email
The Silk Route - World Travel: Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair, Switzerland
americas asia pacific africa middle east europe

Switzerland: Ballenberg, Meiringen, Rosenlaui
Most recent: 2013

Ballenberg Meiringen Rosenlaui
Reichenbach Falls Meiringen


Lovely rural architecture at Ballenberg open air museum; the famous Reichenbach Falls at Meiringen and a Sherlock Holmes Museum; beautiful Rosenlaui - a quirky hotel surrounded by mountains with Gertrude Bell connections.

Ballenberg

Lungernsee

Lungernsee, just north east of Ballenberg.

Ballenberg, just to the east of Lake Brienz, is an extensive open air museum with examples of the regional traditional rural architecture. It is a really nice place to wander around and has produce gardens, lots of demos of local crafts and skills - spinning, woodworking, weaving and pottery the day we were there - and many events like folk dancing and craft markets.

Ballenberg
Farmhouse from Bonderlen/Adelboden, Berne, 1698.
This was the first to be erected at Ballenberg.
The large branches hung beneath the gable are called "Gretzeni" in the Bernese dialect meaning twigs or boughs. Said to be windbreaks they are also an old superstition to ward off evil spirits.

Ballenberg website has a lot of information on the buildings and events.

A farmhouse from Bonderlen/Adelboden was the first to be erected at Ballenberg. It was built in 1698 and an inscription on the building tells 77 year old Thomas Gyger and his 71 year old wife had the carpenter Jakob Pieren erect it. The wood was white when first cut and darkened to the colour it is now under centuries of weathering.

Ballenberg
A sample box of carved wooden items including penholders, bottle corks with figures and needle cases. c 1900
These would be shown as a sample collection to business people by the representative of the makers. Many farmers supplemented their income with crafts such as this. As a symbol of Bern the bear features strongly.

Ballenberg

 

Ballenberg
Cheese Storehouse, Lütschental, Berne, early 17th Century.
This building came from an alp in the Grindelwald valley at an elevation of 1700m. It held the valuable cheese created over the summer. It is raised on piles of stones to allow air to circulate and prevent damp from the ground penetrating the floor, and to stop rats getting in.

 

We visited in October 2009, a long drive from Basel but we enjoyed the visit, and bought fresh-baked bread and excellent chocolate to bring home.

Ballenberg
Ballenberg
Ballenberg
Wood-fired ovens and heating ranges.
Ballenberg
Ballenberg
Very hard work doing laundry by hand using water heated on a wood-burning stove.
Ballenberg
The old schoolroom.
Ballenberg
This type of wood-burning tiled stove, used for heating rooms, is still found in many bars and restaurants.
Ballenberg
Ingenious storage where space is at a premium.
Ballenberg
Chapel, Turtig/Raron, Valais, 18th Century.

 

 

Ballenberg is located in a beautiful setting, fittingly rural and surrounded by mountains.

 

Ballenberg
This kind of cooking arrangement, where a pan is inserted in a hole cut in a platform above a fire, goes back millennia.
Ballenberg
Vintnerís House, Richterswil, Zurich, around 1780.
This building was occupied by up to three craftsmen families who cultivated vines.
Ballenberg
Ballenberg
Farmhouse, Oberentfelden, Argovia, 1609.
Ballenberg
Ballenberg
Cheese Storehouse, Niederried, Berne, 1652.
Ballenberg
Granary, Campo/Campo Vallemaggia, Ticino, 1515.
Ballenberg
Ballenberg
Farmhouse, Ostermundigen, Berne, 1797.
This huge farmhouse was built by a wealthy farmer after his previous home burned down. The upper storey is painted with trompe l'oeil windows.
Ballenberg
Ballenberg
Ballenberg
Ballenberg

 

Meiringen

skiing at MeiringenSkiing above Meiringen, February 2008.

 

Meiringen, about 10km south east of Ballenberg, is the famous location of the Reichenbach Falls where, in The Final Problem, first published in Strand Magazine in December 1893, Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty fought and fell above the waterfall.

Sherlock Homes Museum Meiringen
This sketch by Arthur Conan Doyle illustrates how important he felt his creation Sherlock Holmes was in all his life's work.

 

Sherlock Homes Museum Meiringen
Detail of Conan Doyle's "life works" sketch.

Conan Doyle had come to hate his most famous creation and lamented the fact that his many other achievements, most of which he rated more highly, were virtually unknown.

Reichenbach Falls Meiringen
The star on the ledge at the right marks the spot above the Reichenbach Falls where Moriarty and Holmes fought and fell.
Sherlock Holmes' sitting room in the Meiringen Museum
Sherlock Holmes' sitting room in the Meiringen Museum.
May 2008

However, the public - and the publishers - wouldn't let him rest until Holmes was resurrected, first in The Hound of the Baskervilles, a retrospective tale, then finally brought fully back to life in The Empty House in 1903.

Sherlock Holmes' sitting room in the Meiringen Museum
Sherlock Holmes' sitting room in the Meiringen Museum.
May 2008


Reichenbach Falls Meiringen
At the top of the Reichenbach Falls, 1990.

The town makes much of the Holmesian connection with a rather nice small museum where there is a recreation of his sitting room at 221b Baker Street, London.

Sherlock Holmes stamps
Commemorative First Day Issue stamps from the British Royal Mail.

Reichenbach Falls Meiringen
Reichenbach Falls May 2008
Reichenbach Falls Meiringen
September 2013
Reichenbach Falls Meiringen
View down the valley from the Reichenbach Falls.
September 2013

In September 2013 we climbed past the falls once more, on the way to Rosenlaui.

Meiringen's second claim to fame is as the birthplace of the meringue!

