A telegram causes agitation in the mountains

At the beginning of the 1895 summer season, the Cathrein family (owners of the Riederfurka Hotel at that time) received a telegram with the following news: «Please book for July 3 five rooms plus five chambers for the servants; two horse-drawn carriages from Brig train station midday train, 10 packhorses from Mörel. Cassel, Park Lane, London R. P.»

 

Plant, stone and mountain crazed
Except for the sender’s address there was nothing unusual in this telegram. As early as the beginning of the 19th century, Englishmen began to discover the Swiss Alps as a vacation destination and they did not miss out the Aletsch area. Even though the locals looked at them with skepticism and derided them as «plant, stone and mountain crazed», the tourists were still more than welcome, as they brought money with them to the mountain area, which had up until then not been blessed with wealth.

In the 1850s, tourists were so numerous that the locals were unable to accommodate them in their alpine huts and cottages alone. That is why several hotels were built in a very short time, including the Jungfrau Hotel and the Riederfurka Hotel.

 

One of the richest men of his time
A guest such as Sir Ernest Cassel, successful banker and one of the richest men of his time, however, was a whole new territory for the owner of the modest mountain hotel. It is not surprising, then, that Catharina Cathrein who ran the family hotels at that time was quite nervous about her guest. What if the modest chambers, the low-ceilinged and smoky lounge and the kitchen with its earthen floor did not meet the high standards of the English ladies and gentlemen?

Who was Sir Ernest Cassel anyway? And what was this man looking for in the sleepy hamlet of Riederalp. He, who was used to chic places and hob-nobbing with the aristocracy and the world of high finance...?