Switzerland has long held an attraction for us, with a promise made every year that now it was high time to enjoy the scenic beauty of its mountains and lakes. Travelling frequently to Geneva this promise however has not been honoured until recently when we found time to visit Vitznau, a small town in an idyllic bay of Lake Lucerne at the foot of the Rigi mountain. This holiday resort in central C is a popular starting point for numerous excursions around the lake and up the famous mountain.
Due to its popularity as a tourist destination towards the end of the 19 century, not least among the English, hotelier Josef Anton Bon from Ragaz chose Vitznau for his luxury hotel. In an idyllic setting on the shores of Lake Lucerne, not far from the legendary Rütli meadow, the location seemed perfect to this forward thinking entrepreneur. Bon must have recognised that in this golden age of tourism, a modern luxury hotel on the lake shore was just what was needed.
In spring 1903, after around three years of building work, the Park Hotel was opened and served its guest for a century until there was time for a fresh entrepreneurial spirit to transform this majestic house into something extremely rare. In spring 2009, the hotel was taken over by Park Hotel Vitznau AG and closed in order to carry out the planned renovations, opening its doors again in 2013.
As we approached Vitznau in one of Lake Lucerne’s historical steamboats, with traces of almost mystical fog sweeping the mountain, we saw this majestic, palatial building for the first time, eager to discover what the meticulous restoration work had produced. We were soon to realise, that the outcome exceeded every expectation, where much care had been taken to honour the original accomplishment of architect Karl Gottlieb Koller, with unusual attention to cultural connotations, paying tribute to the past and present.
One of these tributes we found in the suite in which we were privileged to stay, the Sharpe Junior Suite, named after William F. Sharpe who developed the performance measurement ratio known as the Sharpe Ratio, which measures a risk versus reward ratio when investing capital. As a result, W. Sharpe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1990. Here every comfort is at hand with breath taking views over the lake from the arc sheltered balcony alongside the whole suite. In fact the whole floor is dedicated to achievements in the field of finance in the same way the floors below portray aspects of excellence in wine production and dining. The individual and creative styles of the rooms are a testament to the meticulous effort the interior designers have put into their work.
The following morning the sun was out glittering on the impeccable lawns by the lakeside. Ahead were three glorious days in complete relaxation, taking advantage of a spa that defies description, both in design and atmosphere, and two Michelin starred restaurants in the hotel, PRISMA and Restaurant focus, where head chef Nenad Mlinarevic’s culinary skills reflect a very nature oriented philosophy of its design.
However tempting it was to succumb to the leisure and pleasure of staying at the site of the hotel we in turn managed to explore the vicinity, jogging along the lakeshore, spending a day in the mountains transported to panoramic heights by the Vitznau-Rigi Railway, Europe’s first cogwheel railway, and enjoying an evening of classical music making of the highest calibre in Lucerne across the lake where the famous Lucerne Festival was taking place. Last but not least we found ourselves relishing in the simple pleasures of the village of Vitznau and its people, attending a performance of folklore music making and dancing.
When leaving, observing this idyllic place again from our graceful steamboat heading for Lucerne, now in crisp early afternoon sunlight, we realised that this had been an experience like no other. What made this even more evident than the quality of the living quarters and the food, with unique attention to detail and excellence, was the fact that within the walls of Park Hotel Vitznau you will find dedication to culture and art most pleasantly and unexpectedly revealed in the Verlinde Gallery with its 12 meter long and 6 meter high surrealist painting by the celebrated french painter Claude Verlinde and a 16 stop Rieger organ, reminding us of the close links between the hotel proprietors to the cultural scene in Austria. This dimension of the hotel along with the research into neurological rehabilitation carried out there, to the benefit of society, makes this hotel a very special and memorable destination for any traveller. We could not have wished for a better place to stay for our taste of Switzerland.
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