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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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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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

How To You And Your Mate Can Suss Out A Good London Pub

This was touristy, but fun and full of charm

Every country has pubs, cafes, bars or restaurants.  English pubs have become part of international culture and a tourist attraction in their own right.  At their best, they are a sort of communal home away from home.

We’d been dreaming about settling into a cute place on a rainy day for a pint with fish and chips.   Some of London’s pubs look as though Disney had dressed up bad sports bars to look typically English.  Here are some of the issues:

  • Mediocre mass market beer – Why was there such a lack of variety in a country that produces so many wonderful beers?  Why put Heineken on tap?   We even saw Kronnenberg 1664 on tap!  I was even disappointed with some of his cask ales.
  • The wine is rubbish – Although to be fair, I didn’t actually taste any.  They looked so bad that I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
  • Video poker machines – They kill the ambiance.  I get that this might make the owner money, but people should not be bored enough to need them for entertainment.
  • Poor service – I always ask for advice to try to taste something new and yummy.  If I am going to have one, I want it to be something I can’t have at home and very good.  Therefore, I consider knowing what you have to offer a basic part of the job.  Often, they couldn’t give advice and didn’t seem to want to engage in conversation of any sort.  Oh yeah, and a counter was sticky.  Yuck.  I think that definitely counts as bad service (and it’s very unappetizing).
How can you tell the good ones from the bad or soulless ones?  I put on my thinking cap and here’s what I came up with:
  • If they try to make it look too historic with a giant sign out front detailing it’s history, be suspicious.
  • If there is video poker, or any other highly visible electronic game, run.
  • Ditto if no one smile at or greets you.
  • If you do not hear British accents anywhere inside, exit immediately.  You would be surprised at how many contained not a single Brit (including the staff).

Even if it was a tad bit cheesy, as a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I loved the Sherlock Holmes Pub with a “recreation” of his rooms.  There were tons of veterans there having a drink after Armistice Day festivities.

Movies Filmed In London

Avi:                     Eighty-six carats.
Rosebud:           Where?
Avi:                     London.

Rosebud:           London?
Avi:                     London.
Avi’s Colleague: London?
Avi:                     Yes, London.  You know: fish, chips, cup ‘o tea, bad food, worse
                           weather, Mary ____ Poppins… LONDON. (from Snatch)
Willis Group Building Trinity Square was in Laura Croft: Tomb Raider. It was the mansion of villainous Manfred Powell.
Westminster Bridge was eerily deserted in 28 Days Later.
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Whitehall from Trafalgar to Parliament appeared in V for Vendetta.
The stunning Millennium Bridge has been featured in tons of movies including: Harry Potter And The Half Blood PriceBridget Jones Diary, and Love Actually.
Tower Bridge is easily recognizable in:  Sweeney Todd,  Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and from about ten million other things.
The London Eye was seen in Run Fatboy RunWimbledonFantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Love Actually.
The Silver Surfer rides the London Eye
30 St. Mary Axe (dubbed The Gherkin for its resemblance to a pickle) was in Match Point and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
The Admiralty Arch (situated close to Trafalgar Square) was the heavily guarded checkpoint passed by Clive Owen in Children Of Men.
You saw Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square in Love Actually.
Of course, the Tower of London was featured in The Tudors.
The Royal Court’s of Justice were in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
Usually, I like to watch movies set in the destination before a trip.  Given that our tech system is not fully functional, we didn’t do that this time.  Before we go back to London, we will definitely rewatch some of the above films.