“The Paths of Memory” by Marta Casanova (EL DIA 12 Nov 23)
Talg Family

“The Paths of Memory” by Marta Casanova (EL DIA 12 Nov 23)

Enrique Talg was an entrepreneur and a significant figure from Puerto de la Cruz, who advocated for hiking in the north and, among other things, designed the coastal trail.

This week, the World Travel Market took place in London, undoubtedly one of the most significant events in the international holiday tourism sector, featuring over 5,000 showcased destinations. In this context, the concept of sustainability was one of the most used terms to discuss the future of the industry. From both institutional and business perspectives, emphasizing the importance of environmental conservation to attract visitors who are increasingly sensitive to this issue is considered crucial. Nature and “locally sourced” gastronomy play a vital role in the island’s experiences today. But far from being a novelty, these advantages were already promoted several years ago.

For hiking enthusiasts, exploring our surroundings along the paths in the north of Tenerife was a guiding principle in the life of a significant figure from Puerto de la Cruz, closely connected to tourism and nature. Enrique Talg, the pioneer of hiking in the Valle de La Orotava, envisioned tourists returning home with memories of paved paths, the scent of damp forests, and the sea salt on their skin.

His interest in solidifying this experience led to the design of a series of hiking routes, including the yet-to-be-completed Sendero de la Costa. This trail stretches from the municipality of Santa Úrsula to San Juan de la Rambla and passes through three protected natural areas: Costa de Acentejo, Rambla de Castro, and Los Campeches-Tigaiga and Ruiz. Since then, some improvements have been made, such as the trail connecting the La Paz area with the Barranco de la Arena and El Bollullo Beach in La Orotava, but there is still much to explore.

Enrique Talg came to the island, guided by his father, Enrique Talg Schulz, who conveyed to him the possibilities of this activity as a complementary offering for the guests of his hotel. The Talg family’s efforts also served to raise awareness among the authorities for this sustainable initiative. The legacy of Enrique Talg lives on in the hiking trails, which not only lead through an impressive landscape but also serve as a tribute to a man who appreciated the beauty of nature and advocated for its sustainable development.

To promote hiking through the National Institute for Nature Conservation, the former Icona, Enrique Talg initiated the adaptation and signage of numerous paths in our mountains, supported at the time by Isidoro Sánchez. The historical signs with a yellow rhombus and the image of a girl were designed by Enrique Talg to guide visitors. “This idea came from the hikes we took during our vacations between Germany and Switzerland,” says Enrique Talg Reineke, emphasizing how his parents took him and his two sisters, Ursula and Irene, to hike in the mountains and spend quality time together as a family.

Enrique Talg continues to hope to complete the Sendero de la Costa, passionately advocated by his father. The trail is already in use, but its appearance is irregular, and in some places, it has almost disappeared. Instead of economic investment, what is needed is above all decisiveness and inter-municipal coordination. “Despite all the honors and awards my father received, he would have been truly happy if we could finally realize his idea,” says his son.

Hiking remains a significant attraction for our visitors, and there are increasingly more specialized companies offering hikes and walks in our mountains. In the time when Enrique Talg Wyss opened the Tigaiga Hotel, the situation was different. Enrique himself organized excursions with his clients and some hotel staff. His son remembers joining these nature excursions in the mountains of La Orotava in the 1970s. Nowadays, there is still interest in this activity, but the devastating fire last summer will make us wait a while before we can see the mountains again in their original state.

His commitment to sustainability made him ahead of his time. In 1982, the Tigaiga became the first hotel in the Canary Islands to install a solar thermal energy system. This decision has made it one of the most awarded hotels in terms of sustainability in the Canary Islands and one of the first in Spain to receive the EMAS register in 2002. This Community system for environmental management and auditing is a voluntary mechanism for companies and organizations that want to commit to assessing, managing, and improving their environmental performance. It imposes strict requirements involving both employees and external agents, also connected with the ISO 14001 standard.

Enrique Talg arrived in Tenerife as a young child. His father, involved in gastronomy and entrepreneurial spirit, decided to come to Tenerife in 1922 to manage the Quisisana Hotel in Santa Cruz. He combined this activity with services for the Peinador Hotel in Pontevedra and the administration of the Gran Hotel Taoro, which he managed until 1952, the year of the takeover by the Cabildo de Tenerife. During this time, Talg Schulz bought the land next to Taoro, where the Tigaiga Hotel stands today, to plant fruit trees and breed animals, as an additional leisure and entertainment offering, linked to the planned routes across the entire island. This entrepreneurial spirit was inherited by his son, Enrique Talg Wyss, who began working at the age of 16 at Reimers, a trading company on San Juan Street, before starting his career in gastronomy as an apprentice at the Taoro Hotel. Later, he gained experience in renowned establishments such as the Palace Hotel in Madrid before returning to his homeland. After leasing the Martiánez Hotel, he also worked as the deputy director of the Taoro Hotel under his father’s leadership.

