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Swiss Holiday Diary 1908. By Margaret Wilson McNee
(born 1881 in Glasgow, Lanarkshire)


Part 3. Thwarted Romance and runaway horses!


Thursday July 23rd continued.

We passed through the village right to the head of the valley, and the beginning of the Gemmi Pass. At the Baron Hotel we dismounted. Under the trees we ate our lunch, coffee being provided by the Hotel people at a charge of 75c. Lunch over, we paid a visit to the fall behind the hotel. There was a fine rush of water, flowing amongst huge boulders, but the sight was by no means so extraordinary, as many of the falls we had already seen. We found some Alpine roses, which we carried off as trophies. Barbara and Jeanie Rae followed the rough mountain path further and were greatly delighted, with the views to be had higher up. They felt quite near to the snow and had a splendid view of the Snow mountains. Jeanie got some snap-shots. I returned by myself, and was standing alone waiting for some of the Scotties to turn up, when the gentleman who sits opposite to me at table came up. He proceeded to apologise for looking at me sometimes at table. I had noticed that I often met his gaze across the table, but I thought nothing of it , as it is hardly possible to sit directly opposite a person for an hour or more, without glancing iin their direction pretty frequently. Besides a cat may look at a King, and I said so. As the gentleman seemed serious, however, I ceased to make light of the business. He went on to explain, that I was exceedingly like a girl whom, to quote his own words, “he had kept company with”. He was just telling me that she died, when Mr Ball appeared on the scene, and dropped the curtain on that little romance. I heard no more.

On the Gilberts suggestion, I went into the Hotel to have a look at the smoke room. It is very simply but beautifully done up. The walls have the appearance of Wedgewood china. The ground is greenish with a raised pattern in white stucco. On one wall is a design of palms and birds, and on the other wall, vines with grapes. The curtains above and down the sides of the windows are narrow green embroidered stripes, fitting the windows exactly. The furniture was of green wicker work. The dining room is also very nicely done up. The curtains had the design picked out in colour. We helped ourselves to some literature, and seated ourselves at one of the tables outside to examine it. Suddenly there was a great noise and a team of horses dashed down the road. Mr Thomas sprang out and seized the bridle of the nearest horse, and between his efforts and those of the driver, the runaway horses were brought to a stand. They had evidently got a fright. With one accord we clapped our worthy leader on the back, much to his disgust. Some suggested a medal. I asked him if a fir cone would fit the occasion, but I had to bolt to escape his answer. We paid a visit to the sick, in the form of a poor cow, who had got its ankle broken. It was all trussed up with straw and ropes, in a kind of wooden sledge, and looked very sick poor thing. There was an army of men round, whose perspiring countenances testified to the struggles they had had, in trussing the poor “Kuh”. We had time for a short walk up the Gemmi pass and came upon another beautiful waterfall. We met several tourists coming down – with alpenstocks knapsacks &c. A very funny little mountain cart passed us pulled by one horse, another horse bringing up the rear all alone. At 4 p.m. we re-entered our caravans and started on the homeward journey. We were able to travel much quicker, the way being all downhill. Kandersteg valley looked even more lovely, if that were possible, in the afternoon sunshine. I tried to soak it in, absorb it, it was so beautiful.

At Trutigen we stopped to water the horses, and Phys employed the shining hours in buying sweets, of which we all had a share. The process of watering was not a lengthy one, and we were soon on our way again. In a very short time we passed a Restaurant, and who should we see seated there, but our worthy leaders drinking – well red stuff. We ‘oh’ed and ‘ah’ed as we passed, which by no means disconcerted the gentlemen. Our driver asked us to “chanter” as we had done “dans le matin” and we obliged him. This we considered a high compliment to our singing abilities, and indeed we made not a bad choir. There were several good altos in the company, and Mr Lister had a good voice, so that when we were all singing it sounded not half bad. Nan having suggested “Riding down from Bangor”, and the look on Luks face was worth seeing. We returned to our hymns. St. Georges Edinburgh & Invocation sounded very fine indeed. We continued in this way for some time and then we had an accident.

We were going down a long hill, when one of our horses stumbled and fell. The driver did his best to help it up, but with four horses in hand, this was no light task. He applied the break full power, but notwithstanding this, the machine was pressing down on the top of the poor fallen horse. By this time the other three horses were getting frightened, and began to rear and plunge. Touzer rose to the occasion, and grabbed the reins pulling for all she was worth. This gradually brought the animals to a stand. She had no idea how hard she had pulled, till she had one of the horses heads pulled round, till it was looking at her. Immediately the driver was down and soon the poor horse was on its feet again. Poor beast, it had got all skinned with being dragged along the road, and the blood was running down its legs. Fortunately, the accident happened at Reichenbach, where it could be attended to. The driver led the horse away. Poor man, he was very white & I am sure he got a great scare. The horses certainly looked as if they were going to plunge into the wall, and if T had not saved the situation, it would have been a serious business for the folks in the machine. We all kept quite calm however and showed no signs of doing anything “daft”.

While the driver was away, some other men arranged the harness for three horses. We were quite willing to walk home, but as this was quite unnecessary we got into the machine again. Nan and T tried to find out from the driver, if he would get into trouble, they did not “comprenez” very well, what he said, but they gathered that the horse was not seriously injured and that he would be all right. Several times I caught him looking at T, as if she were a new species of being. Touser has now got quite a reputation for “pluckiosity”.

We were not long in reaching home, and we pestered Mr Thomas to see that the driver got into no trouble as he was in no wise to blame. The proprietor set our minds at rest by saying, that he did not blame the driver, as he knew him to be very careful – which was indeed true. We had not much time to dress for dinner, as we were late as usual. We enjoyed the dinner none the less on that account.

Afterwards we discussed the ascent of the Niesen, and eight “Scotties” decided to go. These were Nan, Phys, Bury, Mr Allan, Mr F, Miss Lister, and T & myself. The other members of the party were going to Montreux or Beatenberg. We had to leave our boots with the porter to have them spiked for the morrow’s operations. This done we went to bed and so this day of adventures closed.




The Niesen is a mountain, located in the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps, overlooking Lake Thun and is often called the Swiss Pyramid.

The summit of the mountain (2362 metres) can be reached easily with a funicular from Mülenen (near Reichenbach). The construction of the Niesenbahn funicular was completed in 1910. Alongside the path of the Niesenbahn is the longest stairway in the world with 11,674 steps. It is open only once a year to the public for a stair run.

The Niesen was the subject of a number of paintings by Paul Klee, in which it was represented as a quasi-pyramid.

The literal German translation of the word Niesen is sneeze.


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