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Harder Kulm is Interlaken's house mountain. When you arrive in Interlaken, you might wonder about the pagoda-look-alike building high above town. It's the summit restaurant - about a five minute walk up from where the Harderbahn (Harder funicular) ends.
The bright red Harderbahn takes one up to the top in only 10 minutes. It's an ideal excursion if one arrives late afternoon in Interlaken and it's too late to explore the rest of the Jungfrau Region.
The platform right in front of the restaurant offers superb views to Lakes Thun and Brienz, the Bödeli - the small strip between the lakes with its towns Interlaken and Unterseen - and the Bernese Alps.
There's a network of hiking trails leading from and to Harder Kulm, most of them marked as mountain trails T2. It is the exercise mountain for locals who love a serious workout. I was lazy the day I went. My legs were still sore from the steep walk down from the Niesen the day before. I only managed to motivate myself to stroll along the "Elves Path" (Elfenweg). The romantic circle trail takes about an hour to complete and leads mostly through the woods, starting right at the Restaurant. It's an easy hike except for a short stretch up the Harder ridge.
Do you wonder about the rock face you see at the Harder Mountain?
Once upon a time, when monastic life in Interlaken was at its peak, monks couldn't resist earthly temptations and stoped taking their vows of celibacy seriously.
One of the monks went for a walk at the Harder where he met an unsuspecting girl, collecting fire wood. The monk approached her in a frivolous manner, and she fled in horror. He chased the frightened girl through the forest and that's when she fell over the abyss to her death.
Heavenly judgment turned the monk instantly to stone and he was condemned to look at his place of crime for eternity.
Legends and myths come alive at the Harder Potschete in Interlaken. When life "between the lakes" was ruled by the convent, it became customary that masked teens and tweens from Interlaken and Unterseen visited the monastery at end of the year to beg for a gift. They received bread, wine and money which was originally meant as a donation or a "gift to the dead".
The masks are called "Potschen" which originates from "pig bladders" or "Süüblateri" in the local dialect.
Every year on January 2nd, Interlaken and Unterseen get haunted by the Hardermannli and the Potschen. They meet at the market square in Interlaken West and chase screaming spectators through the streets, hollering threats and beating visitors with the "Süüblateri", the air filled pig bladders.
In addition, unmarried youth in disguise and with painted faces, move singing from house to house to beg for money, food and drinks (symbolic act of the "gift for the dead").
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