Monday, 17 September 2012

The Final Day

All quiet today at the Englisherhof, resuming its other mantle of Parkhotel du Sauvage. No long dresses to trail behind ladies or top hats to tip in their honour.

It’s a quiet day too at the Sherlock Holmes Museum in the English church.

Many trains taken, many mountains summited, many mysteries solved.
Its time to leave our lovely Swiss lair and return home… with a bag of original Meiringen meringues and a carpet bag full of memories.

Next year in 1891!

Love, Lady H x

Sunday, 16 September 2012

DAY 7: Fade to Black

The morning meets us with aquamarine skies pierced by gloriously high peaks. We are dancing and singing and living the Swiss dream. What could be more delightful than an innocent excursion up the funicular to ReichenbachFalls?
In truth, anything would be better than this…

Suddenly Dr Watson is called away to attend to a disturbed Englishwoman in the hotel. (It doesn’t occur to him that they are all up here, each more disturbed than the next!) Horror of horrors, Moriarty appears from the rock like a lizard. Moriarty and Sherlock tussle together as naturally as ham and cheese.

Over the cliff they tumble, into the boiling waters of death’s demonic drink -- clean enough to drink – we are still in Switzerland!

Sherlock Holmes is dead. Mourning ribbons and veils all round. A dirge is played and the mood sad and sombre.

But wait! The literary phoenix rises again. Sherlock emerges from behind the world’s largest round of Emmental cheese and the day is saved. Good triumphs over evil and the Bernese Oberland and beyond is a better, if simpler, place.
The band strikes up (these boys are certainly clocking the hours) and a merry parade of a hundred revellers marches through Meiringen to the thrill of the townspeople and tourists.

The mood is light and now there is time to try Meiringen's next most famous item....
Until tomorrow, Lady H x

Friday, 14 September 2012

DAY 6: Another mayor, another mountain, and one day closer to the Final Problem

Must, must, must! A visit to the storybook village of Grindelwald, the terrific rocky heights of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau heaving above it, home of the very first cable car in Europe and visited by one Mr Conan Doyle himself. Sherlock, it is said, may also have “holidayed” in this pretty Alpine village, in order to recuperate from the infamous episode at Reichenbach Falls…. But more about that tomorrow.

We travel up, up up from Grindelwald…. the frosted peaks only grow bigger as we become ever tinier.

Rosenlaui, such a pretty posey of vowels, is the charming Kurhaus hotel to which Sherlock and Watson were headed after their visit to Reichenbach Falls. Even if they were never to arrive there precisely as planned, our visit includes an intrepid hike up the rushing Rosenlaui Gorge. Must ask Cardinal Tosca if this would be the root of the word gorgeous.

On foot in the Rosenlaui Valley, the beautifully bedecked Alice Turner casts a careful eye over the Bernese botany, including her beloved alchemilla alpinus, also known as Lady’s Mantle.

Dum dum dee dum dum dum dum da dee dum. Woe is us on the eve of the conflagration at Reichenbach Falls.
Moriarty pronounces: “The end is nigh for Sherlock tomorrow.” He dares to name his supporters, rashly speckled amongst the crowd. Von Bork, Baron Gruner, Baron von Herling, even Mrs Hudson has allegedly sent a postcard asserting “His demands for coffee are driving me mad.” Also among the baddies is Colonel Caruthers who shamelessly accepts repeated happy birthday wishes from us all.
Not so best pleased, either, is the King of Bohemia, in receipt of a blackmail picture featuring his royal behind being tickled by the enticing Irene Adler.

(Relevant picture withheld; we make due with one of the King in the latest of Constantinople fashion playing a synchronised drinking game with Von Bork.)
Standby once again while Lady H plays her cards. And do let's keep one eye on a certain voluptuous Violet….

Thursday, 13 September 2012

DAY 5: Up the Pass, over the Bridge, and into The Spiritual Home of Sherlock Holmes

How gracious of the King of Bohemia to invite us onto his steam train to make the journey to Meiringen. Rumoured to cost some 3000 Swiss francs an hour, his privy purse must be full of the takings from the season at Marienbad.
There must be a reason the Gelmer Funicular is the steepest in the world? Could it be all others graded at 106 per cent or more have been boarded up by Health and Safety?! Many of the party were faint at the prospect.
Lady H’s cream begloved knuckles turned quite white on the descent.

Sashaying across the Handeck Swinging Bridge, however, was a walk in the park for Vicky. (Oui, after four days spent together amidst the intimate beauty of the Bernese Oberland, We are indeed on a first name basis with Ourselves.)

Romantic, remote, elegant Grimsel Hospiz is a four-star high-daway at the top of the pass. A delicious lunch was served and their cellar is vaut le detour. Today, the snow gods sprinkled us with frosty good luck – and could have frozen the teets off a nun.

