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.

Switzerland’s Film Locations

Courtesy of United Artists
The last two movies we saw (Sherlock Holmes 2 and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) both had scenes set in Switzerland.  It got me thinking about movies that were set in and/or filmed in Switzerland.
Courtesy of MGM Studios
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Although it is set in Sweden, this movie visits Switzerland. Without giving the plot away, banks are involved (get ready for a theme here).
Courtesy of Warner Brothers
Some movies are filmed in Switzerland and/or are set there because of its rugged, natural, almost unbelievable beauty.  Such movies include:
View from Grindelwald, not to be confused with Gimmelwald
Courtesy of Dor Film-West Produktionsgesellschaft
  • North Face – This German film is a suspenseful adventure based on the true story of the competition to climb the most dangerous rock face in the Alps, the north face of the Eiger.
The Eiger
Courtesy of New Line Cinema
The large number of international organizations here figure in some plots.  These movies include:
  • Angels and Demons – The movie starts at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, which is located on the outskirts of Geneva.
Tom Hanks, Rachel Weisz and Ron Howard in front of CERN, Courtesy of Atlas E-News
Warner Brothers
  • Syriana – Scenes from this political thriller were filmed at the iconic Geneva hotel, Hotel President Wilson.
Warner Brothers
This looks like the lake nearby.  The green benches are very Geneva.
Although Switzerland technically remained neutral during WWII, it was still greatly affected by the war. Several movies filmed in Switzerland depicting that era are:
HBO
  • The Miracle of Bern – Set at the 1954 World Cup in Bern, this portrait of post-WWII Germany tells the story of a young boy, his ex-POW father and the unexpected victory of the West German soccer team.
20th Century Fox
  • The Sound of Music – While the Sound of Music is rightfully associated with Salzburg, Austria the last shot of the movie is the Von Trapp’s climbing over the alps into Switzerland.
Courtesy of American Zoetrope
  • Youth Without Youth – This Francis Ford Coppola movie is set in pre-WWII Europe and features a professor.  It gets a bit crazy from there.

Several movies have characters visiting bankers here:

  • The Informant – The US Government goes after agribusiness price-fixing with their informant witness.  Guess who has to go visit some bankers in Zürich?  He’s walking past city hall on his way.
  • The Bourne Identity – Matt Damon (yep, he’s in Switzerland once again) as Jason Bourne goes to visit some Swiss Bankers in Zürich.
Courtesy of Fox Warner
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
  • X-Men First Class – A character goes to Switzerland to interrogate of the keepers of Nazi Gold.  Although I’m not sure smart is the right word to describe this movie, we’ll still file it under banks.
The James Bond Franchise loves filming in Switzerland. At least 5 James Bond movies have been filmed in Switzerland. They include:
  • Goldeneye -The opening sequence was filmed in the Italian part of Switzerland, near Lugano in Cugnasco and Gerdola.  In the movie, James Bond jumps from Contra Dam.
Courtesy of MGM
  • Goldfinger – Our favorite British spy chases Goldfinger’s Rolls Royce around the Swiss Alps through the Furka Pass (near Andermatt).
  • A View to a Kill – Yet another chase scene through the alps.  This one is at Vadretta di Scerscen Inferiore, in the Italian portion of Switzerland.

  • The Spy Who Loved Me – The opening ski sequence was filmed in Switzerland (Graubauden, St. Moritz).
Courtesy of MGM

Some famous people have lived in or hail from Switzerland  As a result, several movies about their lives and work have been filmed here.  They include:

  • Rowing with the Wind – Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley came to Switzerland as romantics enamored of the dramatic scenery.  While living near Geneva, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.  This film is based on that period.

  • Charlie Chaplin was forced to leave the US during the McCarthy era and moved to Vevey, Switzerland.  His biopic starring Robert Downey Jr., Chaplin, filmed here.
Courtesy of Caroicao Pictures 
Courtesy H. R. Geiger Bar
  •  H.R. Giger’s Sanctuary – H.R. Geiger, the creator the Alien movies is from Gruyeres, Switzerland.  He has an amazing, visually intriguing cafe and museum in the town.  The movie features them.

A few books have been turned into movies set in Swtizerland.

  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being – This Milan Kundera novel was adapted for the big screen and was nominated for two Oscars.  It centers around the Prague Spring stars Daniel Day Lewis and Juliette Binoche.  A scene was filmed on the Mt. Blanc Bridge in Geneva.  We cross that bridge regularly.
Courtesy of MGM