Tucked quietly just outside of town near the end of the main drag, is the charming, family-run Hotel Gletschergarten. The owners, Gabriela and her husband Gery, craft exceptional experiences at this iconic spot in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland. When you arrive, if one of them isn’t at the front desk, you’ll almost certainly be greeted by one of their sons. This goes for the rest of the hotel as well: bartender, waiter, concierge. It’s quite literally a family-run establishment.
I was lucky enough to spend some time at the Gletschergarten last summer and tour the hotel with Gabriela. She showed me the many updated rooms designed to fit any visitor’s taste. And she highlighted the serious amount of history on display throughout the hotel. Many paintings by her family members line the hallways. A glass case in one stairway displays four generations of family photographs. Many dedicated people fostered this hotel’s long tradition of authentic hospitality.
There is a lot going on in the world right now. I reached out for a quick, comforting chat with Gabriela about the Gletschergarten and some of its long history….
Eryka: Alpinehikers’ list of Gletschergarten favorites is extensive. The breakfast bar, delicious home-cooked meals, hospitality, location… What is your favorite part about managing the Gletschergarten?
Gabriela: Our favorite part about running the Gletschergarten is that daily we meet people from different parts of the world. Different cultures and languages enrich our work and as a result we learn a lot of new things every day. We are also proud to show our guests our beautiful home and strive to make their Grindelwald experience as memorable as possible. For us the greatest gift is when guests come as guests but leave as friends. The personal guest relation has a long standing tradition in our hotel as many regulars visit the hotel annually.
Eryka: From your perspective, what makes the Gletschergarten unique?
Gabriela: We think the uniqueness of the Gletschergarten is the rich tradition of our hotel which dates back to 1899 and has stayed in the same family since then. Nowadays, even in Switzerland this is quite rare. Our history combined with our customer service and traditional Swiss Chalet Hotel with geranium laden balconies, makes the Gletschergarten an experience for itself. A place where people feel good.
Eryka: What is your favourite story about the Gletschergarten?
Gabriela: There are so many stories to tell. We think one of the most unique is how my parents Elsbeth and Finn met. Two Danish skiers were to participate at the annual “Lowlanders Cup”, a ski race for the rather flat European countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Scotland. Unfortunately (or, in our case, fortunately) one on the Danes broke his leg during a training session. He happened to be my Father, Finn Breitenstein. As a result, he had to stay longer at the Gletschergarten than expected. Finn then met, as he always used to say, “a lovely Lady at the reception” which happened to be my mother Elsbeth. Elsbeth took good care of my Father during his recovery and both fell in love.
After he recovered, Finn returned to Denmark as he had to do his military service. He was sent to Greenland for two years. Elsbeth followed him to Denmark where she worked at the Hotel Imperial in Copenhagen, sending love letters to the rough and icy Island in the Arctic. Finn received a letter from Elsbeth every day. She was so dedicated to her letter that he knew that if a letter did not arrive, it was the post shipment from Denmark that was delayed rather than Elsbeth ceasing her romantic duty. They married in 1966 in Switzerland and took over the hotel in 1980.
Eryka: That is so romantic! I love that story. OK, last question. What special news would you like to share from your unique hotel in Grindelwald?
Gabriela: Last year we celebrated the 120th anniversary of the Gletschergarten. To celebrate the occasion we bottled and labelled a very special, age worthy red wine from Ticino, Switzerland. A total of 120 bottles has been preserved, making the wine very exclusive. It is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah (Shiraz) from the outstanding winemaker “Castello di Cantone”, a family business just like the Gletschergarten.
Thank you Gabriela for sharing the story of the Gletschergarten and a few of the special traits that make your hotel a unique highlight in the Bernese Oberland and Switzerland. We are so happy to count ourselves among your guest-friends. We look forward to visiting you and your family soon in one of our favorite homes-away-from-home in the Alps!