Mist all around and foamy splashing water below, we were in a cave looking down on the rest of civilization, somehow feeling both physically and spiritually higher. Perhaps with elevation comes increased awareness and spirituality? Or perhaps with it just comes seclusion, which arguably brings about the same things.
Exceptionally pleased with our first Swiss waterfall experience, we decided to try again in Lauterbrunnen at the Trummelbach Falls further down the valley. We followed a tributary river about 45 minutes before reaching the base of the falls. They were much bigger and consequently much more popular.
We were first met by a small souvenir shack selling the usual Swiss paraphernalia along with stuffed animals and candy, none of which required a second glance. Next up was the ticket booth. It’s a strange thing to pay to see something as natural as a waterfall; usually they are just stumbled upon along the roadside or sought out on a hike. But then again, we pay for bottled water and airspace so maybe the elements aren’t as far off the table as one might hope.
Already feeling as though the falls were somewhat cheapened, we nevertheless paid for our tickets and got our cameras ready. Each of the 10 waterfalls making up the Trummelbach was fitted with man-made lookout points and stairs, perfect for picture-taking. They were all lined with protective railings and flanked by 90° features protecting and locking in the masses of spectators.
We had heard many great things about these waterfalls, everyone had raved about their grandeur and beauty. Upon actually seeing them, we were no doubt taken aback by their enormity and sheer power. With every new waterfall there was a deafening roar of rushing water echoed by sturdy cave-like tunnels, transferring its power unto the listener.
We walked on steadily, snapping a few photos here and there; though of course none were able to capture the impalpable intensity felt by standing over thousands of liters of falling water. Our pictures weren’t worth 1000 words, at most maybe 500.
Though, looking back, I wonder now what made those falls so grand after all. Had we not just waited in long lines and followed railings up to a forbidden rocky waterslide? The tunnels and worn out pathways were made to withstand and protect visitors but, if altered as such, does a so-called natural wonder lose its right to still be considered ‘natural’ or a ‘wonder’? How much authenticity is lost in the process of making such a wonder safely accessible to the public?
The same question can be asked about the kind of experience it provides. We took the small rickety lift to the 6th waterfall with everyone else, followed the herd to the top, and, with them, meandered our way back down to the bottom. There was no spontaneity involved, no expectations left unrealized.
Standing a safe distance away and braced by a metal fence, is the brilliant abyss that is the depths of a waterfall still an abyss? Or does it become more of a man-made attraction than a natural spectacle? In exaggeration, if the pyramids had escalators, would anyone still go?