The dream

Alexandros Yannis

Life is never really a still-life picture, an abstract image, a post-card. It is always an experience, a combination of what you see with what you feel, most often a unique moment never to be experienced again the same way. Vigilius is the same. The funicular, the hotel, the church, let alone the mountains, the snow, the grass or the pine trees acquire their full meaning only through the particular experience of each visit. Reality is very personal.

Our first visit to the hotel some years ago was about recovering from a medical operation, the second was about celebrating an anniversary, the third, more recently, about overcoming a ski accident. The first time the snow had a healing power, the second, the power to charm, the third a power to master. The mountains the same. The first time, a soothing force. The second, a playful one. And the third, a force to reckon with.

And if reality is personal, imagination cannot be anything else. From the first, Vigilius has stimulated our imagination, stretched our fantasies and unlocked wild dreams. Each time at Vigilius, the same fantasy pops up. Whenever we arrive at the top of the funicular on a snowy winter day, our imagination is set alight.

This is the last cabin to arrive up here. The enveloping fog makes orientation difficult and escape impossible. Snow keeps falling thick. The wind slaps you on the face. Images of castaways, lost explorers and wandering souls flash in our mind.

Step inside, and the weather only worsens, communication with the outside world is severed and prospects for a safe return home become less likely than we normally assume when we set out to conquer new territories. What early travelers, explorers and adventurers might have always felt. The snow turns from friend to foe, the pine trees from silent figures to shadowy monsters and the mountains to mighty giants. The hotel turns to a refuge and a cage at the same time. And life changes course.

Without links to the rest of the world, our electronic gadgets become soulless. Their silence heightens our sense of vulnerability. Our credit cards and social status become useless. Stark reminders of the pretentious superficiality of much of our lives. Our plans for the future become parochial. Reminders of the fragility of life. Surviving this apocalyptic mega-storm becomes our only thought. So much else melts away.

The personnel and guests gather to assess the situation, consider options and plot escapes. The cards are redistributed. New lines of authority are created. A new community is born. Like castaways who have to start from scratch on their Pacific Ocean prison-islands. Like the post-revolutionary communities which have to construct new social contracts. Like the early explorers and colonists who had to start virtually from nothing.

Some see this as the end of the world. Others, as the beginning of a new one. Everybody is scared. But where some see only risks, others see opportunities. The Heraclitus’ aphorism ‘?a?ta ?e?’ which adorns the entrance of the spa area feels like a Damoclean sword for some, while for others, it is a refreshing hope for renewal.

And the news spread fast. We are cut-off for good. The world around us has ceased to exist. Vigilius somehow miraculously escaped the cataclysm like an island mountain, a natural arc, a time and space capsule. And now we must start all over again. Some are still agonising over the past, others feel liberated celebrating the new dawn, while others have already plunged headlong into plotting the future.
Some start by changing names. Others change partners. Others their clothes. Vigilius has become the end and the beginning of the world. The dream goes on. Each time the same story. Only the people are different.
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