Down in charming Meiringen, Mr Sherlock Holmes is mobbed by his fans – mountain guides from Kandersteg, no less than two mayors, the inevitable brass band, a merry odd assortment of doyens of the daily vin d’honneur, and a mule. Sherlock is touched with Honorary Citizenship of Meiringen. Hip hip horray. And more of that to come….

Who is this mysterious orange-juice swilling specimen? Tune in tomorrow....

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

DAY 3: To the Top

Time to confess. I do have a history of letter writing and blackmail – indeed, you may have some recollection of my role in a certain political scandal known as The Second Stain. Well, I’m better now. No more secrets, no more monkey business…
Oh all right, perhaps a little wouldn’t hurt.

The day started so well! We board the ingenious Jungfraubahn, built in 1912 and due for its 100 year anniversary as far away as the year 2012. Bound for the Top of Europe and the highest rail station on the Continent, we first alight at Kleine Scheidegg.

Here the nefarious Moriarty manages to appropriate the train itself, pedalling shares in his own evil rail company and promising his MMR train line would have “no Swiss tennis players, and feature leaves on the line and the wrong kind of snow”. Mayhem.

This wild feat of rail engineering journeys right into the mountain itself, popping out at the top of Jungfraujoch at higher than a heart-fluttering 3,400 metres. Our hearts certainly are pounding in the thin clear air, one tweed-coated man turns a fetching shade of blue. We pause to admire the splendid ice carving of Sherlock in the Ice Palace, deep inside the glacier. Oscar Meunier aka renowned British artist John Doubleday, makes a celebrity appearance. Thrilling and chilling.  

Snow heaves over the mountain tops this sunny September day and indeed its lies here all year long. Peering down the longest glacier in Europe -- the Aletsch is 22km long -- the elegant Miss Helen Stoner looks for the easy way down.
Who has stolen the officer’s hat? Again! No bump or bustle escapes his investigative curiosity.

On the train winding back down the mountain the missing hat is finally discovered…. by Sherlock, bien sur. But horror of horrors, the Great Sleuth finds the missing property in the possession of me, Lady Hilda. I am cuffed, but I feel I am in good hands…

Fellow passengers take the incident in their stride. There will be more to follow I am told...
And many more costume changes to come ... 

Monday, 10 September 2012

DAY 2: Lakes, mountains and mischief

Off we float, over turquoise Lake Brienz in an open-topped steamer, across water smooth as glass -- and clean enough to drink, certified by the tourist office so it must be true. (In this case, it really is.)
Sun is a lady's enemy: the Lady Beekeeper shows off her splendid hat.
Sherlock spies the bit of rock he'd been looking for.
Onto the funicular built in 1879 – will modern wonders never cease – zipping up to the mid-mountain luxury of the Giessbach Hotel, a wooden-spired castle in the sky.
A stroll up to the waters of Giessbach Falls...

Giessbach Falls rush past our windows during luncheon: white linen, glistening crystal chandeliers, and an impromptu minuet danced beautifully by The Reverend Dr Shlessinger and Miss de Merville. I fear her honour was in peril during more than one pirouette. Love that.
Mrs Hudson dusts down the dusty parts of the fabled Albert Kunz.
We eavesdrop on a most scandalous confession from famous Swiss actor and author Helmi Sigg to the Cardinal. Herr Sigg has recently penned “Sherlock Holmes and the Giessbach Fall”, a pastiche which Cardinal declares a “venal sin”. (The pastiche, not the book itself. The book is jolly good. Do read it.) Then the sounds of cut-glass British voice are raised in song (Eton, Westminster, St Pauls… they’re all here). “We decided to make this a very British occasion and not practice first,” the Man Staying at the Englischerhof in Meiringen demures.
Old Watson isn't sure if this week he's on his first or second wife, or somewhere in between.
Time for a quick burial at sea of his (late) Eminence Cardinal Tosca. He felt much better after a swift glass of wine and a (holy) smoke.

Back down in Interlaken’s Schlossgarten, villagers came out in droves. The price of admission alone repays one for looks received by local people: gaping stares and even applause from the crowds have been non-stop. With good cause, for Queen Victoria bestows the Victoria Cross on a Swiss soldier for conspicuous gallantry, an increasing rare quality in our society. What will the 20th century bring?
Sherlock foils another dastardly plot of Moriarty at the Victoria Cross ceremony.

Dinner at the magnificent Harder Kulm restaurant, perched over 900m above the sea, with a bird’s eye view across to the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks. Blessing by His Eminence before dinner, his prayer honouring Mrs Hudson “in hopes that dinner will surpass even a breakfast made by a Scotswoman”. Local monsters perform for the crowd and female member of the local folk band shows us how to spin a 5 franc coin in a stone bowl. She yodels and makes goat cries and the crowd leaves very merry. I sleep deeply in clean Alpine air, with goat cries in my dreams and corset indentations in my ribs… just like a local.
Tomorrow, we push for the summit.