World's elite gathers for Davos 2014

'Excess' at Davos? Not so much for everyone

Cox on Davos
Cox on Davos

Most of the talk here at Davos focuses on what happens outside the doors of the actual World Economic Forum.

There's the hobnobbing, the kibitzing, the fabulous parties—all of the trappings that go with the annual tribute to decadence that accompanies the event.

I fear, though, that I spent too much time inside the forum.

While the beautiful people mingled and mixed, talking about their fabulous lives and all the good—or at least how well—they were doing, my inner wonk was calling loudly.

Davos, Switzerland
Justin Solomon | CNBC

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Instead of collecting invitations and business cards I was driven to attend academic discussions with riveting topics such as "Is Europe Back?" "The Reshaping of Japan: Global Consequences," and "Changing the Climate for Growth and Development."

Consequently, I missed some of the interactions necessary to be with the cool kids of Davos.

Where some of my news colleagues spoke of inboxes flooded with invitations to all sorts of wonderful parties, I mostly tagged along to the ones that would have me.

While I know full well somebody, somewhere was having Champagne and caviar or something else delectable, I ate way too many of the ubiquitous bologna sandwiches served here every day—the Swiss stuff is actually pretty good—and late-night pizza.

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For all its supposed glitz and glamour, Davos is in many respects sparse. The town itself is cute but really nothing extraordinary from what I could see—sort of like a more rustic version of New Hope, Pa. The streets are clumped with ice and snow, and the quaint cafes I expected were nowhere to be found—not like the posh ski resort portrayed in the media. (The Alps, of course, are God's imagination run wild.)

Many of us stay in tiny flats on the edge of town.

One panel moderator joked about being put up in a renovated version of "what Americans would call a nuthouse." A Chinese official said he was tempted to build a five-star hotel "so more Chinese would come." This official rued that it was an expensive trip to Davos "to sleep in a narrow bed."

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This nonglamorous side of Davos is what you don't see in all the fawning press reports.

"Daily Show" host Jon Stewart lit up the airwaves Thursday with a diatribe on how Davos is "an orgy of self-congratulatory excess."

He should have spent the last five days with me. He would have had a much different opinion.

—By Finance Editor Jeff Cox. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxCNBCcom.