A Sherlockian’s Pilgrimage To Meiringen

Of course they have “The Death of Sherlock Holmes” by Sidney Paget prominently displayed.

Traces of Sherlock Holmes are all over Meiringen.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited the town and nearby Reichenbach Falls.  He had grown tired of writing the stories and was so impressed by the falls that he though they were an ideal setting to kill off his hero.  Meiringen even has a Sherlock Holmes trail in the center.   Even if you don’t do the trail, signs of Sherlock are everywhere.

It would have been so much cooler if I had a deerstalker on instead of a Detroit Tigers baseball cap.

Hotel Adler…get it? Irene Adler. “To Sherlock Homes she is always the woman”

The Sherlock Holmes Museum opened in 1991 on the 100th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes death in the old English church with the support of  the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.  It has objects here related to the history of Doyle and Holmes as well as a “recreation” the parlor of 221b Baker Street.  Okay, okay, I know that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were never alive, so it’s not really their things in the museum.  It contains items that belonged to similar people of the period (the nineteenth and early twentieth century).

In addition to Watson’s rugby gear, they have a walking stick of the type used for walking mountains at the end of the 19th century, Holmes’ hats, a statue of Sherlock, and a view of the falls.  One thing I learned from this case was that Scotland Yard uses an IT system called HOLMES.  It’s an acronym for “Home Office Large Major Enquiry System.”  Clever.

 In addition to the usual memorabilia, this case has a copy of The Times from 1910 with a story about the Swiss Federal Railways banning the sale of “novels of the detective type” in their station bookstalls.  It notes that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stated “there was nothing in his detective stories to shock anybody and he was in no way responsible for the bad literature and worse morals of the stories that have inundated the continent.”  That’s why I love to read him.

The “recreation” of 221b Baker Street.  Items specifically included because of their mention in a story include: a violin, the picture of Henry Ward Beecher, the Persian slipper where Holmes kept his tobacco, the slightly bent poker, and the bearskin hearth-rug.  “It is, of course, a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles.”   

I would have bought the deerstalker hat in the gift shop if it hadn’t been so expensive (note to him, now you know what to get me for my birthday)  They had some pretty cool stuff.  I purchased a book of some of the best Sherlock Holmes stories.  The cool parts are one page is in English, the opposite page is in German.  The employee who sold it to me stamped it with a stamp from the museum.   “Excellent!”  I cried. “Elementary,” said he.

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Aare Gorge, One Reason To Love The End Of The Ice Age

We saw the mighty Rhine in Germany.  Several rivers feed into it, including the Aare (also known as the Aar).  The Aare is the longest river that both begins and ends entirely within Switzerland.  It flows from the  Aar Glaciers of the Bernese Alps and joins with the Rhine in Koblenz.  When they merge, it actually surpasses the Rhine in volume.  Seeing the size of the Aare close to its source, I’m not surprised.  It flows quickly and is ice-cold.  It’s snowmelt after all.

The Evil Genius wanted to stop by and see the Aare Gorge (also known as the Aareschlucht) while we were in nearby Meiringen.  We weren’t sure what to expect, but ended up being overwhelmed by it.  It is truly an amazing sight.

At the end of the Ice age, torrential runoff water from melting glaciers eroded a deep, narrow chasm.  Over thousands of years, the Aare’s tumbling waters continued to erode the limestone rock, further carving out the gorge replete with niches, caves and hollows.  In fact, the water gets its greenish tint from tiny particles of eroded limestone.  They don’t need to die it green for St. Patty’s Day (unlike the Chicago River).

We entered a tunnel carved from the rock and exited onto a metal walkway suspended over the rushing water.  At first, walking over the torrent was a bit unsettling.  It didn’t take long for amazement to take over.  Isolated in the valley, we only heard the rushing waters echoing off the walls.

The dramatic setting immediately impressed us.  Wandering along, we became even more awestruck.  Not knowing much about the gorge, we had no idea of its size and scale.  It is 1400 meters long (0.87 miles) and 200 meters (656 feet) deep.

At points, it is only 1 meter (3 feet) wide!

Before the walkway was built, the only way to see it was from a boat.  The gorge was unfamiliar and frightening. Legend’s about what was in the gorge abounded.  For example, in 1814 there was a report of a monster.  It’s body resembled that a snake, but with a round head and legs.  It allegedly had a  big mouth, sharp teeth, evil eyes, and made terrifying whistling sound.   Locals called it a “Tatzelwurm.”  We didn’t see any sign of this beast.  Apparently we are very poor mythical beast spotters.  We didn’t see any sign of the Loch Ness Monster when we were there either.

Eventually, the fissure widens a bit allowing you to see some of the cool things erosion has created.  There were several waterfalls.  The river widened enough to allow us to see rocks and rapids.  We even saw a cave that had been converted to military use in the buildup to the second world war.

We saw more evidence of Switzerland’s military preparedness.  I’m guessing  that wall and door inside the cave isn’t the work of the glacier and this use to contain something other than sand.  Just a hunch.

 Not surprisingly, the lack of direct sunlight and the icy waters combine to make it a good deal cooler than the surrounding countryside.  Who cares, the view is worth it.

Oh, and when you emerge.  This is your view.  What’s not to love?

Elementary, My Dear Watson – Reichenbach Falls

The Evil Genius and I went to Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland to see Reichenbach Falls in Meiringen (Switzerland).  We’d planned to go before the unfortunate finger incident with the immersion blender and decided to go anyway.  We lucked out with great weather.

Although you can hike up to the falls (and beyond) we took the nostalgic Reichenbach funicular (a historic cable railway) which climbs through the deep gorge to the thundering falls.  At the top, there is an amazing view of rugged peaks and the surrounding countryside.  If you go, check this view out first because the rest is even more impressive.

Heading back to the viewing platform, you have a great view of the main falls. Dramatic and impressive, Reichenbach Falls is actually a series of seven waterfalls.  You can hear them from far below and the noise increases the closer you get to the falls.  They are over 250 meters (820 feet) tall.

To see more of the falls, we hiked up to view some of the higher falls and see the main falls from above.

You walk over the falls on a bridge.  I was a bit scared and didn’t want to look down.  Curiousity killed the cat.  Thankfully, I survived one quick peak as I scurried across.

While beautiful and powerful, they owe their fame to fictitious events set there.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited the area and found it an appropriately dramatic backdrop to stage the death of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty there.

In the book, The Final Problem, Sherlock Holmes fought with his nemesis before both tumbled over the edge into the turbulent waters on May 4, 1891.  Every May 4th, Sherlock fans make a pilgrimage here to celebrate the his memory.

We hiked down to Meirengen on a path that skirted the falls.  It was beautiful, but I was glad that it was dry.  It seems like it would be pretty hazardous during heavy rains or snow melt.  The adjacent gulleys must become gushing rivers.

One of the benefits of hiking down was that we passed by the plaque marking the ledge where the fictional fight was set.  It also went by part of the main plunge.  From there, we had an outstanding view of the falls and of the star painted on a rock next to the fall to pinpoint the exact place of a struggle.  It marks the spot where Sherlock Holmes and his enemy Professor Moriarty went over the edge.

While steep, the hike down was picturesque and made me want to see more of the area.  On the way down, we stumbled across more anti-tank, Toblerone-style fortifications.

Long live Sherlock Holmes!

P.S.  If you have any good theories about how Sherlock survived his fall in BBC’s “The Reichenbach Fall,” I’d love to hear them.  I confess, I’m stumped.

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