Several years later, he built the Tigaiga Hotel, which opened in 1959. As a curious fact, the name of the establishment had to start with the letter T to use the cutlery with the initials H.T. from the Taoro Hotel, which his father received as payment when his contract with the Cabildo de Tenerife was terminated. In a short time, this hotel became a benchmark for excellence in dealing with tourists. This principle continues to this day, with a differentiated and family-oriented service also offered to those who regularly visit the Tinguaro restaurant.

With 80 rooms, the Tigaiga moves away from the all-inclusive offerings of large hotel complexes. As the current owner explains, “We try to follow in our father’s footsteps.” “My sister and I, responsible for its management, want visitors to feel comfortable and, above all, enjoy the experiences the island offers, whether gastronomic, cultural, or recreational. We want our guests to get to know the island and fall in love with it, with its hiking trails, its coast, its landscape, its cuisine. That’s what made my father a special and approachable hotelier who never felt like a foreigner and liked to visit guachinches to then recommend them to customers.”

If the figure of Enrique Talg is interesting for the values he instilled, no less important is that of his wife, Gisela Reineke, a pediatrician who could never practice in Tenerife as she could not validate her title. Her passion for botany led her to redesign the gardens of the hotel, which are still maintained today. She created a botanical guide in different languages to hand to her clients, showcasing the varieties of subtropical plants in the hotel gardens. She worked until her last days alongside her husband with the same love for the adopted land.

Enrique Talg was also aware of the needs of the municipality and the risks that, in his view, the sector faced with an excessive increase in his time. He expressed this view publicly in 1966 with an initiative he presented to the City Council for the construction of an auditorium for national and international congresses. He was one of the first to speak about a moratorium, emphasizing the need to limit the construction of new hotels. An article by historian Nicolás Lemus about the Talg family includes verbatim another letter he submitted to the president of the Centro de Iniciativas y Turismo, in which he makes the following request, which would be relevant today:

“That a commission be appointed, consisting, among others, of members of the Living Forces of this city, with tourist experience, economists, scientific experts in tourism, national and foreign, landscape architects and other professionals deemed appropriate to report on the possibility of immediately stopping new hotel and non-hotel constructions for two or three years to allow time for an equalization of our tourist infrastructure. That construction companies, with their personnel, invest in such infrastructure to make Puerto de la Cruz a true International Tourism Center, not only in name but also in quality. That the construction of social housing and vocational training be accelerated. That in this city, its uniqueness be restored, its tranquility, that parks with cheerful flowers be created, that tourist walks without cars be made, and that cultural and recreational events be organized regularly. That the non-compliance with the above and, therefore, considered ineffective and rejected for execution, will cause, in the modest opinion of the undersigned, short-term damages, now that an offer of beds is hinted at, exceeding the demand. That the proposed study be sent, as soon as possible, to the competent authorities of higher representation. That in case of creating the Commission I refer to and to cope with the first expenses, I contribute, as a first installment, the amount of 25,000 pesetas. That the above be recorded in the minutes. I hope to have more luck and support with this motion than with the one I made to the Hon. City Council of this city on August 20, 1966, in similar terms. Thank you very much. Signed: Enrique Talg.”

As I take a lemonade cup with the usual care, Enrique talks about the luck of having a generous father with an open mind to adapt to changes, who did not hesitate to pass the baton to his children, who accepted the challenge with the responsibility of living up to a father like him.

“Encomiable labor” (Commendable Work) Enrique Talg passed away on September 27, 2006, at the age of 82, as he prepared to receive an award on World Tourism Day. A bust in Parque de Taoro commemorates his figure with the inscription: “The Hon. Cabildo of Tenerife, to Enrique Talg Wyss 1924-2006. For his commendable work in favor of tourism and the environment, and for his love and commitment to Tenerife. Puerto de la Cruz, 18-2-2008. Author: Felipe Hodgson Ravina.”

I pick up my notebook and leave the hotel, imagining this good-natured man with a German appearance and a Canarian heart wandering through the park gardens and supervising the restoration work at the Taoro Hotel, now a skeleton of what it once was, finally rising to rescue ghosts from another era that will also be discussed, without losing direction.

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