Idealisierung der Berge als Voraussetzung ihrer Kommerzialisierung: die fünf Highlights der Schweizer Alpen im 19. Jahrhundert
Travel accounts from the second half of the eighteenth century feature more and more descriptions the authors of which seeks to present distant views to their readers. In this they clearly lack words which would in their opinion convey the power of a vista not limited by anything. Mountains naturally became preferred vantage points, although other elevations like towers or, in flatter regions, hills were sufficient to satisfy the desire. However, mountains were particularly well suited to the purpose, also because of the central role they played in the aesthetic discussions about loftiness held at the time. Vantage points described in numerous accounts became increasingly well-known. There were quite a few of them towards the end of the century throughout the Alps. While the growth of continental tourism, which began after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, accelerated rapidly in the middle of the century, around 1900 such vantage points in the Western Alps were reduced to just five, namely Rigi, Pilatus, Mont Blanc and Mer de Glace in the region of Chamonix, Gornergrat and Matterhorn as well as the Jungfrau region with the four-thousanders of the Bernese Alps. We should look for the reasons for this state of affairs in the development from a vantage point to a destination, i.e. commercialisation, for which two conditions had to be met: ease of access and comfortable accommodation. All five locations met these conditions, making it possible even for tourists in a great hurry — whose number was constantly growing with the development of organised tourism from 1860 — to treat themselves to a unique Alpine experience.
The most popular destination at the time was Rigi in central Switzerland, because it enabled people to admire an unblemished panorama extending almost indefinitely; in addition, the peak was known for atmospheric sunrises and sunsets. Obviously, this was possible only when the view was not spoiled by rain clouds or mists. A remedy for the unpredictability of nature was devised by the entrepreneur Ludwig Meyer from Schauensee. He created a diorama in Lucerne’s tourist district and thus guaranteed the two most important conditions of experiences on the Rigi: ease of access and certain weather. His diorama enabled people to admire both sunrises and sunsets, not only from the Rigi. As the popularity of the diorama rose, Meyer began to show also views from the nearby Pilatus and Gornergrat. Tourists who were in a hurry could now see the tree most famous Swiss panoramas within a short period. The commercialisation of tourism turned the panorama experience into an event, to use the modern term. Nothing was left of the initial abolishment of boundaries to human vision and self-fulfilment of the individual. Repeatability deprived the experience of its special aura. Thus also disappeared the aesthetically-determined idealisation, which had elevated these sites above all others in the Alps and was a precondition of their commercialisation.