The past is a foreign country

They do things differently there.

So started The Go Between and it is true enough. The past here in Wengen was very different; when the village was first a place to visit – I won’t say a ski resort as that was later – people came to the grand hotels and stayed in style. When skiing came along, they stayed for a while.  In a couple of days, harassed families will rush here, spend a “relaxing” seven day holiday and rush home again to the daily grind.

Eighty or more years ago, the privileged few came to stay for weeks, months even.  Life had a different pace. Mrs IS and I once spent an afternoon leafing trough the photographic record at Foto Fritz.  It was a piece of social history.  One photograph in particular sticks in the mind.  It showed an ice rink in front of the Palace Hotel, a classic Victorian pile, with people playing ice hockey using champagne bottles (empty presumably) as pucks.

Things changed everywhere of course in the 1950s.  The package holiday took over.  One of those who led the charge in modern tourism was Erna Low. As another bit of shameless name dropping, I met her once, at her office in South Kensington. She arranged our honeymoon.  Not a ski trip; Sicily in fact.  There was snow on the top of Etna though.

Wengen never seems to have been a resort for the famous, save for a brief period  in  the 1970s. As I write, I am looking at an old newspaper clipping which mentions Sophia Loren, Johnny Halliday and Robert Redford (a few years after he was here for Downhill Racer) as staying in the village.

Today, Wengen is host to that varied mix of people I mentioned the other day, none of us famous in our own families even.  The author John Le Carré does have a home here though.

Wengen seems to have been overlooked by the oligarchs; they go to Zermatt and Courchevel 1850 instead, which is a relief to everyone probably except the restaurant and bar owners. How do you know when you favourite village has become the destination for the rich of Eastern Europe?  Vodka and caviar are in the essentials aisle at the supermarket and you can no longer afford the price of a beer.

Today the cloud sat at piste level and tricky conditions brought 8,150 vertical metres in 19 lift rides.

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