Clouds, almost like lingerie on a quiet, sunny winter day–the level of mystery–what is really there that I can’t see? I want to see more.
Railing about what?
Once upon a time…and then it was yesterday…and you are reading this today.
In a land of mountain trains–funiculars, cable cars and narrow gauge cogwheel trains. They are slow and they get you high.
Why? Why get high?
I’ll let the following photos tell the story. You will be in the Bernese Highlands of the Jungfrau Region, the northern pre-mountains, above 2,000 meters in the Swiss Alps. Why build these mechanical contraptions to get high?
Here are the trains that get you high.
What are landrace clouds? I made it up. Combination of words to describe the reality of cloud appearance in my neighborhood.
My neighborhood. According to the Swiss National Meteorological office, my Swiss neighborhood is the Northern Alps, the north facing slopes of the northernmost range of Alps in Switzerland. Using more common tourist and environmentally friendly vocabulary, my neighborhood is in the Jungfrau Region of the Berner Oberland around Interlaken. I live in the north-facing drainage basin of the famous Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountain triumvirate.
Now all that aside, over my years of walking this neighborhood, I have noticed that barely observable, minimal fluctuations in temperature, humidity, pressure and wind create quite dramatic formation and dissolution of very low level clouds. Please do not confuse them with fog. For a patient viewer, a dance reveals itself. And where there is dance, there is music. Not in astronomical time, but in real time. See it. Feel it. Hear it.
Unmistakeable to a person on foot.
So for me, landrace clouds are very specific, locally generated occurrences. That is my starting point. That is real. Then the fiction begins. I call it fiction because of the reality that what we call ‘fixed’ or ‘settled’ science is not really fixed or settled or permanent. I like working and writing on the edge of the fixed because every edge is fuzzy and invites exploration, as do these landrace cloud phenomena.
I ask myself, what really happens at the point where a cloud begins its formation in touch with the earth? My response is a bit alchemical, a bit old school. I theorise that point as the interaction of earth, air, water…kind of special already, no? But what about ether? What happens at the moment of generation and the final moment of dissolution?
So, I go hunting in my neighborhood for generation points of landrace clouds. Following are eleven images from recent forays.
All of the above represent a ‘typical’ walk in my neighborhood. And that is why fiction is just too close to fact.
And, it is never twice the same. Never.
Edelwyss-Starnen sing the last verse of Mys Alpli. High in the Berner Oberland, an alp is a field, a pasture, a productive piece of mountain land where animals can be grazed. Thus in the background of this you can hear the bells of the sheep, goats and cows. Available at itunes.apple.com/us/artist/jodelg…rnen/id329166348
Mid July in the Berner Oberland Jungfrau Region–it is that time of year when the highest alps receive the animals for the ‘spring’ grasses.
I met a researcher in a Stubbe last week. He was researching linkages between humans and the landscape. He shared with me the following photos of yodelers.
He noted that these yodelers are not hired professionals or foreign workers. They are humans whose families have lived in this landscape for centuries.
He posited that there are rootlets of some strange consistency that transcend the lifetimes of humans. Those rootlets, he said, were channels through which a music travels from the landscape through the voices of the yodelers.
Each verse of a song glorifies a different aspect of the relationship between humans and the landscape. And each chorus…well…the chorus is the landscape.
At the heart of a tremendous landscape. Interlaken.
In the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps, Interlaken is a 365day/year resort destination on the Aare River connecting two lakes at the confluence of four valleys.
Interlaken alone has more than 900,000 overnight stays/year. Tourism drives the economy. Landscape drives the tourism.
This place is all about design, why? Because this landscape exudes inspiration, it enables captivation. A guest can see it, breathe it, feel it, taste it and touch it. Landscape feeds design.
But change is inevitable. New design is required.
What is the inspirational magic that fills the air in this landscape? For two hundred years the greatest authors, composers and all humans have been captivated by this ethereal landscape beauty which has propelled them to design, compose, write, paint.
