Friday, September 9, 2011

Sculpted by Glaciers - Impressions #24

After visiting Reichenbach Falls and taking the funicular back down to the valley floor, I was walking back towards the village of Meiringen when I saw a sign pointing in the direction of the little tower in the distance by the river. It said "Aareschlucht".

Earlier that morning my landlady had said something to me in Swiss German, over breakfast. It was basically incomprehensible but I caught the gist of it, which was that there was some place called Aareschlucht that was interesting. So off I went down the path.

Just beyond the little tower you'll see an area of deeper shade. This is where the Aareschlucht begins. It is a crevasse, in the mountain, at least 400 feet deep. The path leads right into the heart of it. At times it is narrow enough that you can touch both sides. At its widest point it's barely 100 feet. The whole length of it is a little less than a mile long.

Apparently this whole valley of Meiringen was carved by a glacier. Somehow or other it split this mountain in two and the river ended up flowing through the crack. I guess if you're a glacier you can do that sort of thing.

If you suffer from vertigo or claustrophobia I suggest you skip this part of the trip. But if you can handle it, then I highly suggest checking this place out. It is really an amazing feeling to walk inside that mountain, with water dripping down the cliff faces on both sides, glimmers of sunlight filtering down, little clumps of grass and wildflowers clinging to the cracks in the rocks.

Inside the mountain

Emerging at the eastern end, late afternoon sunlight filtering through the pale green.

Reaching the other end of the crevasse, the view opens out over the village of Innertkirchen. It being rather late in the day I decided it was time to turn back. But instead of going back through the crevasse I thought I'd follow the hiking path back up over the mountain.

Right near the entrance to the crevasse on the Innertkirchen side was this adorable chalet. We don't seem to have the guts, these days, to cover our houses with curlicues and carved edelweiss flower decorations. But back in 1902 apparently it was still alright.

Part of the pleasure of traveling through this part of Switzerland is stumbling upon these unabashedly picturesque spots.

Back up over the mountain and down the other side, on the outskirts of Meiringen, the local cows check me out.

An ancient apple tree calmly goes about producing her bounty.

The Romanesque tower of the main church in Meiringen rises up above the rooftops, like one of the spikes or pinnacles of the distant mountain peaks.

The tower is actually freestanding and separate from the church itself.

The church is a simple stone rectangle, plastered and white-washed, giving no hint of its interior.

Inside it offers a soothing light, warmed by the natural colors of the wood. The columns of whole tree trunks make a satisfying change from the typical stone interiors of most European churches, emphasizing the importance of the local environment in the daily lives of the people.

Across the street from the church is this simple and elegant example of traditional architecture. This part of Switzerland, the Bernese Oberland, straddles the mountain range that leads, in the south-east direction, to the Italian Alps. On the Italian side you will find the same rooflines that reflect the slopes of the mountains. But the walls are built of stone. On the Swiss side you find the log cabin type walls. At Meiringen we are in the zone of overlap.

1 comment:

  1. Good thing you caught the gist of "Aareschlucht" in Swiss German or you might have missed this. What a great adventure, following memories and tips from locals. That walkway through the crevasse in the mountain is out of this world! How gorgeous. I am so impressed at this impulse the Swiss have to create access to all this natural beauty and to do so with complex engineering shows a beautiful dichotomy of spirit. I didn't realize that Switzerland had so much to love about it.