«Welcome to the Grimselwelt. My name is Luzius Gartmann. I will be accompanying you on your tour this afternoon. » In front of the 74-year-old at the Visitor Centre Grimsel Hospiz are 11 people from an architectural firm in Lucerne. «I often take companies on tours of the Grimselwelt, but also clubs and, of course, private individuals. » One thing that stands out: last summer, a remarkably large number of families booked a tour. «And school classes, they can come for free », adds Luzi, as the visitor guide prefers to be called.
«Hospiz: Grimsel Undergrund» is the name of the tour the group has chosen. Once again, the same tour as in the morning for Luzius Gartmann. And once again a company outing. Isn't it boring to always have to tell the same story? «No tour is like the other. I always try to be as flexible as possible with the guests. Tours can develop in the most diverse directions. » Today is no exception. Not entirely surprisingly, the employees of the architecture firm ask many technical questions. «What will happen to the old dam », for example, someone wants to know on the Hospizbahn from the Grimsel Hospiz down towards the growing Spitallamm dam. Gartmann explains that it will remain in place - and immediately provides some information about the two almost one-hundred-metre-high construction cranes. For example, how they were delivered. But also, about the work of the crane operator, who is certainly not afraid of heights. Once at the bottom, Gartmann explains: «We now drive through the 1.7 kilometre long tunnel that connects the Grimsel 1 and Grimsel 2 power stations. » The visitors board the tunnel bus - and off they go on their journey through the underground of the Grimselwelt.
Luzius Gartmann welcomes the visitors.
Light-up waistcoats are distributed.
Grimselwelt visitor guide
In 2013 Luzius Gartmann trained as a visitor guide at Grimselwelt. «I learned a lot about the power plants and the facilities», he says, only to immediately emphasise: «But you never stop learning. The work has to become part of your life. » In German, now and then in English, very rarely in French, Gartmann conducts tours. «I still remember my first group well. I was extremely nervous - and the tour didn't go at all as I had imagined. » Today there is no sign of that. Gartmann is relaxed, calm, plays out his routine. «I am the oldest, but not the longest-serving visitor guide», he says. Gartmann hopes that he will stay healthy - and that he will be able to call his hobby his work for many more years. A dream job? «Absolutely, yes», Gartmann answers without thinking for a second. «I have the great privilege of being retired and being able to work at what I enjoy, not just having to work to earn money. The tours are diverse. It's about sustainability, technology, but also politics - and I meet interesting people every day. »
«I see myself as a tourism specialist»
After about five minutes of driving, we reach the Grimsel 2 pumped storage plant. Here we are, 500 metres below Lake Oberaar and 100 metres below Lake Grimsel, deep in the Grimsel granite. Gartmann explains the power station on some panels on the wall. What percentage is hydroelectric power? Who says how much electricity has to be produced? The visitors get a conclusive answer to almost every question. And he also gives tips for excursions. «The Trift Bridge was built on the model of Nepalese three-cable bridges», he says, promoting the suspension bridge in the Gadmer Valley. And later in the conversation he says: «I see myself as a tourism specialist. » Meanwhile, the group is standing in the imposing slide chamber. «Here, the entire water control is operated by large-dimensioned ball valves and butterfly valves. Eight pipes each lead to Lake Oberaar, 500 metres higher up, and to Lake Grimsel, 100 metres higher up. »
Then it's time to take a seat in the bus again.
The visitors get a first impression of the Grimselwelt area...
... Later Luzius Gartmann goes into detail.
It is 1999 and Luzius Gartmann runs an office business in the canton of Zurich - but he almost always spends the weekends in the Haslital with his wife. «I'm just fond of the mountains here. » The desire grows in him to run a mountain hut one summer. His wife agrees to the adventurous plan. A mountain hut eventually becomes a hotel, and one year turns into six years. From 1999 to summer 2005, the lateral entrants took over the hotel on the Schwarzwaldalp. «Our first evening was the Millennium New Year's Eve. We had a full house», Gartmann remembers. The hotel on Schwarzwaldalp includes a small power plant, «which needed a lot of supervision, but fascinated me incredibly. » Now at the latest he knows: «After retirement I want to become a visitor guide at the KWO. » But after six years on the Schwarzwaldalp, he's going back to Zurich for the time being. But only to work. «We always drove towards the Haslital on Friday evenings and spent the weekend in the Jungfrau Region. » More precisely, in Falcheren, where the couple rented a farmhouse.
What a setting: The Grimsel Hospiz and Grimselsee.
No wonder Luzius Gartmann speaks of a dream job.
The bus stops. A few more metres on foot and we have reached the treasure trove of the Grimselwelt - the Gerstenegg crystal crevice. It was discovered in 1974 during tunnel construction and shortly afterwards placed under protection by the Bernese government. Gartmann presses the light switch. The crystals shine in all their glory. Cameras and mobile phones are pulled out.
On the way underground in the Grimselwelt.
A view of the Gerstenegg crystal gap.
Luzius Gartmann has lived in Meiringen for three years, before that he was at home in Balm. «I was incredibly well accepted in the Haslital», he says. But the locals were also always very important to him, for example in the restaurant on Schwarzwaldalp. «After all, they are the guests who are always there. » Gartmann conducts various guided tours in Grimselwelt. Not only the underground tour at the Hospiz, but also construction site tours at the Spitallamm dam or through the Handeck 1 and 2 power plants and Innertkirchen. And he also helps out elsewhere. For example, at the cash desk or when operating the Triftbahn. Or he accompanies hotel guests to the Grimsel Hospiz in winter. A very adventurous journey, depending on the weather. It leads by post bus to Handeck, then with the big cable car to Gerstenegg, three kilometres through the tunnel to Sommerloch and finally with the Hospiz cable car up to the hotel.
Applause as a reward
Luzius Gartmann looks at his watch. The two hours are almost over. A good sign when time flies by. He leads the group back to the exit, where the Grimseltaxi is already waiting. «I hope you enjoyed it. Have a good journey home.» The guide says goodbye to his group. They thank him and applaud him. «There's no better reward», says Luzius Gartmann, packs up his seven things and heads home. The next guided tour is already scheduled for tomorrow.
Patiently and competently, Luzius Gartmann answers the many questions.