20th February, 2 Comments
By John Watson
After the tragic events of May 1891 it was a couple of years before I could publish the account in The Final Problem. I found even the mention of Switzerland, Meiringen, and especially the Reichenbach Falls deeply upsetting and any thought of returning to that fateful locale abhorrent.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to return and took the brave step of staying in a hotel in the town and exorcising my fears by looking upon that swirling torrent at the falls.
The Parkhotel du Sauvage in Meiringen in which I stayed on this visit has a plaque claiming that it was the Englischer Hof where we stayed in 1891, but this claim is false. The hotel is large and prominent and not the sort of place we wanted to stay for fear of attracting the attention of Moriarty or his henchmen. Most of the town was destroyed by a massive fire shortly after our visit (was this the work of Moriarty’s henchmen avenging the death of their master?) and therefore the town has changed a great deal.
It is now difficult to remember clearly our hotel, especially as many of the streets I remember have been rebuilt, but the Bellevue Hotel may have been where we stayed. It is in the classical Swiss chalet style and is still a small, family-run hotel with its ground floor now a cakeshop with large displays of Meiringen’s greatest invention – the meringue.
The town of Meiringen has many references to our visit and underneath the English church next to the Parkhotel du Sauvage is a museum containing a reconstruction of our rooms in Baker Street. In front of the church is a statue of someone you may recognise!
Back at the Falls, the many reenactements of Holmes’s fight with Moriarty have been carried out in entirely the wrong location because those staging these events have primarily been interested in the protagonists safety. They have generally not managed to climb the steep footpath which winds its way up the left-hand side of the falls when looking at them from below. This is the path that we followed, and Sidney Paget’s drawing, based on my sketches, is fairly accurate.
After visiting the Falls, we intended to visit the tiny hamlet of Rosenlaui where the Hotel Rosenlaui dominates the hamlet as it did in 1891. You can still obtain refreshments there before returning to Meiringen or continuing up the valley to the Grosse Sheidegge, where there are some spectacular views.
If Holmes did, in fact, follow this latter route after escaping Moriarty’s clutches, then he would have had no problems in either following the winding road, or in following the more direct footpath which leads through the woods, even in the dark, for it would have been dark soon after he set out. There are, however, other paths in the woods above the Reichenbach Falls which provide easier routes towards Italy.