August 8, 2019
Today was another moving-on day, this time onwards to Meiringen. So after breakfast we packed up and then went downstairs to pay our bill. For some reason our bill had some extra charges for meals that we hadn’t eaten, and on the other hand we had been charged for only two nights instead of three. We tried to explain that the bill was incorrect but in the end we gave up and paid what the bill said. We should have paid about 530 Swiss francs but instead paid only 484 francs.
At the station we didn’t have to wait too long for the train to Spiez to arrive. On the way there we chatted to a Scout leader from Salisbury, who we had seen last night at the concert. He was heading home as he had to go back to work tomorrow.
In Spiez we got off the train to catch another train to Interlaken Ost. We would have to wait a while for the connecting train, so Rosemary had the idea of having a look around Spiez. So for five Swiss francs we got a large locker. We stashed our bags in it and went out, down towards the lake and the castle.
It was a beautiful day and the views were spectacular. Down beside the lake there was a swimming pool, a mini-golf course, and various other sports facilities. And also the castle, of course. Where the moat used to be there was now a vineyard. We walked around the castle and its church, admiring them from various angles, and then a kestrel flew out of a window near the top. There were two, and we decided they must be nesting in the tower.
We had lunch outside the station, then went in and caught the train to Interlaken Ost and then onwards to Meiringen. All went smoothly and we ended up in Meiringen just after 2 pm. Finding the hotel was easy—it was just across the Bahnhofplatz. We were surprised at how large our room was. And it even had a balcony with a table and chairs! We were staying here for four nights so we were very happy with the choice. And we even had little packages of meringues on our pillows, because Meiringen is the birthplace of the meringue.
We went over to the Tourist Information in the station to find out what there is to do around Meiringen. The assistant was very helpful, with maps and other information. Clearly one of the main reasons for coming here was to see Reichenbach Falls, which Arthur Conan Doyle used as the setting for the famous fight between Holmes and Moriarty. And when she learned that we had a Bernese Oberland pass, she suggested that we take the train back down to Brienz and then take the old cog railway up to the Rothorn. Normally this would be an expensive trip but our pass would make it free.
We found the Sherlock Holmes museum as well as the statue of Holmes, but decided to leave the museum for another day. (That was mostly because Paul hadn’t brought his museum glasses.) Instead we went for a walk through the town, ending up at the Migros where we bought salads for dinner and fruit for tomorrow. We sat out on our balcony to eat the salads.
After dinner we went for another walk, this time down to the river. On the way back we passed by somebody’s barn. Outside it was an self-service box selling cheese, and also a fresh milk dispenser! Although it had a polite note explaining that the dispenser was empty because the cows were up in the mountains.
August 9, 2019
We got up early today, a beautiful day, and managed to just catch the 8:22 am train to Brienz. Once there we hurried across the street to the cog railway station. From here we would ride up to the summit of the Brienzer Rothorn. It’s the only cog railway in Switzerland which uses steam engines fired by coal.
The little train went quite slowly and it took just about an hour to get to the summit. During that time it used 350 kilograms of coal and 2000 liters of water! But they must have been using high-quality coal because you could hardly smell any smoke in the tunnels.
The views were spectacular from the moment we left Brienz but became even more so as we gained altitude. We shared our compartment with three young men who were guides with a company called Backroads. It was their day off and they were going to hike the ridge from the Rothorn down to Interlaken. We were going to hike in the opposite direction, ending up at the Turren gondola station.
At the summit there were plenty of signposts but none of them pointed to Turren. However Paul asked in the restaurant and found out that there would be a sign pointing to Turren farther along the ridge trail. It looked rather daunting and we could see it winding along some knife-edge ridges into the distance. But anyway we started out.
The trail was easy to walk on, with plenty of zigzags which made descending easier on the knees. There were only a few sections which would have been dangerous in strong winds, but they had cables to hold onto. And anyway we met people with mountain bikes coming the other way.
All the while the views were amazing. The trail was quite narrow so stopping for lunch would be tricky, so we continued on until we came to an area with benches and a wooden statue of a pot-bellied hiker. This was clearly our lunch spot. We sat for a while, enjoying the views and the sunshine along with our lunch.
Soon after that we came to yet another mountain-top café, with a signpost which said that Turren was one hour away. But it was still early and we didn’t need to rush. The trail led through a construction area behind the café and along an indistinct path, but soon it turned into a marked route. We had finished the hard part of the walk and this section was downhill, sometimes steeply. So we headed resolutely downhill through herds of cows, who took very little notice of us. Partway to the gondola station we came to a very small village which had a lovely little church.
Turren was at the gondola station, where of course there was a restaurant. By now the day was very hot so we bought ourselves frappés, which are like milkshakes. Paul had coffee flavour and Rosemary had strawberry. What a nice refreshing treat to have after a long hot day!
The gondola took us down to Lungern. We dutifully bought our tickets at the bottom (the attendant at the top didn’t have any tickets) and then headed off to the Lungern train station. It was about a 20-minute walk and we were in a totally different world—it was nearly 30° C and there were kids playing in the lake. We had to wait 40 minutes for the hourly train so we sat in the shade and relaxed. There weren’t many birds around the Lungern station but we did see a couple of Red Kites circling overhead. Very pretty birds!
