On a recent trip to Switzerland I had the opportunity to join a group of Sherlockians (Sherlock Holmes fans). The Sherlock Holmes Society of London were visiting the Bernese Oberland. It was this beautiful landscape that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes.
The pilgrimage started at Interlaken, visited the Jungfrau and finished up in the Haslital valley. The Holmes fans personify characters from the novels and wear original costumes from the 19th century.
I was in the small town of Meiringen when I first encountered the society. Meiringen as the name suggests is the birthplace of the meringue.
The society was founded in 1951 with 130 members. Today the society has over 1000 members from all over the world. The society were gathered in Meiringen's main square to celebrate the honorary citizenship of Sherlock Holmes. They take the whole thing very seriously, attention to detail is very important. The pilgrims come from all walks of life, and from all over the world. Their love of Sherlock is what brings them all together. The ceremony was quite something. A bit surreal. Afterwards there was a celebratory meal, throughout which the pilgrims continued to stay in character.
In the morning we made the journey by train to Grindelwald mountain village. Upon arrival we had a guided tour through the village accompanied by the local mountain guides, all dressed in historic costumes. We drew some stares from the passer-bys, many stopping to take pictures.
We stopped off at the Grindelwald Heimat Museum, it was difficult to stay indoors, when it was a beautiful day, and we had such stunning views.
We took the train to Jungfraujoch, for me, the highlight of the trip. Jungfraujoch is known as "The Top of Europe". It is the highest point in Europe that can be reached by train. Make sure you take some sugary sweets or a sugary drink, as the oxygen levels begin to drop you may start to feel nauseous.
They were showcasing the brand new "Alpine Sensation" tour as well as the Ice Palace which contains an ice sculpture showing Sherlock Holmes on the eve of the death struggle at the Reichenbach Falls.
The visit to the Top of Europe, is definitely something everyone should do. It's a once in a lifetime experience, and in my opinion should be named one of the wonders of the world. It is truly stunning. I just kept expecting Daniel Craig in his role as Bond to come flying over the snow covered mountains on his jet ski! I was very disappointed when it didn't happen!
If you are claustrophobic avoid visiting the Ice Palace. It's basically a long narrow ice encased tunnel which breaks off at certain parts to showcase elaborate sculptures, it's very slippery so ensure you are wearing appropriate footwear.
There are three restaurants in the complex, so we decided to stop off for lunch. It was difficult to concentrate on the food, as we sat in such amazing surroundings, such incredible natural beauty. From our table we could view the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, the views were spectacular.
After lunch we went exploring. We went to the very top, to the viewing gallery, it was very cold and bitter, we were in the middle of a blizzard, but it was also the most amazing sight. These breath-taking vistas are usually the sort only seen by dedicated Alpinists and expert climbers.
It's quite a journey to get to the top an experience in itself. You travel through the rock of the Eiger and, Mönch. There are two stops on the way up Eigerwand (Eiger Wall) and Eismeer (Sea of Ice); both stations have viewing platforms where you can enjoy the stunning views. All too soon it was time to leave Jungfraujoch.
And it was time to join the Society again. This time we journeyed to the Reichenbach Falls where the re-enactment of the death struggle between Holmes and Moriarty took place. They make it look as realistic as possible. The pilgrims all gather and watch the struggle and then dummies are thrown over the side of the Falls.
In the afternoon, we took the train to Interlaken. And lucky for me I managed to book an appointment at the neighbouring hotel for a massage. Very much needed after all the rail travel we had endured the past few days.
The Victoria-Jungfrau Spa is perfect; it's set apart from the main hotel, in peaceful, serene quarters. I had booked an aromatherapy full body massage. The treatment began with an assessment of my current well-being by a friendly and knowledgeable therapist. Who then outlined what would happen in the treatment and asked how much massage pressure I liked. My main areas of tension are my back, neck and shoulders. The therapist did a tremendous job and managed to massage every crick and ache out of these problem areas.
It was without doubt the most perfect way to spend fifty minutes. Quite possibly the best massage I have had in a long while. I left feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and energised.
I will definitely be back on my next trip to Switzerland.
Top tip: If you are planning to visit Switzerland be prepared to use the train. Rail travel is the most popular method of transport.
The Sherlockians in full costume
Stunning views at Grindelwald
Breathtaking views of Jungfraujoch, perfect location for a Bond movie