In this final issue of the 1900s, Gemütlichkeit announces its "Hotel of the Century," its "Affordable Hotel of the Century" and its "Castle Hotel of the Century." The story also addresses many of the best restaurants and hotels covered in the newsletter's 13 year history. Included are addresses, and phone and fax numbers.

Okay, so this is not the end of the Millennium and not the end of the 20th century. There's still a year to go. But we're swept along like everybody else. So here's our "Hotel of the Century," our "Affordable Hotel of the Century" and our "Castle Hotel of the Century."

For "Hotel of the Century" we imagined the following scenario: we are offered a one-week stay at any hotel of our choosing in Germany, Austria or Switzerland. We would want our choice to be easily accessible to a wide range of sightseeing options and activities and to have good restaurants and/or be near good restaurants.

In the end it came down to a choice from among three hotels; the Ritz-Carlton Schloss Hotel Berlin, the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel in Interlaken, and the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne.

In terms of rooms, amenities, staff and service, it's difficult to choose from among the three. The Victoria-Jungfrau has the best spa facility; the Beau-Rivage the most impressive grounds, and the Schloss Hotel a special aura of exclusivity.

In the end, however, we chose the Beau-Rivage. Its edge over the other two was its location. From it one can walk to Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and catch a boat to several cities on the lake, including some in France. Or ride the train up and down the lake, stopping at towns like Geneva, Morges, Montreux, Vevey and Martigny. Some of Switzerland's finest and most spectacularly sited vineyards are minutes from the hotel. One can be on the ski slopes or hiking in the Vaudois Alps in about an hour and interesting towns like Gruyères, Murten and Avenches are easy day trips.

Two of Switzerland's great restaurants, Girardet in the Lausanne suburb of Crissier, and Hotel-Restaurant de L'Ermitage in Vufflens-le-Château, about 30 minutes down the road toward Geneva, are nearby. And the hotel itself has two very fine restaurants plus a chic little wine bar.

To us, the Beau-Rivage defines the term European "grand hotel."

Affordable Hotel

Our requirements for the other two categories were similar except we placed more emphasis on charm and hospitality. The very top hotels, all five-star and corporately owned, seem to have those qualities in about equal measure.

For the "Affordable Hotel of the Century" we looked only at hotels where a double room with breakfast can be obtained for $125 or less.

Two of the main contenders were the Gutshotel in Neumagen-Dhron on the Mosel river, and the Auberge de Chernex in the hills above Montreux.

Our pick, however, is the Hotel Anker in Marktheidenfeld between Frankfurt and Nürnberg. From a facilities standpoint it outshines all the other contenders and the welcome and care lavished on guests by the Deppisch family is unsurpassed. Another point in its favor is its easy proximity to the outstanding restaurant, Weinhaus Anker, just across the street from the hotel.

In our first review of the Anker, in 1990, we wrote, "This is a Mercedes Benz of a hotel; solid, not flashy, but everything works and is built to last. In two days there we never encountered a single employee, from the owners to the person mopping the floors who, at every contact, did not favor us with a Guten Tag and a smile."

Castle Hotel

While we agonized over the first two categories, "Castle Hotel of the Century" was easy. The Schloss Haunsperg, near Salzburg, combines authenticity, great charm and perhaps the warmest welcome in all Christendom.

Eike and Georg von Gernerth have a special talent for making guests feel welcome. Arrive at Haunsperg and, after you've been escorted to your room by one of the owners (not just handed a key and pointed toward the stairs), you'll be invited to join them for a glass of wine before dinner, which is best eaten in the village at Landgasthaus Hammerwirt.

Charm? Haunsperg sets the standard. It has eight rooms/suites in a variety of shapes, sizes and furnishing. Some are quite large but all have great character. High ceilings, ancient three-foot thick walls, squeaky wood floors, antique furnishings, and glorious objet d'art, most of which have been in the von Gernerth family for centuries, will do that for a hotel room. You might like the one with the Bösendorfer grand piano and the crystal chandelier.

And the von Gernerths are delighted to show guests their home and share its history. There seems to be an interesting story behind every apartment, every picture, every rug, every piece of porcelain and China, and every antique.

