and threw himself into Lake Thun below, causing the placid clear water to rise and boil. So the legend goes.
Like the Alps once were, the St. Beatus Cave is largely unexplored, but a small portion is open to the public. The setting of the cave is reason to visit alone - the beautiful old fashioned Swiss-style building that serves as the cave entrance clings to a vertical rock face. A waterfall seems to leak from beneath the structure, and into Lake Thun below. Bridges and walkways cross the waterfall, and as one climbs to the top, each vista is more inspiring than the last.
The cave tour includes many charmingly named stalactites and stalagmites, and a number of underground waterfalls and lakes. Back in the light of day, a visit to the small museum is rewarded with cave bear artifacts discovered within Beatus, and a history of the dangers and delights of caving. For children and any with a fascination of the mystique of dragons, the Fable House is full of displays on dragons throughout history and Bernese Oberland legends.
Know Before You Go
By car: From Bern - Head for Thun; take the Thun North [Thun Nord] exit -Head for Gunten/lnterlaken From the Brünig - Take the A8 in the direction of Interlaken - Take the Gunten/Unterseen lane in the Rugen tunnel - Head for Gunten/Thun
By bus: For information see www.stibus.ch
By boat: For information see www.bls.ch/schiff
Make sure to bring warm clothing as it can be surprisingly cold inside the caves, even in summer