BRIENZ, SWITZERLAND, September 30, 2017 — The town of Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland derives its name because it is situated between two lakes; the Lake of Thun and the Lake of Brienz. Not only are the lakes beautiful destinations within themselves, they are also gateways to a multitude of things to see and do.
Visitors to Switzerland can journey to Interlaken by train from Brienz or they can arrive and depart from Interlaken on regularly scheduled lake steamers that make circular routes around the lake.
Regardless of whether you opt to cruise from Interlaken or from Brienz, here’s a little travel tip to put in your planning repertoire that is guaranteed to amaze and delight your traveling companions; take time to stop at the Grand Hotel Giessbach and the myriad of waterfalls that spill beside it into the Lake of Brienz.
It’s easy to do and well worth a night at the hotel if you can afford the time. At the very least, a brief hour or two stop for a snack and coffee is well worth the diversion.
From Interlaken, Hotel Giessbach and its breathtaking waterfalls will sneak up on you if you are not prepared in advance. The Brienz side of the lake, though no less spectacular, does give an uninitiated traveler a bit more warning.
Best of all is knowing about the falls and hotel ahead of time so you can be sure to be on deck when the boat docs at the landing.
Now nearly a century and a half old, Grand Hotel Giessbach was built by noted French architect Horace Edouard Davinet in 1873/74 for the Hauser family of Zurich, one of the great hotel dynasties of its day.
Set among harmonious landscapes of architecture, parks and waterfalls, the Giessbach Hotel quickly became a favorite hideaway for high society. When World War I broke out in 1914, the hotel was a playground for emperors and kings, statesman and diplomats and celebrities from every discipline of the entertainment world.
Artists, poets and writers spent their summers amid the cool surroundings of forested greenery and plunging waters that spilled into the crystal clear Lake of Brienz.
Though Switzerland was neutral through both world wars, the dynamics of the conflicts took their toll and the golden age of hotels quickly declined. Grand Hotel Giessbach closed its doors in 1979 with plans for demolition that would be replace it with a contemporary concrete structure in the style of a “jumbo” chalet.
Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and Swiss ecologist Franz Weber was successful in purchasing the 54-acre property with the idea of renovating it and restoring it to its original splendor as a “gift” to the Swiss people.
By May of 1984, Grand Hotel Giessbach had been restored to its historic grandeur including the new Park Restaurant and a small number of unrenovated rooms. Each winter, for the next seven years, the hotel underwent restoration until it had, at long last, regained its proper place among the most beautiful and best known buildings in Switzerland.
Part of the fun of visiting the grand hotel is getting there. Arrive at the landing by boat and disembark to the oldest funicular in Europe that is used only by tourists. Established in 1879, the Giessbachbahn was the first railway in the world to have a passing loop in the middle, a feature that is now standard on almost every funicular.
The train connects the lake with the hotel which is partially hidden approximately 110 yards above the lake. Though Europe itself has four other trains that are older, the Giessbachbahn remains the oldest funicular in Switzerland that is still in operation.
Surrounded by mountains, forests and alpine meadows with breathtaking views of the unspoiled Lake of Brienz, this rescued oasis is located far away from hustle and bustle of everyday life and traffic. Since the 19th century, a footpath has led to and under the waterfall featuring 14 steps of the falls themselves. Each step along the route has been named for a different hero in Bernese history.
Spilling the waters of the Giessbach Brook more that 600 yards out of the high valleys of the Faulhorn area to the Lake of Brienz, Giessbach Falls is a superb place to use as a base to visit the woodcarver’s village of Brienz, the Sherlock Holmes town of Meiringen and Reichenbach Falls, the Brienzer-Rothorn train that steams high above both lakes, the Schilthorn, the Jungfraujoch, the Lauterbrunnen Valley and to cruise along its sister Lake of Thun.
The Giessbach Falls and the Grand Hotel Giessbach are the types of discoveries that make travelers return again and again.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up