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Schweizerhof: 170 years of luxury
One of the most famous Swiss hotels - Schweizerhof opens its doors to Bulgarian cuisine. The five-star hotel on the shores of Lake Lucerne will meet in Week of Bulgarian cuisine from 22 to 30 November this year. The event will be presenting traditional Bulgarian dishes and wines that will remain on the menu of the hotel three months after the end of the event. This will give the guests of the restaurant a chance to get acquainted with the native cuisine. But only if we get to know the hotel and its guests more closely can we understand how great a vocation has our country recieved.
For some people, the hotel is better known in the literary term, rather than as a tourist destination. In the story "Lucerne" by Leo Tolstoy in 1857, from his room in Schweizerhof Tolstoy describes the hotel as a place where the richest people are staying. Later, Richard Wagner also finds inspiration in the hotel room and wrote the third act of the opera "Tristan and Isolde" (1859). Among the big names in international art worth mentioning is also Mark Twain, who in 1897 finished the travel notes on "A Tramp Abroad," while also staying at the hotel. Schweizerhof has been visited by many celebrities such as General Dufour and the first King of Belgium, Leopold I.
Upon entering the hotel we involuntary pass by "The Prince of Rome" Francesco Totti, who is on a short visit to Lucerne and is staying at the renowned hotel. To understand more about the history of Schweizerhof and its modern management we meet in the hotel lobby with Roman Omlin, director of "Marketing and Sales". The main hotel building was constructed in 1845 by the Segesser brothers - Xavier and Josef Plazidus. Ten years later, the construction of the east and west wing are completed. "This is the first hotel in Lucerne on the lake and one of the first in the city as a whole", said Omlin. Along with all these memorable dates since the existences of the hotel in its present form the most important is 1861, when Hauser brothers - Gottfried, Albert and Adolph acquire the hotel. To this day, the descendants of brothers Hauser run the hotel, as currently headed is the fifth generation of the family. Although there are many hotels Schweizerhof in Switzerland, Germany and Austria, all of them are completely independent from each other. "What all hotels Schweizerhof have common is that they are all very old - most were built in the 19th century, at a very good location and all are privately owned. We keep in touch with others, but are independent from each other."
Hotel for locals
Owners are now brothers Michael and Patrick Hauser. "Their offices are located in the hotel, and one of them (Michael) is president of the local football club (FC Luzern 1901, where the Bulgarian Dimitar Rangelov plays - author's note). So they are both well known to the public", says Omlin. Despite the international fame of the hotel, the brothers Hauser kept very good relations with the locals. "When they led a hotel in 1999 they were young - between 30 and 40 years. Their goal was to open the hotel for locals and the fact that are well known in the community, gives them a prerequisite to do so. "One of the most important decisions of the new administration is to make Schweizerhof a festival hotel. We try to be the official partner for all big festivals in Lucerne. They can have concerts in the KKL (Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Lucerne), but then the guests are staying with us – they need to sleep somewhere. Or like at the moment we have The Retro Festival with Uriah Heep, everybody sleeps here. And this makes the hotel very open to the local people. The local people are coming into the hotel, which is not very often seen in the five star hotels. So we have a lot of people in Lucerne, coming to the hotel, going to concerts, exhibitions. One thing is that everybody knows the Hauser family - they know a lot of people here in Lucerne. And the second thing is the so many events – we have parties, we have concerts, carnival bals, summarizes Omlin.
Schweizerhof is one of the few hotels with national significance, so the architecture is preserved in its original form from 1845 by Dr Melchior Berri, famous Swiss architect. "Most of the parts of the hotel are historical protected, so we can not change anything. What we are doing right now is renovating all the hotel rooms, we are doing this in two steps. The first step just ended in end of April so we renovated 52 rooms. This is completely renovated, not new build rooms, in completely separately new style. The 49 rest rooms will be renovated from January to April 2014. So from April 2014 we will have only new rooms", said Omlin. It turns out that the modernization of facilities is also part of the festival strategy. "We have not a lot of 70-80 years old people staying with us. We have also a lot of young people coming the hotel and so we had merged the style of the room a little bit more modern." The prices per night start at € 300 for a standard double room, which for a five-star hotel in Switzerland is quite an affordable price. The most expensive rooms even reach € 733 per night in a deluxe suite.
Rooms with a story
The most distinctive feature of the hotel are the so-called personal rooms of celebrities who have stayed here. "Each room has its own personal history, for example, at the moment we are currently in the room of Richard Wagner, where he finished "Tristan and Isolde". We try to tell the people stories about the personalities who stayed earlier in our hotel", said Omlin. Each of the 52 renovated rooms have such a story – we can see the names of Winston Churchill, Deep Purple, and not so famous people in the list of the rooms with stories. "You probably have not heard of this guy - says Roman Omlin - Philip Fankhauser, but it is the best Swiss blues musician. For us is not most important that everybody knows this person, the most important for us to tell the stories. So for example we have regular guests who got an own room because something very funny happened." The idea of Schweizerhof with stories is the first in all hotels worldwide. " What also we know about other hotels is that they do also like a room for Richard Wagner, but we don’t know any other hotel who write real stories about this person related to their hotel.” Lucerne has many hotels, so we have a lot of competition. But with the renovation of the rooms now we offer something very special and unique to our guests, says Omlin.
Americans are most
“Americans are number one in our hotel, second place are for the Swiss and third is China, which made a huge growth in the last 2 years. And then the rest is really separated all over the world like Arabian countries, Japan and the rest of Europe, Australia, some Russians." It has long been a favorite place for Americans as far back as World War II Schweizerhof has accommodated many American soldiers. The average attendance is different, but in general the rooms are occupied at 70% throughout the year, which is a rather high level.
Many local people visit Schweizerhof for parties or because of the restaurant. Over the past two years, the restaurant began to attract new customers with a varied menu within a week. Young managers, however, quickly realize the problems when a kitchen is featured in just one week. "When we have just one week of a special cook, then people are coming - maybe they like it, but they don’t have the time to tell this the other people. Until they told this to the other people and the other people want to took a table for this, the week is already over. Therefore, we present each new kitchen for a period of 2 to 3 months”, said Omlin. The practice of inviting hotel chef from one country to teach cooking team of Schweizerhof and when he left, his specialities remain on the menu. There are also cases in which the chef stays for these 2 or 3 months in the kitchen, but this is not mandatory. "Even in this respect, we do some marketing that is different, not only for a week. And so within those 2 or 3 months someone can come here and then can tell to other people: Come on, Bulgarian week is in Schweizerhof, it is really good", says Omlin. The practice to organize a week of an unknown kitchen will allow Bulgarian chefs Joro Ivanov and Ivaylo Petkov provide the best of Bulgarian cuisine in November.
Sofia - Lucerne