Why have Sherlock Holmes fans gathered in Switzerland to recreate their hero’s final hours?by Edward Docx / October 31, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
To be a pilgrim: each dressed as a particular character from Sherlock Holmes, fans assemble for a portrait
I have just arrived. I am standing in the square in the small Swiss valley town of Meiringen. On all sides, fir trees and high alpine meadows give way to cragged grey faces of rock that are veined in ice. Here and there louring clouds snag the serrated peaks.
“What’s going on?” I ask the Swiss woman next to me.
“I think they’re starting,” she replies, confidentially.
But now a brass band embarks upon some deafening mountain lament and nothing further can be heard.
I fall back upon my powers of observation and deduction. A rotund cardinal comports himself across the cobbles in full scarlet regalia to converse with a man who appears to be some kind of itinerant manure shoveller. A chubby boy in the guise of a 19th century mountain guide sits on a sedan chair with his accordion; from time to time and for no reason, he pops on a false beard, then pops it off again, the elastic cutting into his cheeks. A sly, fastidious man is half-introduced. His name is Snork, he says, or Stark or Hark or Bark or Snark—it’s impossible to hear him until the music stops; at which moment, I catch only the end of his sentence “… and so this is where they invented meringue.’”
“My name is Peter Steiler,” shouts an elderly Swiss man in a lemon-coloured bowler hat. “I am a very intelligent man.’”
General laughter across the square. Mocking? Indulgent? It’s hard to be sure —though I feel I must join in. A man rises. He is the mayor. Another man rises. He is also the mayor. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a number of underpowered mopeds coming very slowly towards us, the riders kitted out like Hell’s Angels—handlebar moustaches, goggles. Oddly sinister, they skirt the square.