Friendships for life
Visitors to Gstaad have a lot to say when talking about the happy times and the warm hospitality they enjoy. Why though? Is life more relaxed up here? Or does the human heart beat faster here than elsewhere? To find answers, we asked some of our guests and their hosts if they could tell us more.
"We're lucky in that so much has been bestowed upon us here. The natural environment, the traditions, the tranquility and the prosperity. And hence we would like to share some of this with others." Elisabeth worked as a hostess for many years and managed a hotel with her husband. She still accompanies hotel guests when they go hiking. "Yes, many of our guests have discovered a whole new world for themselves here. And they have made new friends too
Back then, Elisabeth first had to discover Saanenland for herself. "Yes I do come from the Swiss lowlands. But the people here made things easy for me. It is not for nothing that people say that the valley here is broad and open – for so too are the people." What are the people like here? "They are down to earth and proud, but they have a sense of humour too. In winter, many of our farmers work as ski instructors for our visitors. This has resulted in some great friendships being formed. And in the process our visitors learn about everyday life here in the mountains – and we learn about the world that our guests come from. This creates connections that in many cases have been maintained for generations."
No one has more stories to tell than does Ermengildo Bocchini. But as maître d'hôtel at the Gstaad Palace, he displays all the discretion and restraint common to his profession. He has been managing service staff at this world-renowned hotel for the past 44 years. "I knew the grandparents, and now I know the parents and the children. Gstaad has almost become a part of the family tradition for many people." In his little black book, Gildo, as he is known by his close friends, jots down the preferences and special wishes of his regular guests; doing this is also part of the local tradition of care. Gildo was only 22 when he first came to the Gstaad region – and he never really left: "It’s been a lifelong friendship, so to speak."
"It is not for nothing that people say that the valley here is broad and open – for so too are the people."
Elisabeth von Siebenthal
Start asking around the holidaymakers and you will hear no end of family stories. "My grandparents used to come here. And my parents met here. There has just got to be something about this place", Dominic Will told us. And that is precisely the reason why he has been coming back every year: "I don’t often treat myself to a holiday but, when I do, I really want to have a good time. In Gstaad I know I will. I just love the people, the scenery and the atmosphere here. I have so many fond memories of Gstaad and of the region. And whenever I come here they always come back to life."
Gstaad’s blend of past and present is not only due to its distance from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is also due to the foresight of the locals, who take the trouble to keep this region and its customs intact. We spoke to Calixte Stamp who told us how wonderful it was that everything in the region still had such a rustic feel to it. She, too, has had a "multi-generational affair" with Gstaad. She came to the region as a child and was around to experience the Gstaad of the 1970’s when on holiday with her husband, Chris, the discoverer and manager of "The Who". She still visits this mountain paradise every year.
She loves the "bastions of continuity", which is what she calls the Post-hotel Rossli, the Bergrestaurant Eggli, the Palace and Charly's Tea Room. Each time she returns to Gstaad there are many hugs for her, and a reunion with her friends and with this "treasure".
"I have so many fond memories of Gstaad and of the region. And whenever I come here they always come back to life."
While some visitors are thoroughly familiar with Gstaad, there are others who are just discovering this destination for the first time. This includes the Barraud-Vial family from Lausanne. "We have already booked again. This was because we had so much fun during our last two holidays in Gstaad." Carole Barraud-Vial and her family of five don’t only love the charm of the old chalet villages, but also the variety of options in the hiking and sking area. "There is so much to see and do here." It was actually quite by accident that they discovered the region of Gstaad: "Our au pair girl came from Saanenland. And she kept going on and on about what a wonderful place it was."
People who rave on about Gstaad usually always talk about their personal experiences: "When the train is coming into Gstaad, there is this last big bend in the line before you come to the station. You can see the green fields, and the village and the Alps behind it. Then my heart starts to sing." Petra Aschwanden knows a bit about mountains. She was born in Central Switzerland. "In Gstaad the landscape is more open – and so are the people also." This leisure-time beach volleyball player originally came here for the Gstaad Major, the FIVB beach volleyball tournament. Since then she has enjoyed making many return visits to the Saanenland and says that each time she comes it is "so welcoming and relaxed, so traditional and yet so open, and that is why it is so special."