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No. 52, September 2004
Deutsche Ausgabe  Archiv  Kunst  Film  Musik  Geschichte  Politik  Lebensart  Reisen
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© Copyright 2004  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.

Grandhotel Giessbach
The hotel in 3855 Brienz, Switzerland
. Book your hotel in Switzerland online.
Article by Jacqueline Perry-Strickland, travel photojournalist, added on September 27, 2004

The route of St James, crossing Germany, Switzerland, France and ending in Santiago de Compostela in Spain has long carried pilgrims across the length of Europe. Through Switzerland there are two routes, one sweeping north through Lucerne, the other wending south through the Bernese Oberland. Along Jakobsweg, as the route is known in Switzerland, I made a pilgrimage of my own sort – to a bygone era.
 
Jakobsweg takes you to the 500-metre high Giessbach falls and departing slightly from the track you come across the Grandhotel Giessbach overlooking Lake Brienz. This majestic edifice in the heart of Switzerland is a reminder of days of yore when hotels were statements and not functional concrete towers.
 
Nestled in the rising mountains, Giessbach sits in harmony with the surrounding meadows and forest. Upon arrival, relaxation greets you as you breathe the crisp alpine air, take in the sweeping vista of the turquoise lake, and hear the tumbling sounds of the nearby cascades.
 
Grandhotel Giessbach’s history dates back to 1832 when it started life as a small hotel-restaurant, “Gasthaus Giessbach”, and served visitors coming to admire the waterfall. Subsequently it changed hands three times with each new owner pulling it down to construct a grander hotel.
 
In the 1870s the Hauser family took over and constructed the palatial five-storey hotel we recognise today. Giessbach then entered its golden era, frequented by royalty and aristocrats, statesmen and business tycoons, industrialists and financiers.
 
Philosophers came to contemplate. Poets came to wax lyrical. Artists came seeking to capture its essence. Others came just to languish in the verdant surrounds – as we do today.
 
When threatened with demolition in the late 1970s after a long period of unfortunate neglect, friends and admirers banded together to find a saviour for the “Dream Castle by Lake Brienz”. This saviour came in the form of the Swiss environmentalist campaigner, Franz Weber, together with his wife Judith, and his environmental protection organisation, “Helvetia Nostra”.
 
With the help of funds from his fellow countrymen and an interest-free mortgage from the town of Brienz and the Canton of Berne, Weber managed to buy the whole property. He then set about founding a shareholder’s company to finance the restoration of Giessbach to its former glory.
 
Its splendid renaissance complete, doors re-opened in 1984. Chandeliers, oil paintings and antiques abound keeping alive the hotel’s old-world charm.
 
Open from April to October, Giessbach tantalises guests of all ages with its season of social and cultural events.  Balls, concerts and exhibitions are constantly held creating an ambience of evening gaiety.
 
Set on a 22-hectare estate, Giessbach offers 70 rooms and suites along with ballrooms, conference rooms and banquet rooms.  Step outside to the gardens and terraces and let the children loose in the playground while you take a dip in the open-air swimming pool or play a spot of tennis.  Dogs are also welcome and a small surcharge gets them a spot in your room and a doggie bowl.
 
In the two restaurants Franz Weber’s environmentalist sensibilities are felt.  The fish comes from local lakes; the meat from animals raised and killed humanely; and, for ethical reasons, no frog legs, foie gras or caviar is served.

Languish over dinner, an astronomical delight, before sampling the buffet of desserts and cheeses.  Pleasantly sated you can now repair to the parlour to sip cognac by the fire or browse through books in the library.  When sleeps calls your lullaby will be the sound of the ever-gushing falls.
 
Enamoured with the cascades, my travel companion, Heinrich, sat outside with watercolours trying to capture their majesty for posterity, much like the Swiss master painters of yore.
 
The ‘Kunstverlag Brienz’ houses these paintings, Brienz being accessible by foot or funicular then ferry. To continue the olde worlde theme, take Europe’s oldest funicular railway down from Giessbach and then hop on board the Lötschberg steamboat for a trip across Lake Brienz.
 
A short bus ride from Brienz is the ‘Ballenberg Open-Air Museum’. It offers a showcase of Swiss architecture and crafts in its collection of well-preserved traditional houses from all over Switzerland – much like the Grandhotel Giessbach offers a showcase of history, grandeur and time-honoured splendour.

Book your hotel in Switzerland online.




View of the hotel. Photo © Jacqueline Perry-Strickland.

Grandhotel Giessbach, Brienz, Switzerland. Photo © Jacqueline Perry-Strickland.


The lobby. Photo © Jacqueline Perry-Strickland.


The reception.
Photo © Jacqueline Perry-Strickland.




Giessbach Falls. Photo © Jacqueline Perry-Strickland.

www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 52, September 2004
Deutsche Ausgabe  Archiv  Kunst  Film  Musik  Geschichte  Politik  Lebensart  Reisen
English edition  Archives  Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  Lifestyle  Travel

© Copyright 2004  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.