Grindelwald. The name is well known. In Switzerland at least, the first thing that comes to mind is the Eiger Village. It's a beautiful place. But be careful: it’s easy to get confused because the village now has the same name as a wizard. Fans of Harry Potter know exactly who we’re talking about. And yes, you’re allowed to say his name out loud. Unlike another Dark Wizard, who is referred to as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, «you-know-who» or Tom Riddle.
The municipality of Grindelwald has heard of wizards, after all Gandalf already walked through the Lauterbrunnen Valley on the big screen, but a wizard has never actually made it here. But this has now changed. The magic has definitely been awakened – in the shape of a fanatical magician. Gellert Grindelwald.
Gellert Grindelwald believes that witches and wizards should come out of hiding. It sounds good and noble at first glance. But in his ideal world, he wants the naturally superior wizards to rule the less gifted Muggles. Not cool, Gellert. You obviously haven’t learned anything from history.
So that's him, the namesake of the Eiger Village. Played by none other than Johnny Depp.
Although he is the most feared wizard in the whole world, at the end of «Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them», he has to settle for the inside of a prison cell. But it’s not like he’s locked up for no reason. He's not really one to sit on the sidelines. But he won't stay in the cell long. People who have seen the movie «Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald» know that it begins with the daring escape of the dark magician wizard.
The first official document to mention the name «Grindelwald» dates back to the year 1146.
In this case, of course, Grindelwald is the name of the village in the Jungfrau Region. There have been many wizards both before and after this time – but no one has yet heard of Gellert.
The first names that come to mind are Merlin, Gandalf, Miraculix, Nostradamus or Gutenberg. All fictitious figures. But many natural scientists are also considered wizards for various reasons.
The name Gellert Grindelwald only appears in the archives later – in the first volume of the Harry Potter series where he is mentioned only briefly on the back of Albus Dumbledore's chocolate frog card. We have to wait until the seventh volume, published in 2007, to learn more about this dark wizard.
The first master of the land between the lakes of Thun and Brienz is said to have sent a few of his serfs into the valley to the south of Interlaken because he’s curious to find out what lies hidden in the mountains beyond. Who wouldn’t want to know? But then: disappointment. The serfs only report coming across «Grinde ol Wald», or boulders and forest. Et voilà. The legend of how Grindelwald got its name. Well told. But this delightful tale is unlikely to convince serious linguists.
They interpret the derivation of the name as follows: The Old German Celtic word «grindel» refers to a piece of wood that serves as a barrier. Something like a «bar» or a «barricade». Accordingly, the «grindel» Wald (forest) could be a wooded area of valley that is «barricaded» from the rest of the world. Who would have thought? This was largely true in Grindelwald – at least until paths were opened along the Black Lütschine River .
The 16-km long Grindelwald Valley extends from west to east and is traversed by the Black Lütschine River. Mountains form a natural boundary on all sides, including the Fiescherhörner and Eiger to the south, Kleine Scheidegg, Tschuggen and Männlichen to the west, the Faulhorn and Schwarzhorn to the north and in the east: Grosse Scheidegg, Wetterhorn Massif and Schreckhörner. Grindelwald lies in the upper part of the valley in a kind of basin that is quite flat on three sides.
That may be a bit far-fetched. After all, the facts speak for themselves. The wizard's name clearly comes from the Eiger Village. Without a doubt. Not even a question. And that’s certainly not an opinion. No way. It's more of a fact. Grindelwald is the perfect place to serve as a prototype for the wizard – even if he is evil to the core. Because even the Eiger Village also has dark chapters in its history.
Director, about Gellert Grindelwald
Meaning extradition to Europe in a carriage pulled by magical winged horses known as thestrals. It would be a shame to let Johnny alias Gellert Grindelwald rot in a prison cell.
The film takes place in 1927. Interesting. What would Johnny Depp's getaway vehicle have looked like back then in Grindelwald? Thestrals and magic carriages probably weren’t on the market yet. Or were they?
It certainly has plenty of room. It could have easily transported the evil wizard along with several other dark figures. The Aurors with their long black coats are already standing guard. No chance of escape, Johnny. The Grand Eiger hotel transports noble gentlemen together with their families and luggage back and forth to the railway station with its own hotel carriage of course.
Also a possibility: in winter, Gellert Grindelwald could also be transported by tying him to a sledge – but of course only between milk deliveries – or...
...behind a cow. Cows are often used as draft animals, particularly on the flat valley bottom. Of course, any sorcery would be futile.
OK, another option would be: simply putting Gellert on skis behind a horse. He’ll be so busy, he won't have time to cast spells.
Even though the «thestrals» in Grindelwald can't fly, they certainly are lovely. They are used more for clearing snow than for transporting prisoners in the Eiger Village – in this case, a snow roller pulled by four horses.
And if none of these options seems feasible, it’s time for magic. It also exists in Grindelwald – how else can this vehicle be explained? Was it really built by Muggles?
Could it be that Gellert Grindelwald has a hand?
I'm sure Gellert Grindelwald would love this. Well, he's only nine years old at the time, but still: he'd enjoy it. I'm sure he would. Because on the 18th of August 1892 Grindelwald is ablaze – not the wizard, the village.
It hasn’t rained in ages – the result being: it's a blazing heat. Sizzle, sizzle. And then, of course, a warm wind starts to blow. A storm. Which has an easy job of it. The first smoke on the roof of the Bären Inn is already circulating through the thick air. Fire! Too late. The buildings and houses in the area are already on fire. The warm wind blows through the village like a hurricane.
Now Gellert Grindelwald would certainly be capable of such a thing, but at the age of nine he only looks longingly in amazement at the power of fire. What a force.
