At least a considerable part of Switzerland’s wealth, in the form of gold, at least, was hidden in bunkers under Gstaad Palace during WWII. No, it has long since been taken away, legitimately – but there are still so many reasons for heading for this 100-room Swiss gem.
History lesson first. In 1913 someone, said to be a school teacher, thought that if there were so many ‘palaces’ around Swiss lakes why not build one here, at 1,050 metres ASL in the mountains? He partnered with a china manufacturer of bathroom basins and the chamber pots that hotels needed in those days, and the hotel flourished. The current boss is Andrea Scherz, whose grandparents, neither of whom were hoteliers, bought the property just before that gold was secreted.
Along the way additions came on the scene. During its winter opening the hotel naturally has any snow-and-ice sport you might want, and at night a ceiling-hung platform above the indoor pool is lowered to form GreenGo’s nocturnal dance platform. Summer-long, as well as hiking and biking, and revelling in the outdoor pool, head a little further ahead to hear cowbells, and perhaps take a 20-minute ride to experience the Walig Hut.
High above the treeline, the Walig Hut is 1786-vintage alpine authenticity, a wood cabin surrounded by pasture. You have electricity, and satisfactory plumbing and connectivity, and masses of rugs for warmth. I took a hotel car, 20 minutes one way, for an evening picnic, cold cuts and bowls formed of baked pastry filled with hot vegetable soup, and a Ticino red. Others stay over: apparently one London-based tycoon flies in regularly by private jet, arrive at Saanen and straight here without visiting the main hotel.
Well I would not miss staying in the hotel itself. I really like room 609, where the bathroom takes up most of one of the eight-floor building’s corner turrets. There was just space for a television at the foot of the power-jet tub but I preferred looking out, and down at the alpine scenes: bathing was, indeed, somewhat exotic, thanks to the red lights in the ceiling above that apparently had somewhat aroused a visiting Hollywood actor who had best remain anonymous.
It is difficult to sustain invisible status here as Gstaad is something of a close-knit village, complete with such global brands as De Grisogono, for jewellery, and Ralph Lauren for fashion. And being driven down to the station, all of seven minutes, in a bright yellow 1952-vintage Silver Wraith Rolls Royce was anything but anonymous – Andreas Scherz, by the way, admits that apart from the hotel and his family, his great passion is old cars.