Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
*Davos. Swiss resort area that includes a lake and the enclaves Davos-Dorf and Davos-Platz in the river valley, all places that the characters frequent and that constitute the view from the sanatorium, high on the mountain. As was true historically, Davos in the novel is a playground for the idle rich at the turn of the twentieth century. Stylishly dressed people wile away their leisure with outdoor band music, shopping in elegant stores, going to the movies (a new entertainment in those days), or winter sports. In view of World War I, which thunders into the novel at its close, these people and their pastimes look irresponsible or shallow. The more profound experiences of Castorp take place in the mountain wilderness or in the solitude of his room at the sanatorium.
Dining room. Cheerful room in the sanatorium with bands of color on the vaulted walls, brass chandeliers, and glass doors. Sanatorium guests look forward to mealtime, where they socialize at their seven tables and enjoy countless delicacies described in detail and consumed lovingly throughout the novel. This room is also the scene of Dr. Krokowski’s evening lecture series on topics such as love as a cause of illness or sexual drives and the reasons these may be inhibited. Polite dining involves sensual enjoyment which is at the same time kept in check by various restraints of table manners. The conflict between social propriety and elemental needs is important in the novel and is developed in dining-room scenes.
Snow. An important chapter is devoted to Castorp’s solitary excursion on skis into the mountains, where he is surprised by a snowstorm. The driving snow makes him unable to distinguish the land from the sky and causes him to lose his sense of direction; the cold exhausts and numbs him. He fears he will be found dead the next morning. The extremity of this setting, which is disorienting morally and metaphysically as well as physically, forces Castorp to contemplate the meaning of life and death. The vision he has as he leans against a locked barn, trying to shelter himself from the storm, contrasts completely with his real surroundings. He experiences an archetypal sunny Greek landscape with a classical temple and serene people. In the inner sanctum of the temple, however, is a terrifying scene of cannibalism, which hints at the hidden side of civilized life.
*Flüela Valley. Valley containing a powerful waterfall along the Flüela River, not far from Davos, that is the goal of a picnic excursion led by Mynheer Peeperkorn. The forest on the way, which contains exotic hanging moss and parasitic plants that make the trees seem diseased, echoes the novel’s general fascination with illness. While the deafening thunder of the falls makes all speech comically inaudible, the scene also points to the possible profundity of things beyond that which language can express. When Peeperkorn, obviously drunk, raises his cup in a speech drowned out by the waterfall, he resembles a pagan holy man celebrating life. He enjoys the rapt attention of the group as they eat.