Always nice to be listed: good luck to us all.
The online archive of Alexander Fiske-Harrison
Always nice to be listed: good luck to us all.
When I first came to Bad Gastein, a year ago, I could not believe that I had not only never been here before, but had never even heard of it. The vagaries of its notability in history are almost as cyclical as the rise and fall of stock markets.
In February 2020, it seemed to me a classic bustling ski resort, with extraordinary, high-level skiing, comprising 200km of pistes, half of them red runs. Admittedly, the languages you heard in the après-ski establishments tended more towards the Germanic than the frequent smatterings of English or French one might hear in Zermatt or Val d’Isère.
However, what really struck me was the look of the town. Built into the steep mountain slopes, its vertiginous streets are lined with exquisite fin de siècle houses from the heyday of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Even the train station – 90 minutes to Salzburg, 3 hours to Munich – is an Art Deco gem, opened by Emperor Franz Joseph himself in 1905, the first such station in the Eastern Alps.
For this was the Imperial resort. The Prussian Kaisers would come and meet their Habsburg Emperor cousins here to enjoy the waters and the walking, for both of which it had been famed since the 7th century. Of course, in those pre-skiing days, summer was the high season.
For this was the Imperial resort. The Prussian Kaisers would come and meet their Habsburg Emperor cousins here to enjoy the waters and the walking, for both of which it had been famed since the 7th century. Of course, in those pre-skiing days, summer was the high season. Continue reading “My latest article in The Telegraph: Once the ‘Monaco of the Alps’, this forgotten spa town is poised for a comeback”
AIM-LISTED Fiske, which is one of the City’s few remaining independent stockbroking and investment managers, said its results for the six months to November 30 showed continued improvement after its operating loss narrowed to £21,000. Total revenues of £2.8 million were an 11% increase on a year earlier, with investment management fees up 14%. Chairman Clive Fiske Harrison said the company retained a “healthy degree of caution regarding the immediate outlook for markets“. Shares rose 5p to 70p.
Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic I have written in these pages about the European countries in which I have suffered their various countermeasures.
I witnessed Marines patrolling the streets in one of the hardest lockdowns in Europe, Spain, where I ran a half-marathon inside a small apartment in an attempt to stay sane and fit while they locked their physically vulnerable elderly and psychologically vulnerable children away from all sunlight and exercise, despite the measurable protection these two factors offer against the virus.
I returned to England when I was allowed, and was invited to bear witness to the catastrophic collapse of the hospitality industry, with hotels and restaurants desperately trying to outweigh the off-putting countermeasures of the odour of bleach, enforced hand-sanitisation, masks, and social-distancing, by practically begging customers – and travel writers like myself – to visit.
(Thank you to the lovely Gilbeys Restaurant & Townhouse in Eton, the splendid Old Parsonage Hotel & Grill in Oxford, the comforting The Winning Post pub in Windsor Great Park and the splendour of Mossiman’s at Guards Polo Club – I hope you all make it: you certainly deserve to.) Continue reading “My latest article in The Telegraph: The European countries with the strictest lockdowns have come out no better”
With the snow piling thick on the ground in Salzburg, I am amazed at two things in Austria which I do not think are unrelated.
The first is that neither temperature nor lockdown has in any way affected the average citizens’ visibility in the streets.
When I walk out of my front door on the Nonnberg, adjacent to the ancient convent where Julie Andrew’s portrayed a novitiate in The Sound Of Music, there are invariably locals tramping up and down the stairs and slopes, wading through drifts and sliding across ice, to stare at alpine mountain ranges in the middle distance.
As they say here, there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.
The second striking fact about living in Austria is that during this ‘lockdown’ – their third – in which you may leave your house at any time of day or night for any reason, psychological or physical, they have reduced the contagion of this novel coronavirus by 90% since mid-November.
Yes, it is true that bars, restaurants and hotels are all closed, and only one person from a household may visit “close family members” or “important contacts with whom contact is maintained several times a week” in another household.
Continue reading “My postcard in The Telegraph: While Britons are imprisoned, Austrians are encouraged to get out, stay fit, and soak up vitamin D”
It was at a lunch with several grandees of old Vienna where I was forcibly reminded that it was in this city that the longest European peace since the original ‘Pax Romana’ – from the fall of Napoleon to the rise of the Kaiser – was negotiated between a British Foreign Secretary, Viscount Castlereagh, and Prince Metternich, the chief negotiator of the European Unionists of that epoch, the Habsburg Monarchy, who had only just renounced the title of Holy Roman Emperor.