Our train turned out to be mostly filled up by a Chinese tour group, who took up most of the seats and put their bags onto the rest. So we found ourselves standing in the aisle. Luckily our journey was only half an hour so we didn’t mind standing.
For dinner we went downstairs to the hotel restaurant, which did takeout pizza. We got a Hawaiian and a Pinocchio (ham, bacon, garlic, cheese, and a fried egg) and went back up and sat on our balcony to eat them. They came with salads which were very good and tasted good after the pizza. A lot of flies came to join us, but then we always seem to be accompanied by flies at meals in this part of Switzerland.
August 10, 2019
It started raining last night and it rained most of the morning, so any idea of hiking disappeared from our minds. Instead we stayed in our room and did laundry and sorted out credit card receipts and so on. But by 1 pm the rain had stopped so we headed out for lunch.
We had already planned to eat at Tea-Room Frutal, which is associated with the bakery of the same name. The sun was shining and we thought about sitting on the terrace, but it was actually very hot so we found a table inside. Rosemary had a salad and Paul had soup, a good choice for lunch. After finishing we looked into the bakery and ended up buying two pastries which looked like hot dogs—they were Tatzelwurms, which are mythical local lizards.
Then we went for a walk around the town. Meiringen isn’t very big so exploring it didn’t take long. But there’s a Sherlock Holmes museum in the town, so we went for a look. It only cost five Swiss francs but our hotel card gave us a 50% discount. Anyway it was inside the former “English Church” which had been built for the English tourists of the late 19th century, so it wasn’t very big. But they had done an excellent job of fitting everything in, even including a replica of Holmes’s living room.
We went out for dinner at about 7 pm to a restaurant called Leopold Steakhouse. We were getting tired of having to go out to dinner every night and it didn’t help that Leopold’s food was way too greasy.
August 11, 2019
We woke up to beautiful sunshine, after yesterday being mostly rained out. So after breakfast we headed over to the Tourist Information to buy tickets for Reichenbach Falls and the Aare Gorge. But as it turned out, because we had a tourist card from the hotel it would be cheaper to buy tickets directly from the sites.
With that in mind we walked to the funicular at the Reichenbach Falls, which was just across the river. It was a cute little car, maintained to look like it did in the 19th century, and it could transport up to 24 people at a time up the steep slope. It trundled us up to the bottom of the falls, where spray filled the air.
Across the gorge we could see a white star fixed to the canyon wall, at the spot where Holmes and Moriarty fell to their deaths in Conan Doyle’s story. There was a trail up by the falls, with occasional views through the trees, and soon we were at the top. There was a road here with numerous cars and a bus stop and a restaurant, but we carried on and headed down the trail. It descended quite steeply and Rosemary was wishing for her hiking poles.
Soon there was a side path which led to the place where Holmes and Moriarty fell; there was a plaque and some Holmes memorabilia there. Continuing down the trail we passed through forests and meadows and a small village named Geissholz, and then followed it beside a road full of noisy motorcycles which led to the east entrance of the Aare Gorge.
It was lunch time now, but the lunch food at the little shop at the east entrance wasn’t very attractive so we paid our entry fee for the gorge and set off. The Aare River goes through a narrow limestone gorge here, and over a hundred years ago they built a walkway which is suspended on the wall of the gorge so that tourists can appreciate it.
There were a lot of people on the walkway, going in both directions, but it wasn’t terribly crowded. There were glacial mills which had shaped the walls, and near the west end the gorge became so narrow you could almost reach across it. There were tunnels here and spotlights on the walls, and mysterious doors which looked like the entrance to the land of the dwarves.
Since the gorge walls were very high, this was a good place to look for Wallcreeper. And we learned from eBird that one had been seen here a couple of weeks earlier. So we were on the lookout. And amazingly enough, about halfway through the gorge Rosemary saw one fly up to a ledge just above us! Paul managed to see it just before it landed on the ledge out of our view. Luckily the bird is quite easy to identify if you see it in flight, as it’s a dull grey bird with red wings.
Once at the west end of the gorge we bought drinks and sandwiches from the restaurant there, and then it only took about 20 minutes to walk back to Meiringen. As today was Sunday the town was very quiet and the shops were closed, so we headed back to the hotel for a nap.
Soon the clouds started to build up and there were a few sprinkles of rain. At about 6:30 pm we went out for dinner at Stella Rosa, an Italian restaurant. Their food was very tasty and a real improvement over last night’s restaurant.
During our meal there was thunder and lightning and it started to pour with rain. The street was a river. Across the street, where people were still sitting outside under an awning, a domestic shouting match broke out. It went on for several minutes and had everyone watching. Soon the police came by in their SUV with bright orange markings to talk to the people involved in the pushing and shoving, but by then everyone had calmed down.
We hurried back to our room but even though the hotel was only one block away we still managed to get wet. Rain is predicted for tomorrow so we’ll see what the morning brings.