Suzanne and I are currently travelling in Switzerland, in preparation for the Davos Economic Forum to be held Jan. 26. 2011 where over 2500 “influential world citizens” will gather to find solutions to the world problems. If past forums are any guide, there will be much more talk than action but, being there, we simply wanted to make sure that all these politicians, bankers and economists will enjoy their stay in Switzerland and truly work to save us all from them all.
Our work is to test drive the facilities so that there will be no surprises and everything will run as smoothly and sharply as a Swiss clock.
We began our journey in Geneva, where many guests will land before continuing to the easternmost part of Switzerland. Swiss banking secrecy is no longer what it used to be. Some people may wish to make a pit stop at a bank to refuel and perform one of Geneva’s most lucrative touristic activity: cash and carry. Local elite merchants facilitate the process by accepting cash in just about any currency. Store staff has direct access to spot currency rates and, for some reasons, patrons seem more than willing to pay the hefty translation fee tacked on.
Not used to browse such elite stores, we were surprised to notice that prices decline as one walks the stairs up. The more mundane goods are displayed in the higher floors, where credit cards are used more regularly, while the Tahiti pearl and Rolex watches can be examined at sit-down desks with a private clerk on the lower floors. No such thing as low basement prices here.
Leaving Geneva, we had to experiment skiing at Zermatt. Great train ride, beautiful postcard village, fantastic ski in a truly breathtaking setting, and prices as high as the surrounding Alps. Good place to make Russian and Chinese friends these days! Speaking of new world tourists, Brazilians are now regularly being sighted in major European cities. We were browsing the upper floor of Geneva’s Bucherer store when a full bus load of happy Brazilians stormed the floor with obvious buying intentions. It will not be long before first and second floor clerks need to be fluent in Portuguese
The Glacier “Express” train goes from Zermatt to Davos in about 7 hours, travelling leisurely like a slow motion roller coaster through absolutely breathtaking scenery. We had skied Zermatt at nearly 3800 meters (12,500 ft) only to descend to 660m at Visp, ride back up to 2033m at the Oberalppass, down to 585m at Chur and back up to 1540m at Davos.
For those having little economic inclination and a happy banker, it is best not to turn left at Filisur to Davos and continue south to St-Moritz. The glitzy resort adequately compensates for its lower mountains with much higher prices than Zermatt.
Davos has alpine and cross-country ski facilities, many hiking trails and shopping streets but really pales compared with Zermatt and St-Moritz. Why the World Economic Forum is held in Davos may only be explained by economists.
In Davos, we stayed one night at the Steigenberger Belvédère Hotel where many of the world elite will gather in a couple of weeks. Travelling incognito, we were quickly upgraded to a Junior Suite. One of the highlights for us was to learn that the room safe was hidden behind a painting. Another one was to see the 30Sfr ($33) cost of a club sandwich. Still bottled water is 13Sfr in a region where pristine mountain water runs all around you. Plain tap water is hardly available in this region where “free” is not a commonly used German word. The last highlight was to witness the embarrassment of the reception girl when she said the 5-star hotel does not offer free Wi-Fi. More practice is needed before the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of this world arrive.
We are now in Zurich, relaxed after having performed our duties. The 2011 World Economic Forum can begin.
(For obvious reasons, my posting activities will be limited until Jan. 14.)