The residents have definitely learned their lesson from the fire. So much so that a new era is ushered in. The poor village wells now go completely unnoticed as water is now supplied with hydrants. And now fast forward to the future. Also this picturesque Baer «turret inn» for rich families is no longer en vogue. The «Grand Hotel Baer » with its large parlours is now very popular. And it goes without saying: the village church gets a new bell to commemorate the catastrophe. Very important. It still hangs there today.
Even the most fanatical magician will love the «Grand Hotel Baer». Not because it's gloomy, oh no, but because it's so powerful. But the hotel catches fire four years before the legendary duel between Grindelwald and Dumbledore. Again.
It is bitterly cold the night of the 16th of January 1941. The sirens wail. All of a sudden. Fire alarm. Old memories come back. The cause of the fire: a discarded cigarette. Probably. Or maybe it was dark magic. Who knows?
Fortunately, a year earlier a church organ was bought instead of an engine-powered fire pump. Huh? Well, that decision can't be undone. But of course, it's a bit awkward to put out a fire with a church organ. Still: all of the people inside are rescued and a catastrophe like the one 50 years ago can be prevented. Thanks to the organ.
The former site of the «Grand Hotels Baer»...
...is today a sports centre.
The dark magician has a strong competitor: the Eiger North Face.
This statement made by Edi Rainer and Willy Angerer in 1936 about the Eiger North Face proves true for both of them – they die trying. The first ascent attempt in the summer of 1936 turned out to be the most famous drama of the Eiger North Face. Together with Andreas Hinterstoisser and Toni Kurz from Germany, the two Austrians die on the mountain.
Without magic, the North Face is almost impossible to climb. Its dark ally is the rapidly changing weather and the falling rocks. Well, Gellert Grindelwald would have simply appeared on the Eiger and then convinced everyone that he had climbed up the North Face – what a cheater. Many non-magicians, on the other hand, lose their lives on the Eiger.
In 1938 four Muggles successfully climb the Eiger North Face.
As already mentioned, the film is set in 1927. Newt Scamander, Grindelwald’s nemesis, carries around a suitcase with «fantastic beasts». A magical suitcase, of course, where he keeps his beasts hidden. Small on the outside, huge on the inside. Practical. A suitcase like that. Surely there are things that would love to be thrown in there. But: we’re «only» Muggles. Fortunately, the animals in Grindelwald are not hidden in a travel bag like this one – the «beasts» have been used there more sensibly since time immemorial.
And yes, a cow like that one in a suitcase on wheels really would look a little stupid. Still, there are said to be Muggles who carry their «beasts» around in their handbags – also in Grindelwald, of course.
That's gotta be a big suitcase. In 1906, 543 farmers in Grindelwald owned a good 3,000 head of cattle and more than 1,000 goats.
Of course, this is something that Newt Scamander would like to see: in the Eiger Village, people consider the animals part of the family.
A donkey, also called an ass, is really a useful animal, although its genus is sometimes also used as an insult. «You ass, you...» Gellert is also called that exactly once. Avada Kedavra. Finished. The end. Game over.
Admittedly: these two could also pass for «beasts» from a distance. The donkey doesn't do all the work, the farmer also has to carry his own hay from time to time.
The last minutes of «Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald» provide the proof.
At the end of the film, Gellert Grindelwald is in Nurmengard Castle. A building which he himself had constructed and which, after 1945 following his duel with Dumbledore, became his prison – until Lord Voldemort released him. Grindelwald should have told him more about the Elder Wand. The location of Nurmengard is now revealed in the film: Austria. Really? That looks more like a different region. Kind of familiar.
Well, maybe Gellert Grindelwald also had a window seat in geography class – maybe he really thought he was in Austria. He had other things to do. World domination and all. But the pictures are without a doubt from Switzerland. Or more precisely: from the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Gellert, you built your castle in the Jungfrau Region. Bravo.
Hagrid probably made a huge firebolt in the «Forbidden Forest» and flew it until it had to be scrapped. Don’t drink and drive – even in the Eiger Village.
So this is where he's hiding. The Obscurus. Pretty dangerous. Let's hope Gellert doesn't find out about this. Nice to see what the Landart Festival in Grindelwald has to offer.
The white magician in Grindelwald: Every evil wizard needs his nemesis... this one at the World Snow Festival.
plays Yusuf Kama, about Gellert Grindelwald
Does Grindelwald also have such intense charisma (if at all a place can have charisma)? A captivating allure that won't let you go? Hmmmmmm, everyone has to answer this question for themselves – it's just too individual. Grindelwald still lies at the foot of the Eiger. Phew. It wasn’t extradited. The wizard, on the other hand, is killed in 1998 by «you-know-who». There can only be one.
Gellert Grindelwald turns 115. In this picture he doesn't look so dangerous any more – it's the last photo of him. Probably not a selfie. May he rest in peace.
Like its namesake, today's tourist town of Grindelwald also has to fight battles. I'm afraid that's part of it. So there is not only a conflict between Muggles and wizards in the world of magic, no, but also in the real world it needs the understanding and acceptance of locals and tourists alike. Still: in the end, there should be no need for spells to stand together and decide what is right and what is wrong.
But: the magic of the place floats above everything anyway. Admittedly. These are just words. And words formed to make sentences. In print. What does that say. That charisma needs to be internalised – and that is only possible on location. Everything is in the eye of the beholder.
Because a visit to Grindelwald can be a love story. But also a detective story or a comedy. It can be emotional, vibrant and... magical. Just like the figure of Gellert Grindelwald.