On mule back up to Riederalp

In July 1895, after an exhausting train journey across half of the European continent, Sir Ernest Cassel arrived with ladies, children, elderly gentlemen and his servants in the town of Brig in the canton of Valais.


There, horse-drawn carriages were waiting to take the ladies and gentlemen to Mörel, where at that time anything that could be called a comfortable journey ended. Together with dozens of suitcases, baskets, and hatboxes, the English group then rode on mules, which was undoubtedly more convenient than walking up the mountain.

 

Mountain Resort Hotel Riederfurka
It is not surprising to hear that the modest life style at the Riederfurka Hotel did not really please the English group. They had to eat dinner together with complete strangers at a coarse wooden table, and the following day they were woken in the early hours for breakfast. The second day, Sir Ernest Cassel decided to leave.

His physician in London received the following telegram from Sir Cassel: «Hotel ridiculous, suggest something else. Cassel.» The physician’s answer came immediately and was very clear: «Refuse to treat you if you do not stay. Coming next week. Broadbent.»

Cassel stayed and decided that since he was there, he might as well get to know the Aletsch area a little. And the shepherd boys of the alp were quite amazed to watch the elegant ladies and gentlemen strolling through the Aletsch Forest, followed at a discreet distance by their valets, responsible for carrying all the necessary items for the obligatory tea breaks, such as tables, chairs, picnic baskets, sunshades, and so on.

 

Charming Aletsch
Who knows if it was down to the medical authority of his physician or if Cassel actually fell in love with the lure of the scenery, the Aletsch Forest and the Great Aletsch Glacier once he had got used to it. In any case, he returned regularly and looked for a site to build for himself and his guests an accommodation that suited their standards.

Due to Sir Cassel’s generous donations to the poor communities of Ried and Betten for the construction of community schools, he received in return a site on Riederfurka of about 13,000 square meters (42,653 square feet) only a few steps away from the once so unloved Riederfurka Hotel. That was the foundation stone of the future Villa Cassel...