Saturday, November 6, 2021

10/7/21: Interesting Interlaken Walk

Interlaken had been the perfect alpine gateway town for us to get some fabulous hikes in but Steven and I didn't see anything of the town until our last morning. While very fashionable for 19th century Romantics, the town's allure was later eclipsed by its swankier alpine neighbors for European jet setters. The town has seen a resurgence, though, with Middle Eastern and Indian tourists as the latter love to escape their monsoon season as well as touring places that are stand-ins in their own movies. The Alps become Kashmir which is less accessible to film crews according to travel writer Rick Steves.

Even the local tourist authority plugs Interlaken as the springboard to the Swiss Skyline! 

A photo of Interlaken's main street, Bahnhofstrasse before becoming Hoheweg:

Pretty view of the mountains surrounding Interlaken:

A combination thermometer and barometer graced Hohweg.

By far the ugliest building in town was the wing of the 18-story Metropole Hotel that dwarfed the other dignified and typically Swiss buildings in Interlaken.

Before the tower was built in 1972, the original stately Metropole was built in 1830 as Guesthouse Ritschard before a second wing was added in 1864.

Next to the Metropole was the equally impressive Victoria Jungfrau Hotel that also started out as a guesthouse in the 19th century. The two hotels hearkened back to when Interlaken was Europe's top alpine resort.

Across from the hotel was Hohematte Park or 'high meadow' where hotel guests could enjoy views of the Jungfrau mountain in the distance. The park began as farmland that belonged to a monastery that predated the town. After the monastery was shut down with the Reformation in 1528, its property was appropriated by the government.

It was gratifying to learn that after developers started to look at the parkland, Interlaken's top hotels and other business owners bought the property so it would remain free from commercial use. 

A look back at the hotels from the park:

Hooters next door to the refined hotels looked very incongruous!

Through an opening in a shopping arcade were the beautiful grounds of Casino Kursaal, originally a 19th-century health spa and now a convention center and casino.

Yash Chopra, 1932-2012, was known as the Ambassador of Interlaken after many of his world-renowned films that had been shot in the Berner Oberland prompted his countrymen to visit the region.

Unfortunately, we weren't at the casino at the top of the hour and therefore didn't see the dwarves ring the toadstools on the floral clock. That would have been amusing!

Following a path next to the casino took us to the Aare River, Switzerland's longest.

Looking downstream was a church bell tower that marked the technically separate town of Unterseen across the river. 

In 1900, the path along the bank of the Aare was accessed by the simple pedestrian Goldey Bridge which also provided a direct link between Unterseen and the Kursaal. At the turn of the 19th-century, upper-class guests enjoyed the casino and took lengthy strolls on wide riverside promenades.

Another one of travel's most beautiful moments and yes, the river really was that stunning green shade:

Chris: Looking again at these photos from almost a month ago made me think of your comment on how much you loved Interlaken and could move there! But of course, we were there in sunny October and not in the depths of winter's gloomy days.

Shots as we strolled along the promenade just as the upper crust did a hundred years prior:

In medieval times, grain or Haber was dried on the Haberdarre at the gates of Unterseen. But this spot on the Aare was even more important as a landing stage and reloading point for goods sold between the two lakes that the river connects. The Schaalbrucke or bridge provided a covered trading and marketplace and was also where animals were slaughtered. 

During the 13th-century, the inhabitants of the Interlaken Monastery contained the Aare with weirs in order to fish on a large scale. Because the monastery owned exclusive fishing rights, that led to centuries of conflict with the town of Unterseen.

If these heart sculptures weren't so darned heavy, I would have loved to bring one home in my bag. Not sure Steven would have been a big fan, though.

Unterseen was already a town when Interlaken only consisted of a monastery. The town's square:

The unusual facade of the Unterseen Kirche or church:

Three shots and three angles: looking across  the river initially,

looking upstream, and 

looking downstream where we had just walked from.

I wondered if The Mad Cow Restaurant in Unterseen had seen a downturn in business after mad cow disease?

Spielmatte, an island between the two arms of the Aare or Unterseen and Interlaken, had been ideal for the use of water power since the first mill began operating during the 13th century. A bathhouse was used in the next century for simple medical needs. Later, Spielmatte developed into the first industrial site with a sawmill and wool spinning mill.

We noticed the respective heraldic emblems marking the dividing line between the towns of Unterseen and Interlaken on two bridges. Each featured an ibex or wild mountain goat but were different colors.

Since the Middle Ages, the bridges over the various tributaries of the Aare provided the only options for people traveling in the Jungfrau region. Relations between the town of Unterseen to the north and Interlaken Monastery to the south were hostile because the former belonged to the diocese of Constance while the monastery received orders from the Lausanne diocese. Controls of the market, bridge tolls, as well as fishing rights as we had learned earlier caused endless disputes. 

Catastrophic flooding of the Aare in the 19th century even made front-page news in London and Paris newspapers.

Nope, not an English phone booth but a Little Free Library.  Another reason for you to love Interlaken all over again, Chris.

After walking back into Interlaken seeing these dresses and toys, you can tell where my mind was headed now we're lucky enough to have two small granddaughters! As I was admiring the dresses, Steven yelled at me to leave the shop immediately. I was worried until I saw the fun sight of paragliders coming into land in Hohematte Park across the street! He rightly knew I'd love to take pictures if I weren't too late.

We were so lucky we chose to return to our hostel to collect our bags via the park at that time because we were treated to the amazing sight of several paragliders landing in the huge meadow.

Next post: More stunning scenery en route to Luzern and then its covered bridges. You'll be in for a treat, I promise you.

Posted on November 6th, 2021, from Rome, a city with no skyscrapers, by the way!


  1. Fantastic you're back in Europe! Well-done Annie and Steven. We decided to wait out 2021 but we're hoping to return to Portugal in 2022.

    This is a lovely collection of photos, they make me long for the charm of Europe, but what is Hooters (of all places) doing in that idyllic setting?! Ha! Ha!

  2. Patti and Abi,

    I have enjoyed reading your posts of travels around your US home this past year but I hope you also return to Porto when you feel comfortable. It's a tough decision trying to weigh Covid concerns and wanting to travel with time, i.e. age not on one's side. For what it's worth, we have found no issues traveling in Europe now as we each received three shots before we left and simply have to show our Green Pass or, in our case, the CDC cards everywhere. The latter has been accepted everywhere, normally by itself but sometimes with photo ID to prove the cards are actually ours.

    What a 'hoot' indeed that Hooters was beside such a classy hotel in Interlaken!