Davos, the highest town in the Alps with a permanent population of around 10,000, is a complicated mixture of different, and sometimes competing, characteristics. Beginning as a small, agricultural district, it gained a reputation, in the 18th century, as a health resort, because of its high altitude. The town, at over 1500m above sea level, is so high, that the thin air holds virtually no bacteria. An ideal place to come if you’re recovering from an infection of the lungs.
Conan Doyle was among the notable people who first visited here, in his case because his wife was recovering from Tuberculosis. In his story ‘The Final Problem’, Conan Doyle refers to a sick woman ‘arriving from Davos in the last stages of consumption’. There used to be twenty five ‘Sanitoriums’ in Davos where patients would come to recover; today there are only five remaining.
It was while he was here that Conan Doyle played a key role in spreading enthusiasm for a new sport – skiing. Along with local guides, he was the first to ski tour up to the Strela pass and ski down into Arosa. Skiing unexpectedly quickly, he arrived too early for the reception committee that had been gathered to greet him. He also played a part in establishing the toboggan route from Davos to Klosters.
Conan Doyle was not the only artist to have fallen in love with the valley of Davos. The scenery inspired author, Thomas Mann to write the book ‘Magic Mountain’. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s paintings of the local area are on permanent display in the museum named after him. The paintings attract artists from all over the world who come to admire the artist’s vivid work.
Davos has gradually earned the reputation as the world’s leading name in conferences and seminars. Not only does the annual World Economic Forum take place here, but so do many other conferences ranging on topics as diverse as health, business and charity.
Then, of course, there are the town’s strong sporting traditions. Davos has one of the leading ice hockey clubs in Switzerland, and the town comes alive when it hosts the annual Spengler Cup – the oldest ice hockey club tournament in the world. During these weekends thousands of fans gather to watch the tournament live or in any number of packed bars.
Skiing is obviously important to the town. The six skiing mountains each have their own individual personality. The Parsenn is the most famous, James Bond recalls his many enjoyable runs on the Parsenn as he flies over it in the book ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. And there are many repeat guests who will only ski the Rinerhorn or Pischa.
There’s also cross-country skiing – arguably more important to the region now than downhill skiing. The 120km of prepared runs, through valleys or following close to the railway, bring visitors closer to the remote nature parks. They make for a truly unforgettable day out in the back country, away from the hustle and bustle of the town.
The prepared walking trails, the post bus and train routes add another dimension for visitors to Davos. And of course, being a cosmopolitan town, there are countless shops, restaurants and bars, not to mention a casino, that make Davos unrivalled as a destination for entertainment in the mountains.
So for a truly multi-faceted holiday, it is hard to beat Davos.