Harder Kulm, the top of Interlaken, has more than meets the eye. Apart from stunning mountain views this local peak is home to the legend of the «Hardermannli». The idyllic view over Interlaken hides a dark story from the 16th century, when the face of a man became forever chiseled into the rocks of the mountain. The legend of Harder Kulm is a dark story that has more than meets the eye….

Harder Kulm and the Hardermannli

It’s not hard to find an amazing vista overlooking the beautiful city of Interlaken. Towering over the ancient town is the mighty Harder mountain, and on its peak sits the impressive pagoda-like Harder Kulm with an observation deck providing a breathtaking view of the entire area between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz to the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. The Harder itself is densely overgrown with forest but at one point, which turns towards Interlaken, does the rock face remain bare. If you look closely, you can discern the facial features of a man: dark eyes, a distinctive nose and a mustache. How this face appeared on the mountain is told by an old Intelaken legend which up to current times plays an important role in the annual Harder Potschete parade (Wooden Mask parade).

Legend of Harder Kulm & Hardermannli

In the 16th century, life in Interlaken revolved around its monastery. The monastery was rich and powerful, central to both government and spirit. Here lived clever men and scholars, known for their kindness, who provided wisdom and protection. When the Interlaken monastery was at the height of its power, abundance and opulence had however become the motto of its monks. With that, the fame of piety that this monastery enjoyed throughout the country also passed away and when a new provost, Leonardus, was sent from Rome strange things happened. Leonardus was extremely strict and harsh; he strictly forbade the other monks to assist the poor or to assist and teach the local children. His tyrant way of doing things quickly made him unpopular with the other monks and the people who started calling him Harder because of his stern and unsympathetic rules.

Meanwhile in the neighbouring town of Ringgenberg lived a local fisherman with his wife and their daughter Martha, a pretty and devout girl who regularly attended the Interlaken monastery to pay homage to the nature spirits and God. Harder first saw Marta during a Mass and was immediately in awe of this special girl. Despite his usual coldness he spoke very tenderly to her and soon won the trust of the innocent child. One day, Martha set out to collect wood on the side of the mountain, and the monk slyly followed her. She did not suspect a thing until Harder dashed from the trees and leapt upon her! Martha struggled and broke free, running down the mountain with the crazed man right behind her. In a panic, she veered left and right from the path and found herself at the edge of a steep cliff. As Harder approached, she saw no way out and plunged to her death. It is said that God himself condemned the wicked man and immediately turned him to stone. The monk was thus turned to stone by the heavenly judge of earthly crimes, and cursed to look down unredeemed for thousands of years at the scene of his crime. Now his face is chiseled forever into the mountain and it became locally known as the Harder Kulm mountain. The rockside face of the Harderman or Hardermannli is a constant reminder that Interlaken is only for those who are kind and pure….

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