Reichenbach Falls Meiringen
At the top of the Reichenbach Falls, September 2013.
Reichenbach Falls Meiringen
At the top of the long drop of the falls.
September 2013
Reichenbach Falls Meiringen
September 2013

 

Rosenlaui

Reichenbach Falls Meiringen
Climbing above the Reichenbach Falls on the way to Rosenlaui.

 

In September 2013 we hiked across the mountain from Meiringen to Rosenlaui, to stay in the iconic hotel. It is possible to use the Post Bus - a great Swiss institution for travel in the mountains - but we wanted to arrive on foot.

Reichenbach Falls Meiringen
Climbing above the Reichenbach Falls on the way to Rosenlaui.
On the way to Rosenlaui
On the way to Rosenlaui
On the way to Rosenlaui
On the way to Rosenlaui
View on the way to Rosenlaui.
On the way to Rosenlaui
On the way to Rosenlaui



 

On the way to Rosenlaui
On the way to Rosenlaui
Wellhorn, 3191m
On the way to Rosenlaui
On the way to Rosenlaui
On the way to Rosenlaui
On the way to Rosenlaui

The hotel holds several attractions for us. First and foremost Gertrude Bell stayed here, in particular in 1901 when she climbed several peaks in the Engelhörner range, including one which was named Gertrudspitze in her honour.

In August 1901 she wrote1 to her stepmother Florence Bell from the Kurhaus, Rosenlaui - the Hotel Rosenlaui:

"I am established for a day or two in this enchanting spot, having been driven out of the higher mountains by a heavy snowfall on Monday, which renders the big things impossible for a day or two. Here, there is a fascinating little rock range, which can be done in almost any weather."

Rosenlaui
Arriving at the Hotel Rosenlaui.

Secondly, the hotel has changed very little from that time. There are no en suite rooms, for instance, and dining is a set meal.

We took the train to Meiringen then the Post Bus to the Reichenbach Falls lower station for the funicular up to the falls then walked to the Zwingli Hof, quite steep, for sausage, chips and a beer before setting out for Rosenlaui - from here it took just under two hours. Steep for a while to begin with then not too bad.

It is a beautiful walk and we had good weather for it, sunny but mostly overcast so not too hot.

Hotel Rosenlaui
The older hotel dating from 1862.

The original hotel was built in 1771 but was rebuilt in 1862 after it burned down. A Belle Epoque attached hotel was built in 1905. The hotel has no tvs, radio or Internet connection and limited mobile phone reception.

Rosenlaui

 

Rosenlaui

 

At the hotel we had a room on the top floor with a great view of the mountains, plain but very clean.

Rosenlaui
View from the room.
Rosenlaui
View from the room.
Rosenlaui
From the room.
Rosenlaui
From the room.

 

We were quite early so decided to take a walk to the Gletscherschluct, a gradually ascending path through the Rosenlaui Gorge.

Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
From the room.
Rosenlaui
Gentians
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui

The river is a torrent through the gorge and there had been a lot of rain the previous week so it was going at full pelt.

Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui

The further we got into the gorge the narrower and darker it became and the noise of the water thunderous.

Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui

 

 

We returned to the hotel for a well-deserved rest before dinner which was very good - an excellent white wine soup, pumpkin crostini which neither of us were keen on, but a return to form with a great beef stroganoff and panna cotta with intense raspberry sauce.

Sadly we did not have the greatest night's sleep - the bed was very hard, pillows too soft and the river crashing over rocks just outside the hotel was extremely loud.

Rosenlaui

 

Rosenlaui

 

Breakfast was great though - fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, breads and rolls and home-made jam and hot coffee.

As we didn't have to check out before 11 we went for a walk to get decent views of Gertrudspitze, first keeping to the road west then to Schwartzwaldalp where the mountain was very clear.

 

Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui

It was still very early so there was mist in the valleys and sun only on the mountain tops.

Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Rosenlaui
Fly Agaric
Rosenlaui
A mill race powering an overshot saw mill dating from 1896.
Rosenlaui

Gertrude Bell is best known for her role in the Middle East during and after the end of the First World War. She had already travelled extensively in the region and developed an interest in archaeology, visiting ruins and digs such as Carchemish where she first encountered T.E. Lawrence.

Rosenlaui

Before this period of her life, though, she had become an accomplished mountaineer, particularly in the Bernese Oberland.

In September 1901 in a letter1 to her father she wrote a detailed account of her traverse of the Engelhorn with her two guides, Ulrich and Heinrich Fuhrer, including a terrifying section achieved on each others shoulders:

"... we were on an awfully steep place under the overhanging place. Ulrich tried it on Heinrich's shoulder and could not reach any hold. I then clambered up on to Heinrich, Ulrich stood on me and fingered up the rock as far as he could. It wasn't high enough. I lifted myself still a little higher - always with Ulrich on me, mind! - and he began to raise himself by his hands. As his foot left my shoulder I put up a hand straightened out my arm and made a ledge for him. He called out, 'I don't feel at all safe - if you move we are all killed.' I said, 'All right, I can stand here for a week,' and up he went by my shoulder and my hand. It was just high enough."

Later Ulrich told Gertrude that if she'd said she hadn't felt safe he would have fallen, at which Gertrude admitted that, actually, "I thought I was falling when I spoke"!

At the end of the letter to her father she wrote of her time here:

"Seven new peaks - one of them first-class and four others very good. One new saddle, also first-class.
The traverse of the Engelhorn, also new and first-class.
That's not bad going, is it!...."

 

References

  1. The Letters of Gertrude Bell, Volume One, London, Ernest Benn Limited, 1927