January 28, 2015
Davos takes a break from skiing for a week.
For me, there’s nothing better to invigorate the soul and get the spirits up on a winter’s morning than a brisk stroll in the icy air to the accompaniment of the cheerful, optimistic sounds of… bagpipes!
Actually, there is one thing that invigorates the soul better, and that’s an earthquake. I was woken up by one once in Japan. Invigorated? Yes. But getting the spirits up?…
No earthquakes here fortunately, in the small town of Davos in the Swiss Alps. But lots of icy air and, bizarrely, some bagpipes emitting their dulcet tones. Not that I was able to appreciate them for long, for I had to be off to my next meeting…
Things seem a little overly workaholic-like in Davos this year. Some events start at 7.30 in the morning! WHAT? Jeez, what a nightmare (for an evening person like myself). Oh well, if that’s when they start, that’s when they start. Will just have to comply humbly, and grumbly. But – organizers – please, kindly, get a grip and not repeat this madness next year, eh?
Curiously, Davos, for WEF week, turns itself into the weirdest skiing resort in the world.
To start off with, the environs around Davos have never been a super-mega for skiing and snowboarding. There aren’t that many routes, and they’re somewhat straight and boring, in fact hardly much fun at all – especially if you compare them with the likes of Zermatt, Sölden, Lech, the Dolomites and so on…
Not much fun
But the curiously weird feature is not their dullness, but… their emptiness! Where there are normally thousands of skiers and snowboarders there are just a few dozen during WEF. Even the tracks left at dawn by the snow cats that tend to the snow on the slopes are still visible in the afternoon! Now, you might be forgiven for thinking the WEFers close the whole resort to ‘outsiders’ – what with all the VI-VIPs and all. Turns out the slopes are empty as the prices of everything in the town go berserk – through the roof and into the stratosphere, so skiers tend to just stay away. And who can blame them? Anyway, the up-side for us was having the slopes practically to ourselves! Sweet.
Ok, I’ll stop this series of adjectives; you get the picture
On the other hand, in the town of Davos it’s another matter altogether. It’s rammed everywhere there, full of folks who haven’t come for the skiing. Presidents, PMs, ministers, CEOs, the press and a whole load more. It’s this lot that squeeze out the skiers. Contentious!
They don’t only squeeze out the skiers, mind. They squeeze out WEF participants too – like me and my travel companion, A. Sh. We were forced to rent out an apartment on the edge of town (which felt like the edge of civilization too). Even that for the week cost more than the price of a small car!
Check out the pics: living room, bedroom (the other was about the same), toilet and shower, corridor. I liked the notice on the door ‘Don’t come inside in shoes!’ Of course, as Russians [for whom entering any home in shoes is an unthinkable faux pas], adjusting to this rule in a rented apartment was not so tough :).
Alas, I only got a bit of skiing in – just before WEF got going. Then I dived into a week-long stamina-testing marathon: a dozen interviews for big media outlets, several really interesting meetings (including with the new Secretary General of INTERPOL), and absurd numbers of handshakes, ‘nice to see you agains’, and exchanges of business cards. A few public performances too:
Since it was around 1.6 kilometers from our apartment to the congress center in town and we had breaks between meetings, every day we returned to base two or three times. Add to that the fact that the last 300 meters to the apartment were up a steep hill, I think it’s fair to assume we lost some weight during our Swiss sojourn :).
Of course, we could have taken the shuttle busses that were provided, or the regular busses, but, as experience has shown me over the years, it’s often quicker, simpler, and healthier to go by foot. The views around are always nicer too with nothing between you and them, and that’s of course best suited to photography along the way. For example, I’d have missed these here snowmen sporting scarves of all the participating nationalities in the event:
And this is how some countries promote themselves during WEF:
Here’s a bit of WEF inside knowledge:
WEF is largely organized via a special, closed, Facebook/LinkedIn-like site called Toplink. In it there’s a list of all the participants, and each can send another personal messages. It’s all via Toplink you get invited to working breakfasts, lunches and dinners, meetings, presentations, discussions and more. Besides, there’s the full schedule for all the different sessions plus WEF news. Very modern. Very convenient. Ostensibly it’s for participating big wigs, but I’m not sure any actually use it themselves – only their assistants; all the same – useful :).
All right folks, that’s WEF-2015 done and dusted… We’re off to the airport, as per…
I’ll leave you with one last pic of those empty ski slopes:
The best place for skiing in January? Unexpectedly – Davos!Tweet
All the photos are here.