Where in Switzerland is this?

Written by on April 19, 2013 in Swiss trivia - 14 Comments

1860s SwitzerlandIt’s a very old photo of somewhere in Switzerland, but where exactly? Last week I was in England doing some final detailed research for my new book and came across this photo in the archives I was trawling through. I couldn’t place where it is so took a photo of the photo (the wonders of smart phones) and now I’m asking you.

Does anyone recognise this village? The only information I have is that the picture dates from the latter half of the 19th century and is somewhere in Switzerland. Not a lot to go on, but someone out there might recognise the castle or the church, even if the houses in between have changed beyond all recognition.

Most likely it’s from the time before the railways had spread all across Switzerland, given the handsome diligence (or carriage) in the foreground. Trains arrived late in Switzerland (and have been punctual ever since) thanks to the difficulties of the Swiss political and geographic landscape, and so until the 1880s much of the country was only accessible by boat, donkey or diligence – a multi-purpose carriage that was the fore-runner of the Postbus.

As for the new book, that’s less of a mystery. It’s called Slow Train to Switzerland and will be published this autumn. But more on that another time.

For now, I’d just love to know where this picture is. Can anyone help?



About the Author

14 Comments on "Where in Switzerland is this?"

  1. Mark Howells-mead April 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm · Reply

    Looks very much like Andermatt; the both castle and church.

  2. Stefan Rechsteiner April 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm · Reply

    Looks like Hospental in Uri (Gotthardpass)

  3. Ordell April 19, 2013 at 5:15 pm · Reply

    Hospental (Gotthard route)?

  4. H. Wammers April 19, 2013 at 5:34 pm · Reply

    It is Hospental with the “Turm der Herren.”

  5. Andreas April 19, 2013 at 5:36 pm · Reply

    Should be Hospental close to Andermatt and the St. Gotthard Pass.

  6. al April 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm · Reply

    Hm, considering the theme of this, I’d say this is Wassen – seems to fit with the old tower and the church.

    Plus it’s where the (for us) famous Gotthardbahn takes a couple of turns – you get to see the church 3 times on the ascent, I believe – before climbing higher for Göschenen.

    Certainly would make for a good cover picture ;-)

  7. Martin Gertsch April 19, 2013 at 7:19 pm · Reply

    Hi Diccon

    Mr. Tell was named Wilhelm and while William is his english translation we like it after Mr. Schillers will.



    • Diccon Bewes April 19, 2013 at 10:23 pm · Reply

      I happily write Wilhelm when using German, but it’s William in English. And in Lugano there’s a statue of Guillermo Tell. No need to always have it in German.

  8. jestyn April 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm · Reply

    http://www.panoramio.com/photo_explorer#view=photo&position=9277&with_photo_id=47487396&order=date_desc&user=359661 looks pretty similar, particularly the two houses on the hillside behind, and there is a hotel loewen in hospental, as in your photo…

  9. Tony Bagwell April 20, 2013 at 11:02 am · Reply

    Hi Diccon,

    I had a text request from my daughter, Heidi Marriott, who you met at the London Olympic do last year, to check your web site. The old photo on your site is of Hospental and shows a stage coach coming off the old Gotthard pass, presumably. If you look on Google for images of Hospental there are several modern ones taken for a similar view point.

    Glad to be of help,

    Tony Bagwell
    Photo Editor of Swiss Express (the Swiss Railways Society magazine)

  10. Flohnmobil April 20, 2013 at 5:24 pm · Reply

    No question, this must be Hospental.

  11. nicola April 20, 2013 at 6:00 pm · Reply

    I think that in Lugano is Guglielmo, Guillermo maybe in Madrid.

  12. Evamaria April 22, 2013 at 8:56 am · Reply

    As posters before me have stated, it does look a lot like Wassen – as a kid, whenever we took the Gotthard train, I’d strain and strain to see that church the priomised three times… :)

  13. Patrick April 23, 2013 at 1:48 am · Reply

    Aw, somehow I didn’t notice the comments (seems I’m still not quite used to the new site ;-) ) and searched a lot until arriving at the conclusion that it’s certainly Hospental, preparing a post, coming here… to discover that the correct answer was already given. Grumble ;-) Oh well. This is what I would have written:

    It looks like a mountain pass village to me, pretty high alpine (note the rocky pastures in the background). It’s in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, as there’s “Hotel Löwen” painted on a roof. Probably an important pass, given the stagecoach with four horses. First, I thought of Splügen, but Splügen it isn’t… though the church looks pretty similar, the ruin of Splügen Castle isn’t that close to the village (and a closer look at the church reveals that it’s not that similar after all). Then I thought of the Gotthard Pass and checked the Wikipedia articles for villages along this road. And behold: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hospental_Dorf.jpg shows a very clear picture :-)

Leave a Comment