Then and now
Table of Contents
Unterseen – The Starting Point for Excursions to the Glaciers 8
Interlaken – Health Resort and Mecca for Tourists 12
Unspunnen – A Festival for Reconciliation between City and Countryside 16
The Development of Tourism around the Höheweg 20
Lauterbrunnen – The Valley of Roaring Waterfalls 26
Mürren – Spectacular Location at the Foot of Schilthorn 30
Wengen – Panoramic Terrace at the Foot of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau 36
Kleine Scheidegg – Transport Hub and Event Destination 42
The Jungfrau Railway – An Achievement of a Century 48
Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe 54
The Grindelwald Glaciers and Tourism 60
The Lower Grindelwald Glacier – Jewel and Ornament of the Area 64
When the Glacier was Still a Sea of Ice 70
The Upper Grindelwald Glacier as a Magnet for Tourists and a Source of Income 74
Grindelwald – From Mountain Farming Village to World-renowned Tourist Destination 82
Grindelwald – Pioneer of Winter Tourism 90
Grindelwald – First, Grosse Scheidegg and Haslital 96
The History of the Jungfrau Region at a Glance 104
List of Original Pictures in the Transparencies 106
List of Paintings 108
Picture Credits 109
Author and Publisher 111
The unique mountainous and glacial landscape of the Jungfrau region has
always fascinated people and attracted millions of tourists from all over the
world. This volume provides an insight into the historic and touristic development
of the Jungfrau region from the beginning of tourism to today. The
first travellers came because of the glaciers, which were considered a natural
wonder. The contrasting landscape of high snow-capped mountains,
their rugged north faces and inhospitable glaciers and the lovely cultivated
landscape with green meadows, was a great fascination for the tourists.
The arrival of tourism created a lasting change. Hotels, transport routes
and trains dotted the landscape. Within a few years, Grindelwald, Mürren
and Wengen grew from mountain farming villages to internationally known
tourist destinations. Almost simultaneously, an unprecedented and accelerated
retreat of the glaciers in recent years, due to climate change, markedly
altered the landscape. Despite these fundamental changes, the region has
not lost its attractiveness. In 2001, the “Swiss Alps Jung frau-Aletsch Region”
was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With the triumvirate of
Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and the high alpine glacial landscape, it is one
of the most spectacular mountain landscapes in the Alps.
“The Jungfrau Region – Then and Now” documents the changes in the
ecology, landscape and settlement structure. By flipping the transparencies
over the images, these changes between then and now are revealed right
before your eyes. Furthermore, impressive pictures highlight the history of
The sequence of locations listed in the book is based on the route of
the so-called Classic Oberland Tour, or “Oberland Cher,” as it is called by
the locals. This very popular 19 th century round trip led from Interlaken to
Lauterbrunnen, then on foot, horseback or carried by chair up to Wengen,
then onto the pass over Kleine Scheidegg to Grindelwald. The second part
of the tour passed over Grosse Scheidegg via Rosenlaui to the Haslital, to
Meiringen and from there back to Interlaken. The Classic Oberland Tour
served travellers’ basic cultivation and was the epitome of European travel
culture and the core of every Swiss trip. The construction of the Wengernalp
Railway in 1893 heralded the decline of the Classic Oberland Tour.
Unterseen – The Starting point for Excursions to the Glaciers
In the Middle Ages, Unterseen was an important
location for alpine transit. Many travellers began
their journey here.
Commercial enterprises were established
and annual markets were held. Around 1750,
the development of tourism had already begun
in Unterseen, much earlier than in neighbouring
Interlaken. On the Classic Oberland Tour, passengers
came by ship across the Lake of Thun
to Unterseen. With its picturesque corners and
idyllic position on the Aare, as well as the unobstructed
view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau,
the town was a popular destination. The great
German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and
the composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy also
stayed in the Stadhaus in Unterseen, the first
large hotel building in the Bernese Oberland.
On the transparency image right, the Aare
is still visible in its entire width. In 1855, the
locks were removed and later, the river flow was
corrected. Because of the canal construction, the
road had to be relocated. Thus, Unterseen was
cut off from passing traffic, falling out of the
tourist limelight. Simultaneously, neighbouring
Interlaken experienced a strong in tourism boom.
The positive result for Unterseen was that the
old town remained intact, not destroyed by modern
For centuries, the relationship between Interlaken
and Unterseen was characterized by
conflict and competition. Today Unterseen, Interlaken
and Matten are closely interwoven as a
tourism and economic region. However, a political
union of the three municipalities has never
Transparency: Unterseen at the beginning of the 19 th century. The Aare with the Aare Falls before canalization.
Photo: Unterseen today. The Aare has been canalized since the towards the end of the 19 th century.
1 Untere Gasse from Unterseen around 1840 with the Stadthaus and
the castle (in the background).
2 Stadthausplatz today, right the Stadthaus. The centre of Unterseen
has retained its original character.
3 Picturesque Stadthausplatz in the mid-19 th century. The German composer
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy stopped at the Stadthaus on his trip
to Italy in 1831. Here, he was inspired to compose, as well as paint.
1 The Bödeli around 1800 with Aarmühle,
Hohe Brücke, Spielmatte and Schaalbrücke
towards Unterseen (from left). In
the background is the Unspunnen castle.
2 Unterseen with people at the market
at the square “unter den Häusern” in the
midst of the houses in 1820. In the centre
of the picture is the bridge to Helferinseli,
a small island, and on the left, is the grand
house on Spielmatte. The Jungfrau can be
seen in the background.
