»Here,« my father said, and he gave me a small ivory flute. »Take this, and don't forget your old father when you entertain people in distant countries with your music. It's high time you saw the world and learned something.«
Thus wrote Hermann Hesse in 1912, during his stay at the Belvedere.
Grandfather's dream came true, and we are still living it to this day!
Back then my grandfather Johann was living as a poor farmer son in the Bernese Seeland region of Switzerland, earning his daily bread as a seasonal worker in the tourist trade: in Egypt during the winter and in Interlaken during the summer. Wanting to settle, he was faced with the choice of emigrating to Egypt or remaining in Switzerland.
Before he returned to Cairo, he and some friends crossed the Alps from the Ticino to Grindelwald. When he arrived at First, he wrote in the alpine hut's visitors' book about the decision facing him. And as soon as he looked down on Grindelwald from First and took in the breathtaking panorama, he made his choice: »This is where I belong!«
So it was that, in the as-yet undeveloped valley of Grindelwald, he came to choose our unique and sun-kissed location which overlooks the entire valley yet stands at the gateway to the village centre. My grandfather named his hotel the «Belvedere», which means «beautiful view». This laid the foundation stone for our family tradition and motto «Hoteliers since 1904».
With his four sisters and his brother helping out in the hotel, business got off to a successful start. At that time the hotel played host to guests throughout the summer. It's worth remembering that travelling back then was much more arduous than nowadays.
The crises of the World Wars
However, the two World Wars soon ushered in hard times for our family. Guests stayed away and my grandparents were obliged to turn the hotel into a military hospital. After the end of the Second World War, the Hotel Credit Commission dealt another blow, when it assessed the hotel and declared it a total economic loss. My father Fritz, who had been living for several years in London, returned to Grindelwald declaring, »My father's inheritance mustn't end this way!«
It was only thanks to the outstanding teamwork and untiring efforts of all members of the family and staff that the hotel was able to re-open and once more live up to my grandfather's original ideas. That was when my father took over the running of the hotel from his parents, aided by my mother Elsi and my three aunts Rosi, Elsie and Cécile.
Carrying on the tradition
Thanks above all to my mother's natural warmth and hospitality, we attracted many guests from Europe and the USA. These visitors were, of course, also won over by the hotel's spectacular backdrop and became both regular guests and friends of the family.
Today, 110 years later, my wife Sylvia and myself, my children Philip and Carole and my sister Susanne, are the third generation to keep my grandfather's dream alive and carry on his values and traditions. Much has changed since then, but some things remain the same: We still welcome nature-loving guests from all over the world.
And of one thing I am sure: »This wonderful natural landscape must be preserved for future generations.«