X marks the spot: A Swiss town's detective cult
By Robert Evans
MEIRINGEN, Switzerland (Reuters) - High on a bleak Alpine crag, a large white X marks a world-famous spot which draws tourists and their cameras from literally the four corners of the earth.
As it slides to a halt after a 5-minute climb from the valley below, travelers leap from the cable car pointing lenses through a mist of spray at the site of an unarmed combat to-the-death in 1891 between two determined men.
After gazing fearfully at the churning white abyss below, and taking more shots of the roaring cascade plunging from above, visitors scramble up a steep path and round the towering rock on a further 20-minute hike to get a closer look at the bridge near where the fateful encounter took place.
Or at least - for this is the Reichenbach Falls -- where British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said it did.
"Without Sherlock Holmes, we might just be known for our beautiful scenery," says Nils Glatthard, a native of Meiringen where the great detective stayed before starting the climb (no cable car then) to face his arch-foe and master criminal Professor Moriarty on a narrow path overlooking the Falls.
And certainly Holmes, whom his creator sent tumbling to his death clutching Moriarty into the foaming cauldron beneath, is ubiquitous in this small and not-quite-picturesque crossroads town of some 5,000 people in central Switzerland.
There is the inevitable Sherlock Holmes Hotel, up a quiet avenue under shady trees, a Sherlock nightclub adorned with a genuine-looking "221b Baker Street" address sign under a chalet gable, and posters galore with the detective's image.
The town bookshop is well-stocked with editions in several languages, including Japanese, of the 56 stories and four novels in which Holmes starred with his constant companion, Dr Watson. Continued...