Elementary, my dear Watson. There
are clues everywhere to point out that Meiringen in the Bernese
Oberland canton of Switzerland is a noteworthy ski destination.
Sherlock Holmes died in the Reichenbach Falls in
Meiringen during a tussle with his archenemy Professor Moriarty. Died
temporarily, that is. Fans of the famous, fictional detective wouldn't
let him die; they beseeched Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to resurrect him,
which he did in subsequent novels, after saying that Holmes had really
survived the plunge.
Meiringen hasn't let him die, either. There are
plaques and souvenirs, a museum and even an inexpensive Sherlock
Holmes Hotel. The falls are there, too, even though in winter they can
be merely a frozen trickle.
Conan Doyle did know a good thing when he saw it. A
confirmed ski addict, credited with encouraging early development of
the sport in Switzerland. Today, there are 50 miles of prepared runs
and 19 lifts. The town of Meiringen, which has 4,900 inhabitants, has
an elevation below 2,000 feet, but a cable car whisks skiers up to
where they connect with one of the gondolas and subsequent other
Those who venture near the top of the Glogghus
peak, nearly 8,000 feet high, can't ski all the way back down to
Meiringen, but they can drop 4,500 feet on a six-mile run. Another
interesting descent is on the FIS downhill course, a three-mile run
from Planplatten. Upper reaches have billowing snowfields; lower areas
are in the trees. Some of the 22 miles of cross country tracks are at
the higher elevations. Winter hikers have 36 miles of paths.
On the top of Planplatten is the Alpen Tower, a
spectacular structure reached by an express gondola. The view from the
restaurant and its deck are fine, but the circular bar at the very top
offers an incredible 360-degree panorama.
A small exhibit adjoining the restaurant contains a
collection of alpine birds and mammals, including two eagles. One is a
stuffed bird created by a taxidermist; the other is a huge artistic
rendition made of crystals found on the mountain.
Meiringen joins with local hamlets and the city of
Brienz to promote themselves as the Alpen Region. Axalp mountain above
Brienz is a gentler area, suitable for young families. Meiringen has a
full menu of winter sports, a stunning gorge to visit, and lots of
diversions after dark.
The resort’s central location in Switzerland makes
it easy to get to. Only 90 minutes from the Zurich gateway and 45
minutes from the popular tourist city of Luzern, it is also close to
the glaciers of the Jungfrau Region and the extensive ski areas
surrounding Grindelwald, Wengen and Mürren.
A word of caution, though. In Meiringen you can
wear a Sherlock Holmes double-peaked hat, puff on a souvenir pipe and
examine things with a magnifying glass. They go with the territory. In
other towns you might get hooted at.
I couldn't resist posing for this gag shot, reading the
international edition of the Herald Tribune, with the statue of
Sherlock Holmes looking over my shoulder. In the background is the
church whose basement has the Sherlock Holmes museum. Tourists see the
living room of the fictional Baker Street address in London that
Sherlock shared with Doctor Watson.
The museum sits beside the Park Hotel Du Sauvage,
an elegant hotel built in 1880 and apparently visited by Sir Arthur
Conan Doyle. On my recent ski trip to Meiringen I stayed at the hotel,
too. A busload of British people were also guests, but I had no clue
about how much they were interested in their most famous detective.
Perhaps they were following up on another legend
Meiringen fosters. The first meringue confection was produced here
around 1600. Although the tourist office cannot substantiate that the
word meringue has developed from Meiringen, it can boast the record
for the largest meringue in the world. Made of 2,000 egg whites and
250 pounds of sugar, it measured 82 inches long, 28 inches wide.
Local bakeries turn out 1,500 meringue products a
day. The shop I patronized sold me one that was almost as sweet as the