10 breathtaking Swiss alpine areas in the Bernese Oberland region that inspired literary greats
The spectacular alpine region of the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland has proved the inspiration behind many timeless poems, novels and even films.
Two and a half hours from Zürich airport by train, the Bernese Oberland has, for centuries, spurred writers from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, JRR Tolkien and Lord Byron to Johann Goethe and Ian Fleming to reach for their pens and rhapsodise about the most breathtaking mountainous area on the continent.
Here are the top 10 places in the Bernese Oberland that have inspired the literary greats. Miss them at your peril!
1. The Reichenbach Falls
Perhaps the most celebrated literary location in the Alps, the Reichenbach Falls in the Hasli Valley is where Conan Doyle set the climactic struggle between the world-famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his arch nemesis, Professor James Moriarty.
The dramatic fight saw them both plunge into the ferocious waterfall to a (seemingly) certain death. Much to Dr Watson’s shock, Holmes miraculously reappeared in London three years later.
Standing at the top of the awe-inspiring 250-metre-high waterfall, it is very easy to see how it fired up the author’s imagination. If you fell into what Watson memorably described as “the dreadful cauldron”, there would be no chance of you coming back.
The Reichenbach Falls is now a site of pilgrimage for Sherlock fans from every corner of the globe. Every year the Sherlock Holmes Society meets in full period costume on 4 May, the day Sherlock “died”, to commemorate their hero.
In 1891 Conan Doyle spent several days at the Hotel des Alpes in Meiringen, which commands a fabulous view of the waterfall. It is here that he found his inspiration for the climactic scene of “The Final Problem”, which was published two years later.
In the story, Holmes and Watson spend the night before his “death” in the Englischer Hof Hotel in Meiringen. Holmes’s presence in the pretty Alpine village – which also claims to be the place where the egg-based dessert, meringue, was invented – has been memorialised with a pub called the Sherlock Lounge, a statue of the great sleuth, a type of fondue (!) and only the second Sherlock Holmes Museum in the world (after the one in Baker Street in London.) The museum in Meiringen is notable for its exact reconstruction of Holmes and Watson’s sitting room.
3. The Lauterbrunnen Valley
Tolkien visited the astonishing Lauterbrunnen Valley in 1911. With its sheer cliff walls and 72 thunderous waterfalls, it possesses a compelling, primal beauty.
Many people imagine that Tolkien was inspired by New Zealand, which provided such a splendid backdrop in Peter Jackson’s films, but in fact he utilised the Alps as the basis for his fictional Middle Earth.
It is no surprise that the author employed the ethereal Lauterbrunnen Valley as the model for the heavenly Rivendell, the home of Elrond and his council, in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.