Overdevelopment of and within the European Alps is nothing new, and by my definition is the excessively intense building of any edifice(s) and infrastructure common to mountainous regions that impacts upon their aesthetic beauty and undermines the very reason they are visited. These may be sympathetically designed and sited or their antithesis, quite simply through shoehorning onto land an excessive number of units or disproportionately large single edifice that do not harmonise with the existing built environment, the immediate and ‘as far as the eye can see’ natural surroundings. This may be an example of being in the eye of the beholder and therefore subjective, but there is a fine line between wanting the infrastructure to stay in and benefiting from cableways that whisk patrons expeditiously up mountains, whilst all the while the very reason for visited is being undermined by a profusion of man-made structures.

Anyone who knows Obergurgl will be aware that it is relatively intensively developed in the various pockets of the village where hotels are predominantly sited. I presume there is an element of zoning, insomuch that groups of hotels have a certain area to expand, both within their own curtilage as well as any adjacent land acquired for the same purpose. The local topography obviously restricts where anything can be built, but sadly there are some rather gaudy examples of overnight accommodation that must have sneaked through various planning committees almost or completely unnoticed. I have also encountered hotels, particularly on the hill close to the Alpenland, where for all intents and purposes opening a window wide in one hotel might result in the denting of another. There is definitely an unashamed desire to extract as much as possible from one’s own land and the fresh air above it but when neighbouring properties are all of the same mind, for somewhere otherwise so remote and wild it can momentarily feel claustrophobic and depressingly cynical. The issue is not just with squeezing more onto finite land, but also a lack of charm from the exteriors of builds that at times seem to forget where they are.

It has recently come to my attention that a dairy located within the boundary of Obergurgl but just off centre has been damaged by excavation works on an adjacent hotel, the Alpenblume. Both the dairy and hotel are established businesses and therefore presumably have previously harmoniously coexisted. The hotel’s Hungarian owners are I assume expanding the Alpenblume, as blasting work which rendered the dairy’s cheese stock inedible isn’t usually associated with merely renovating and/or modernising what is in situ. It is therefore presumed that expansion within the hotel’s curtilage is taking place, with perhaps underground/basement work resulting in so much damage to the adjacent property, and in particular its material livelihood.

It is not just ‘what the eye can see’ above ground that is damaged by overly intensive development. Is what is happening or has occurred at the Alpenblume a result of human error; was the dairy checked prior to work commencing that it could withstand what was about to take place in its vicinity, or was it unaware of developments until it was too late? The cause is without question, but from the Alpenblume’s perspective could it have been avoided? What else that can also be concluded without argument is that the ancient art of cheese making within a dairy/agricultural setting has within its natural habitat had the modern world brought to its door, to devastating effect.

Wherein lies the priorities of settlements like Obergurgl? It isn’t, after all, a similar setting to its glitzy and arguably vulgar at valley level cousin Soelden. Hochgurgl, the nearby artificial tourism construct is in terms of ethos something of a halfway house between the two. If Obergurgl wants to simply become a village that is dominated by hotels, many of which are closed during the summer months, then this will inevitably in time push out traditional industry built on generations of hard work in an at times very hostile environment. Coexistence between traditional Tirolean and Oetztal-based practices and a tourism industry that all of a sudden made a lot of people very rich is the only solution, but without any parameters in which such a balance is struck, how will either party really know where it stands?

There’s money in them there hills, but how far will alpine areas go to chase it before their souls have finally been eradicated?

Further information: https://www.versicherungsjournal.at/versicherungen-und-finanzen/schaeden-nach-sprengung-streit-um-versicherungsentschaedigung-22382.php

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