Then and now

includes 21



images to

compare then

and now

Table of Contents

Preface 7

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.

Katharina Balmer


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

been established.

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 2

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

Aare locks.

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

were painted.

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

the background.

2 The paintings by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun,

a prominent Parisian artist, made the

Unspunnen festival known beyond the

country’s borders.

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

shepherds festival.




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.




3 4

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