Great American writers have built on their experience in this landscape: Mark Twain, James Fenimore Cooper. And a partial list overwhelms: Haller, Rousseau, Goethe,(as inspired by the Staubbach in Lauterbrunnental), Byron, Mendelssohn, Schiller, AC. Doyle, Tolkien, Bierstadt, Caspar Wolf, Hodler, Calame, and pop ‘artists’ like James Bond, Clint Eastwood.
In the last century the Art Nouveau movement spurred deluxe hotel and town growth here.
The most practical and interconnected transportation and communication systems were overlain for easy access. Best in class convenience from the international airports of Zurich, Geneva and Bern via network of trains, trams and busses seamlessly linked to networks of bikes and pedestrians to all winter and summer recreation options including every xxx-treme sport. These put visiting humans into direct touch with the landscape.
Visitors gain access via Interlaken to sites having the UNESCO ‘international seal of approval’:
UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch: An area of 400 square kilometres to demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature unfolds as a mystical world with pre-Alpine moorland and karst landscapes.
UNESCO World Heritage Jungfrau Aletsch: An overwhelming display of the Alps’ natural beauty covering over 800 square kilometres. At its heart lies the mighty rock massif of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and the glacial landscape around the Great Aletsch Glacier. The Aletsch Glacier is 23km long, the longest glacier in the Alps.
So what’s the problem? The hotel, resort destination cycle has been bottoming as the visitor profile has changed. Nobody has grasped what is the 21st century successful tourism paradigm. Four and five star hotels are out of business. Other hotels from the Art Noveau era can not easily meet the 21st century energy savings regulations. And the visitor who 30 years ago would visit one or two weeks, now visits two or three days.
Berner Oberland Region = 12,000 beds; net occupancy rate 50%
Interlaken Region = 4,000 beds; net occupancy rate 64%
International Arrivals = Europe 50%, Asia 25%, Americas 15%, Africa 5%, Middle East 5%
Interlaken Region Arrivals = Swiss 45%, International 55%
In conclusion, this Interlaken landscape region has undeniable attraction to Swiss and every geographical segment of international visitor. The annual visits are steady. The communication and transportation infrastructure is up to date and best in class; but the types of accommodations are not leading the way. The tradition of four and five star has all but disappeared–it struggles.
But there are committed private sector players whose future is based upon visitors’ feet on the landscape, regional transportation and watch consolidator. Both of them rely on successful, comfortable and convenient overnights.
Where does this landscape tourism go in the first half of the 21st century?
Airbnb, local holiday apartments, dormitory accomodations?
Are the traditional comforts of four and five star hospitality culture a memory, not suited to today’s green regulations, today’s pace of life, today’s constrained economics?
Or is there a new paradigm still undiscovered that matches and challenges this timeless inspirational landscape?
That is a question for designers, entrepreneurs and lovers of landscape.
On 1May2016 an unexpected snow fell.
Sometimes sharp and crisp doesn’t tell the story. Fuzzy around the edges, that is real life. Between the door of birth and the door of death, uncertainty, that is the real day to day life.
…shelter…and all are in the landscape.
…but we can fix that…fire up the snow machines!
Since written history and before, the Bernese Oberlands have frightened and inspired humans, including Goethe, Byron, Hesse, Mann, Strauss, Schiller, Mendelssohn, Doyle, Haller, Hodler, Savrasov, Koenig, Bierstadt, Wolf, Fearnley…the list goes on and on…and thousands of others who have followed their footsteps.
It is that human consensus which has inspired local people, evolving from agricultural dependency into the modern world, to build technically complex, electrically powered, narrow gauge cogwheel trains up the Bernese Oberlands mountain slopes to what is known today in the Swiss Alps as the Top of Europe.
So, now, humans climb these incredibly steep slopes, sitting on padded seats, with central heating, enjoying visual delights through floor to ceiling polarized glass windows–civilized access to the not nearly civilized mountains.