3 Evening mood on the Aare in Unterseen
today. In the centre of the picture, the old
wooden bridge constructed in 1855 on the
Interlaken – Health Resort and Mecca for Tourists
The name ‘Interlaken’ comes from the Latin ‘inter
lacus’, which means ‘between the lakes’, an
appropriate name since Interlaken lies between
the Lakes of Thun and Brienz. In 1133, the name
‘Interlaken’ first appears in connection with the
founding of the Augustinian monastery in Interlaken,
a hugely significant milestone in the
economic and cultural development of the entire
The upper picture opposite shows Interlaken
from a perspective favoured by many painters.
These artists were fascinated by the unobstructed
view of the Jungfrau. Musicians such as Richard
Wagner, Carl Maria von Weber, Felix Mendels-
sohn Bartholdy, and writers such as Goethe, Leo
Tolstoy and Mark Twain, were inspired by this
unique panorama. The scenic beauty and ideal
climate quickly led to the establishment of Interlaken
in the 19 th century as an internationally
renowned health resort. The whey cures were
especially popular. Tourism flourished with the
expansion of steamship routes on the Lakes of
Brienz and Thun. In 1863, Thomas Cook led the
first organized European tour of the Bernese
Oberland for British tourists. Interlaken continued
to boom as a tourist destination until 1910.
This was the time of the ‘Belle Époque’, during
which many luxurious hotels opened and were
visited by the wealthy bourgeoisie. This boom
ended abruptly in 1914 with the outbreak of the
First World War. The upturn in tourism did not
begin again until after 1945.
Today, Interlaken is one of the most important
tourist destinations in Switzerland. Because of
its central location and excellent transportation
connections, Interlaken is an ideal starting point
for excursions to the surrounding valleys. Interlaken
is especially popular with Asian tourists,
and increasingly with visitors from Arab countries.
A play about the national hero Wilhelm
Tell, is performed in the summer at the so-called
‘Tellspiele’, which also attracts many locals.
Picture above: Interlaken and Unterseen before the big hotel construction boom on Höheweg after the mid-19 th century and before the canalization of the Aare.
Picture below: Panorama of Interlaken and Unterseen today. The Jungfrau can be seen in the background.
“Who has not seen the landscape
of Interlaken, called the Bödeli,
does not know Switzerland; the
area between the Lakes of Thun
and Brienz is the most glorious in
this incomprehensibly beautiful
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, 1809–1847
1 The “Bödeli” with view of the Aare and
the Lake of Thun.
2 Interlaken in the mid-19 th century.
3 View towards Goldey and the viewpoint
Hohbühl, where many pictures of Interlaken
4 + 5 Panoramas of Bödeli in 1893 and
today, as seen from the top of the Harder
6 + 7 View of the Aare and the Lake of Thun
from the Rugen, then and now. In the background,
the Lake of Thun and the Niesen
can be seen.
Unspunnen – A Festival for Reconciliation Between City and Countryside
The Unspunnen Festival is a Swiss folklore event
with a long tradition. The first festivals of 1805
and 1808 had the aim of reviving the old pastoral
habitats and bridging the gap between
the rural population of the Bernese Oberland
and the aristocratic townspeople of Bern. Both
events were a great success, attracting between
3000 and 5000 visitors to Interlaken. With their
paintings and travel reports, painters and writers
made these alpine shepherd festivals known far
beyond the borders of the country, triggering a
strong boost in the development of tourism.
Guests from Switzerland and abroad were
able to meet in a natural arena with the Jungfrau
in the background and become familiar with the
customs of the alpine people. Traditional competitions,
such as ‘Schwingen’, a type of wrestling,
stone-throwing and shooting were held. The socalled
“Unspunnen stone”, as it is known today,
is a colossal boulder weighing more than 80 kilograms.
The strongest men were able to toss this
stone up to four metres. This sports programme
was accompanied by entertainment such as yodelling
and alphorn blowing.
The Unspunnen Festival had other goals.
The French Revolution destroyed the old ruling
system in Europe and set in motion a change of
values. Industrialization and increasing tourism
threatened the nature-based and traditional
way of life of the alpine people. In these times
of social and political upheaval, the Unspunnen
Festivals were a reminder of traditional values,
traditions and folk customs. At the same time,
the festivals were designed to strengthen Swiss
national awareness after the defeat by Napoleon.
The Unspunnen Festival was held again on
its centennial anniversary. Other events followed,
with the last major folk festival taking
place in 2017.
Transparency: The area where the alpine shepherd’s festival of Unspunnen took place in 1805 and 1808 – a natural arena with the Jungfrau as its backdrop.
Photo: The area of the first alpine shepherd’s festival today, from the same standpoint.
1 “Schwingen” at the alpine shepherd
festival in Unspunnen 1808. The Jungfrau in
2 The paintings by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun,
a prominent Parisian artist, made the
Unspunnen festival known beyond the
3 The alpine shepherds festival in Unspunnen.
The painting stems from F. Niklaus
Koenig, one of the most important initiators
of the Unspunnen Festival. His works contributed
much to the success of the alpine
1 “Schwinger” or wrestlers in the ring at
Unspunnen Festival in 2006. “Schwingen”
is a variation of wrestling and played on
sawdust. “Schwingen” dates back to the
tradition of alpine shepherds and today is
a Swiss national sport.
2–4 A programme with stone throwing,
traditional dancing, and other events
takes place on the Höhematte in Interlaken.