I know everyone thinks Davos is all about lushing it up in the Alps with the global elite, but actually — if you take it seriously — it is very hard work. I don’t expect any sympathy.
If you are staying at Klosters, the fairy-tale town about 15 kilometers away from the main World Economic Forum (WEF) activities, you will have an early start to get to the first events of the day — usually a breakfast meeting in one of the Davos hotels at around 7.30 a.m.
That involves rising at about 6 a.m., in the pitch black and subzero temperatures, to wait for a shuttle bus to drive you the 30-minute trip to Davos. You might wait, half asleep and freezing, while several pass you by, full of other bleary-eyed delegates, but generally the shuttle gets you to the Congress Hall on time.
It can be a long schlepp through snowy streets and several levels of security to reach your venue, then back through the same security cordon to the Congress Hall for a plenary session or a bilateral meeting.
The same process — dress up warm, strip down for security, redress — can happen a dozen times a day, depending on where your meetings are. It is generally advisable to spend the day in the Congress Center to minimize this hassle. There is always a lot going on there, the hub of the annual meeting, but sometimes discussions have to be secluded outside, especially as Davos grows in popularity with the big global corporations that take over the town for the week.
By the time the afternoon comes along, the adrenaline rush of all that intellectual stimulation has begun to fade, and as the temperature starts to fall with the setting sun, fatigue builds up noticeably. Strong cups of coffee and a few Alpine energy bars become de rigueur, because you are only halfway through the day.
One regular Weffer once said Davos was like being back at university: Learning all day, enjoying yourself all night. It’s a reasonable description.
As the formal daytime sessions of the WEF draw to a close, the “fun” begins. Things get more relaxed, delegates open up a little bit more. In my experience, this is the best time to get a word with the “masters of the universe” who make Davos their temporary home — with a glass in hand, or over a canape in one of the bewildering number of evening receptions.
Then — always the high point of the day — dinner. This can be quite a formal affair in one of the hotels of the town, or more impromptu — a chance meeting with a friend or contact that can lead to an evening over a fondue table or, as the Swiss seem to prefer, a big plate of full-blooded meat.
Post prandial, you might just feel like curling up in bed, but there is still the trek back through security rings to get the shuttle back to Klosters. Inevitably, you encounter other friends or contacts in the snowy streets, and have to take refuge in one of the many “nightcap” events. It is rare to get past the Belvedere Steinberger, the ground zero of Davos night-time relaxation, without being lured in.
By now, the cold, the altitude and the fatigue have well and truly kicked in. The conversation on the shuttle back to Klosters is distinctly muted, intermingled with the occasional snore. By the time you are dropped at your hotel or chalet, all you want is the warmth of your room and the luxurious duvet the Swiss make to perfection. After a few hours, it will start all over again.
As I said, I expect no sympathy.