A quick selfie, then off again

A small village surrounded by the emerald green Lake Brienz. But everything has changed in the last two years. Iseltwald has become a magnet for Korean tourists who all have just one thing in mind – to take a selfie on the old jetty. The reason for the crowds is a Netflix series.

Sandra Gonseth

Rich Content Section

Two tourists from Taiwan taking a selfie.
Smile, please: two tourists from Taiwan capture their brief visit to the jetty in Iseltwald for posterity and for everyone back home. © Yves Bachmann

Just the last few bends on the narrow lakeside road, and the Postbus reaches the edge of the village of Iseltwald, right up above the municipality that’s home to 420 people. From a bird’s eye perspective, the village looks like a tongue gleefully snaking across the emerald green lake. Some chalets, a few hotels and a jetty. Suddenly, the sun breaks through the overcast sky. “Wow,” say the two young Asian passengers, over and over again. They’re sitting in the front row of the Postbus that’s now making its way down the mountain to the village center. The bus is jam-packed. But that doesn’t seem to bother these tourists. They both have just one intention – taking a selfie on the Iseltwald jetty. Shortly, they’ll join a long queue and wait patiently for their moment.

A Postbus packed with tourists.
The Postbuses are packed, and the queues at the famous jetty are long: Iseltwald has become a magnet for tourists since the lakeside village was used as a filming location. But local residents see the boom as a nuisance – they haven’t benefited much from the influx yet. © Yves Bachmann

The juggling act starts on the village square

What’s the best way to deal with the influx of tourists? It’s not just the village residents who are pondering that question. The municipal council of the sole village on the left bank of Lake Brienz, “Bönigen, Iseltwald Tourismus”, the BLS shipping company and PostBus also have to tackle this issue. Because the boom brought about by the Korean Netflix series “Crash Landing on YouTarget not accessible” is now so big that it’s almost unmanageable from a logistical perspective. Every day, countless coaches arrive on the tranquil village square, where turning manoeuvres between the village shop and public toilets are like a juggling act. “To transport local passengers and tourists from south-east Asia to their destination, we’ve doubled the number of journeys we provide,” explains Ruedi Simmler, Manager of the Postbuses in the Bernese Oberland. A bus runs from Interlaken to Iseltwald every 30 minutes, with the additional services travelling via the motorway. “This ensures that we save time,” reveals Simmler. He and his teams have been astonished by the influx of tourists, which gathered pace after the pandemic and has even flared up over the winter months. “We were completely full at Easter.”

Iseltwald place-name sign
© Yves Bachmann

A place of longing

So what’s this series all about then? “It’s a love story between a couple from North and South Korea who meet for the first time on this jetty,” explains Ruedi Simmler, who has watched all 16 episodes of the series and has visited both countries. “While the series might be a tearjerker, there’s a strong political message behind it,” he adds. “It expresses the desire of the Korean people for reunification of the two countries.” However, nobody could have predicted that the series would create such hype in a small village in the Bernese Oberland. Least of all Marianna Brunner. “I never thought I’d see anything like it at the age of 85,” says the sprightly pensioner, who is levelling the gravel in front of her home with a rake. She shakes her head. Her property is one of the nearest to the jetty. “Day in, day out, people come in their droves, take photos of the house and garden and even want to use my toilet.” It all began fairly innocuously. In 2019, the film crew asked Marianna Brunner for electricity during shooting. “They also put the piano for the key scene in our front garden,” recalls the Iseltwald resident. She glances at the old wooden jetty, which looks like nothing out of the ordinary. “That’s been there for an eternity.” In the beginning, she even picked up the rubbish, but she now tries to distance herself from goings-on outside her front door.

A couple in wedding clothes on the jetty.
© Yves Bachmann

There’s now a charge for selfies

The Postbus drivers face very different challenges. They transport passengers safely along the old, narrow lakeside road from Interlaken to Iseltwald. In many places, vehicles aren’t able to pass each other. Selfie-hunters visiting from Asia have sometimes been unable to get through in their hire cars, and the Postbus has had to back up, causing delays in Interlaken. “Things can’t go on like this,” remarks driver Guido Francioli, who, after a brief stop in Iseltwald, tells the crowd of people waiting to travel back to climb aboard and then heads off towards Interlaken via the motorway.

His colleague Marco De Almeida, who originally comes from Portugal, takes it all in good humour. “There’s positive and negative stress,” he explains. “I see it as positive.” A local resident boards the overcrowded bus in Bönigen. “Take a seat on the sun deck – there’s even coffee available.” Marco’s quick wit is invaluable at moments like this and is cheering passengers up until a solution can be found that keeps everyone more or less happy. A start has already been made – visitors now have to pay five francs to go on the jetty. A pay turnstile has also been installed in the public toilets. A traffic light system for Postbuses and access restrictions, including fees for coaches, should improve the traffic situation in the village. Since 1 June, 2,000 fans of the series can travel each day to the destination they’ve been longing to see – and in special two-storey vehicles. PostBus is using ten extra express route double-decker buses, a novelty in the Bernese Oberland. Will all these measures curb the boom? A film team from Thailand has already registered an interest in a new film project.

written by

Sandra Gonseth