The 1815 Congress of Vienna was soon followed, in 1820, by Britain’s official and complete withdrawal from European affairs into “splendid isolation”. The effects of this, the original Brexit, were so positive that one US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, would later publish his Harvard PhD thesis on the period under the title ‘A World Restored’.
Personally, there is no denying that as a British citizen living in Mitteleuropa, and who spent the first lockdown as a resident in Spain, I have encountered a great deal of incomprehension among my Continental friends as to why Britain would want to leave this benevolent, if quasi-Imperial, set up.
And, as an Englishman with an Austrian fiancée, a Belgian shepherd dog and a breeding herd of horses all descendant from an Irish thoroughbred (El Star, first cousin to the legendary Frankel no less), I truly do see myself as, in Metternich’s own phrase, “a Citizen of Europe”. Continue reading “My article in The Telegraph: As an expat in Vienna, I love everything about Europe (except the EU)”
Having just written a postcard in these pages praising Vienna as the best travel destination I have visited in some time, I did not expect to be writing again so soon, and under such different circumstances.
Last night at 8pm an unknown number of armed men fanned out into the streets of the first district where I am staying and opened fire at random, in a manner all-too familiar these days, while invoking the greatness of God in his Qur’anic name.
Reports have the shooters moving down from the city’s main Synagogue to the seat of its Archbishop, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, although this is more likely a ‘happy’ coincidence for the terrorists involved. This is the main pedestrianised bar area in Vienna’s old city, and they struck, with neither provocation nor warning, on the night before the city returns to lockdown due to a surge in hospitalisations for Covid-19.
The police response was rapid. One terrorist was shot on the spot, later identified as a 20-year-old Albanian, with dual Austrian and North Macedonian nationality, who had been sent to jail for attempting to join Islamic State in Syria, but released a year early from his 22-month sentence in December. Continue reading “My dispatch in The Telegraph: From Vienna, ‘I woke from my Covid sickbed to the sound of gunfire’”
Vienna is at, indeed perhaps just is, the very heart of Europe. It was capital of the Holy Roman Empire for the majority of its thousand-year existence – until it confronted Napoleon at the Battle of the Three Emperors at Austerlitz. It was the “city of music” that made Mozart; it was the “city of dreams” that bred Freud. In 1938 the French author Albert Camus wrote, “Vienna stands at the cross-roads of history. Around her echoes the clash of empires. Certain evenings when the sky is suffused with blood, the stone horses on the Ring monuments seem to take wing.”
And yet, less than a decade later, Graham Greene would write, “I never knew Vienna between the wars, and I am too young to remember the old Vienna with its Strauss music and its easy charm; to me it is simply a city of undignified ruins.”
There was dark romanticism even in the ruins, as Greene knew, hence he made the city the third character in his and Carol Reed’s film The Third Man (although the great Orson Welles added a few lines of his own, including the famous one about the Borgias and cuckoo clocks.)
Continue reading “My postcard in The Telegraph: From Vienna, where common sense reigns supreme”
The Queen has agreed Southend in Essex will be granted city status, in honour of Sir David Amess, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced. The resort town on the Thames Estuary, with the longest pleasure pier in the world, is just one of many gems of my home county, which is so often (wrongly) overlooked by visitors, both domestic and international.
The recent reputation of Essex seems to be a construct of the media, most recently reality television, based on a parody of a small southern strip of the county. That strip, from Dagenham through Basildon to Southend, was formed far more by its proximity to London, especially the East End, than with rural East Anglia. This was especially true after whole new towns were built to house those Londoners rendered homeless by the Blitz.
However, before London even existed, Essex was the centre of Britain. Before Christ was born, the dominant Celtic tribe, the Trinovantes, had built their capital Camulodonum there, and after the Roman conquest there it remained. Continue reading “My article in The Telegraph: Essex – The hidden secrets of England’s most underrated county”
Once the ‘Monaco of the Alps’, this forgotten spa town is poised for a comeback
Bad Gastein, now eerily quiet, was a magnet for high society during the Austro-Hungarian Empire