*Monocle* and high-altitude cities

Edition Alpino, for this month's issue.  I had not known there was a periodical called Monocle and now I have a piece in it, next to the ads for fancy watches and articles geared toward the European elite.  (Given the business model of this periodical, I believe the piece will never be on-line.)  There is also an article "Radio: Four modern alternatives to Alpine horn blowing."  And "Monocle goes on snow patrol with the Federal Republic's Gebirgsjägerbrigade, the traditional Alpine troops with a very modern mission."  

My fun but not very scholarly bit asks why so many cities of the far north are so pleasant to travel to, the task the editors set me.  Doing the piece got me thinking why cold, high altitude cities such as La Paz and Kathmandu do not always offer the same virtues.

In high altitude cities it is harder to raise large herds of pack animals, cultivate broad agricultural plains, establish critical mass in terms of size, or trade with heighbouring regions.  There are also fewer sea connections.  If we look in Europe, the largest Swiss cities are near the plain rather than tucked into the Alps.

This may be historical accident, but two of the more successful high altitude cultures came in the New World, namely the Incas and the Aztec alliance.  Is that because domesticated animals were less important on this side of the Atlantic?  That tomatoes and potatoes and corn can do well or better at high altitudes?  In and near Tenochitlan of course, the Nahuas built their own extensive network of canals.


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