Sherlock Holmes and Switzerland are not an obvious connection, until you think about Professor James Moriarty and a certain very famous waterfall. That’s why I was so excited to be invited onto a trip to Meiringen in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland. It meant I would see the Reichenbach Falls, where, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem, Moriarty (and apparently Holmes…) fell to their deaths.
PLEASE WATCH MY VIDEO TO SEE THE FALLS IN ACTION!
Meiringen is a small town, which is easy to walk around and well served by a rail station which can take you all over the country. It is in a valley, surrounded by beautiful mountains and waterfalls, including of course the Reichenbach.
I was fortunate enough to stay at the Parkhotel du Sauvage, which is just five minutes walk from the station, and where Conan Doyle himself, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, used to reside when he came to Switzerland. It is a four star hotel, built in 1880 in an art deco style, which I really liked. I was happy with my large, clean room, though it was quite sparse. That didn’t bother me, as I was content to admire the view, which included a lit up Reichenbach Falls and silhouette of Sherlock at night. However, I was a bit bothered when the curtains didn’t pull together completely (and that you had to pay extra for Wifi!).
Still, I enjoyed staying there and found the staff friendly and the food enjoyable. I was especially delighted by a delicious plate of desserts on the first night of my stay…
Meiringen is a fine base for walking, or travelling further afield to the cities of Lucerne or Interlaken, or a trip up the Jungfrau mountain. The village itself is said to be where meringues were first made, but I have my doubts about this. Still, it boasts a lovely bakery which has not quite as lovely prices, and a local supermarket which proved rather more to my wallet’s liking (Switzerland is very expensive).
There is also a local museum (but not with information in English), a small fortress and the wonderful St Michael’s Church which has its own archaeological excavations which go back 1,000 years (just walk down the stairs at the back of the church to see these).
The Parkhotel is literally next door to the Sherlock Holmes museum. There is a lovely garden area to walk through (complete with Sherlock illustrations) and then the museum itself, which was first opened in 1991, on the 100th anniversary of the death of the famous detective. It is small, but beautifully done – especially downstairs.
All visitors are given an audio guide which is genuinely interesting. As you walk down the stairs, don’t miss the pictures on the wall. One has a report card from Conan-Doyle’s school days, and you can see that a certain Master Moriarty was in the same form as the author himself!
The room downstairs has memorabilia to look at but the centrepiece is a lovely re-creation of Holmes’ and Dr Watson’s living room at 221b Baker Street. This has some wonderful touches, from the pipes hanging on the wall to the violin on the sofa. However, it is somewhat weird to see all this in Switzerland.
I very much enjoyed my visit to the museum, but, if you’re a Sherlock fan, the highlight of your visit to Meiringen has to be taking the funicular to the Reichenbach Falls (actually a series of waterfalls) where you can see the Hasli valley below you.
The funicular was built in 1899 and you ride up in an exact replica of the original wooden wagon, which runs every 15 minutes. It doesn’t take long, and drops you off just a minute from the 120m high waterfall, truly a remarkable sight, which shows the power of nature – and lets you hear it too.
Whilst there, you should walk up the steps and follow the footpath around the woods – eventually you come out to look at an even more impressive view. You can also keep on walking and cross over the falls at a small bridge, then go on for a coffee at the cafe.
The Falls are stunning, even though I was a bit baffled as to how Holmes and Moriarty fell into the swirling waters. There is a star which marks the point of their fight, and it is not really anywhere near the actual falls…..Mind you, maybe I’m over-thinking all this. It is fiction, after all…
The funicular costs 10 Swiss Francs per adult (return) and 8 per child. It is open from mid may to mid October this year. The Sherlock Holmes Museum (which is open from 29th April to 31st October 2016) costs 4 Swiss Francs per adult and 3 per child. One Swiss Franc is worth around 70p.
The hotel costs around 190 Swiss Francs (around £140) per night, including breakfast, for a double room. More on their rates here.
Disclosure: I was fortunate to be hosted by the hotel for my stay and also to have my visit to the falls and Sherlock Holmes museum given to me on a complimentary basis as part of a wonderful Great Railways Journey to the Jungfrau. However, none of the establishments had any input into this blog post.
Read more on Sherlock Holmes and our visit to the Sherlock exhibition at the Museum of London.