It’s less than half as high as Switzerland’s tallest mountains, yet the Rigi has held many in its grip, from writers like Mark Twain, to painters including JMW Turner, and composers such as Richard Wagner.
Even Queen Victoria was carried to the 1,798 metre-high summit. In a diary entry made during her 1868 visit, she apparently scribbled, “We are amused”.
It was exactly 200 years ago, on August 6, 1816 to be precise, that an inn was opened on the slanting peak, the first ever lodging of its kind on a Swiss mountain.
According to the bible of 19th century travel guides for European destinations, John Murray’s Handbook, it was noted that while the Rigi wasn’t particularly high, “it is wonderfully located with a spectacular prospect in all directions…”.
Mountain infrastructure expanded as the Rigi’s fame grew, including a cog railway that was built to take tourists to the top.
Fast forward to the current century, and the mountain has become a popular viewing spot for tourists from well beyond Europe, including the Chinese. Headlines were made last year when it was learned that the company running the mountain railway had put on special trains to accommodate the growing number of Asian visitors, and following unconfirmed reports that Swiss travellers complained the Chinese were rude and disorderly.
Text: Dale Bechtel