Otto Hauser is a man who knows what good service is. He and his wife Anneliese have been running the Schweizerhof hotel in Grindelwald, Switzerland, for decades. As a testament to their talents, many guests become regulars and friends.
Otto illustrates his point with a story: a certain guest came to his hotel for decades with his wife until she sadly passed away. Afterwards, when he returned for the first time in two years, he was greeted as family and given his old room (although not his old wooden skis, which had been thrown out between the wars).
Two years later it was in Grindelwald that this guest met a lady who was to become his partner for the rest of his life. He was then 85, and had another happy ten years with her before he passed away last year.
Tales like this make you believe that a hotel can have character, and not just the kind of ‘character’ which is so prevalent in every boutique hotel in the south east of England. The place has a genuine heart.
But Mr Hauser is not only a very good hotelier, he also a rather skilled businessman, and he is currently developing some of his land into top of the range chalets in the heart of the Swiss Alps to cater for those who want more than just a fortnight long stay.
The setting is perfect for anyone who loves the Swiss Alps: Grindelwald is a charming place. Warm and sunny in summer, and fiercely snowy in the winter, it has links back to the UK ever since pioneering English Alp skiers were stunned by the fearsome Eiger and Jungfraujoch towering over the village. Ever since, discerning visitors from the UK have been coming to Grindelwald for walking, skiing and clearing the head.
Coleridge was impressed by the purity of the air and the majesty of the mountains, and you can understand why: the whole place embodies the Romantic ideal of the sublime.
The town is small and personable. There were 4000 hotel beds in the 1960s, and there are still 4000 today. All but two of the hotels are family run, which means that the whole area has managed to retain the feel of a village, as opposed to certain French resorts which can feel more like a bustling mini city rather than the quaint Alpine towns they once were.
The skiing is good, and one can happily potter around as a novice, or do some more serious stuff up at the top on one of the glaciers. Grindelwald also boasts the longest toboggan run in Europe, a pleasure not for the fainthearted, but which affords some truly spectacular views.
But the town is not, as one might think, just a winter resort it but a fully functioning community. Cows return to the mountains after the snow melts, and dairy farming gets underway. Summer affords some of its largest (as such) crowds, and there is plenty to do, from some excellent hillwalking, to wine tasting in caves on the slopes of the Valais.
Tourism has been slow but steady for decades, and the majority of people visiting and buying property in Grindelwald are Swiss. According to Otto the English traditionally make up about 10% of the mix; in other words, if you want to avoid your fellow countrymen then you might be in the wrong place, but if a friendly English-speaking place is what you require, then you need look no further.
|English make up around 10% of the tourists in Grindelwald|
Otto’s project is to build houses which are going to ensure that the owners need not worry about a thing. Serviced homes have been growing in popularity for some time now, and this project is intended to provide a five star service.
Eight chalets are to be built in the area behind the hotel with an underground car park, and furnicular up to the residences, which will be available from the end of the year in 2007. They can come fully furnished, with a choice of styles: country, chalet, and modern, although if you choose you can furnish the interior yourself. All chalets come with fitted carpets and fittings which you can choose, as well as fully appointed kitchen and bathrooms.
|The chalets will be built in a bespoke manner|
They are to be built in the traditional Swiss style, and to their owners’ specifications, with 3% of payment put down after initial conversation, 30% when the sale is agreed, 30% when the roof goes on, and the rest when you get the keys.
Prices start at around 1 million Swiss Francs (£500,000), and go up to around 3.1 million, depending on the interior and the level of service you require. If you choose, Otto’s people can do all the bill-paying, and administration from Switzerland, but if you would rather handle all this yourself, of course you can.
He also has tax experts on hand to explain the detail. People make much of the fact that inheritance tax is non existent in Switzerland, and different arrangements can be made depending on your residence status and requirements. This is an unique arrangement, even down to the fact that you get two hours with the site architect to talk about your requirements for the house.
Grindelwald is an hour’s drive from Bern airport (London City is 1hr 40 from there), and the hotel can arrange to pick you up on arrival if you haven’t the energy for the drive.
When at your chalet all the features of the hotel will be at your disposal, from the swimming pool and sauna to the excellent restaurant, or alternatively you can have your meals delivered to your chalet via a hot box, or, if you’re feeling industrious, cook.
Otto and Anneliese appear to have thought of everything, from arrival into Bern, to the nuts and bolts of paying the Bills, and amazingly Otto is willing to enter into discussions on almost any aspect of the project. We shall see how long he can keep this up but this is his first such development, so catch him while he’s still willing to listen.
Privacy and security are of huge importance to the people in this area, and soemthing of which they are proud. If what you want is a relaxed atmosphere where everybody is left to go about their business as they please, Switzerland is undoubtedly the place to go.
So if you have been considering buying a second home in this beautiful country, then it might be well worth taking a look, and maybe you will be the star one of Otto’s next stories. Who knows?
For more information on the development, or just to see a brochure, please contact Beat Hartmann on +44 (0)1845 597 795, or visit www.hartmannsingleton.com.
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