Amazingly, this hotel is not prohibitively expensive. The best double room is 1900 AS ($138).

More Top Picks

Those are our Hotel of the Century picks. We could go on with other categories, the possibilities are limitless.

Here might be a few other choices:

• The bargain hotel of the century would probably be a toss-up between the Pension Heim in Seeg, near Füssen, or the Gasthof-Pension Waldrast in Reutte, Austria, just south of Füssen.

• The leading alpine hotel would come from Les Sources des Alpes in Leukerbad, Switzerland; Grüner Baum in Badgastein, Austria; the Rote Wand in Lech, Austria; the Waldhotel Doldenhorn in Kandersteg, Switzerland, or the Hostellerie Bon Accueil, Château-d 'Oex, Switzerland.

• The top restaurant would be an easy choice, the Hotel-Restaurant de L'Ermitage in Vufflens-le-Château, near Morges on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), where we had the finest dining experience of our lives. With wine, figure on $200 per person. The restaurant also has a few beautifully appointed guestrooms.

• More affordable restaurants could include Kronenhalle in Zürich, the previously-mentioned Weinhaus Anker in Marktheidenfeld, Florian in Berlin, Le Gitan in Zermatt, and Lorenzini in Bern, Switzerland.

• Best inexpensive restaurants might be the Bahnhof Hotel in Saanen, Switzerland or the brewery restaurant at Budejovicky Budvar, in Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic.

• The hotel and restaurant where you will have the most fun is the Gasthof Fraundorfer in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Next time you're there, raise a glass for your friends at Gemütlichkeit.

Auberge De Chernex, CH-1822, Chernex, tel. +41/021/964 41 91, fax 964 68 57

Bahnhof Hotel, Bahnhofstrasse, CH-3777, Saanenmöser, tel, +41/033/ 744 15 06, fax 744 72 88

Beau-Rivage Palace CH-1000, Lausanne, tel. +41/021/613 33 33, fax 613 33 34

Florian Grolmanstr. 52, D-10623, Berlin, tel. +49/030/313 91 84

Gasthof Fraundorfer Ludwigstrasse 24, D-82467, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. +49/0882/2176, fax 71073

Gasthof-Pension Waldrast Reutte-Ehenbichel A-6600, tel. +43/05672/62443, fax 62443

Girardet, 1 r.dYverdon, CH-1023, Crissier, tel. +41/021/634 05 05, fax 634 24 64

Grüner Baum A-5640, Badgastein, tel. +43/06434/25 16 0, fax 25 16 25

• Gutshotel, Balduinstrasse 1, D-54347, Neumagen-Dhron, tel. +49/06507/20-35, fax 5644

Hostellerie Bon Accueil Château-d 'Oex, CH-1837, tel. +41/026/924 63 20, fax 924 51 26. 21

Hotel Anker Obertorstr. 6. D-97828 Marktheidenfeld, tel. +49/09391/6004-0, fax 6004-77

Hotel-Restaurant de L'Ermitage CH-1134, Vufflens-le-Château, tel. +41/021/802 2191, fax 802 2240

Kronenhalle Rämistr. 4, CH-8001, Zürich, tel. +41/01/251 66 69, fax 251 66 81

Landgasthaus Hammerwirt A-5411 Oberalm, tel. +49/06245/83664

Le Gitan Hotel Darioli, Marie-Therese Darioli, CH-3920, Zermatt, tel. +41/027/968 19 40

Les Sources des Alpes Tuftstr. 17, CH-3954, Leukerbad, tel., +41/027/470 51 51, fax 470 35 33

Lorenzini Theaterplatz 5, CH-3011, Bern, tel. +41/031/311 78 50, fax 312 30 38

Pension Heim Aufmberg 8, D-87637, Seeg, tel. +49/08364/642, fax 10 51

Schloss Hotel Berlin Brahmsstrasse 10, D-14193 Berlin, tel. +49/030/89584-0, fax 89584-800

Rote Wand A-6764, Lech-Zug am Arlberg, tel. +43/05583/34 35 0, fax 34 35 40

Schloss Haunsperg Hammerstrasse 32, A-5411 Oberalm, tel. +43/06245/80662, fax 85680

Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel CH-3800, Interlaken, tel. +41/036/271111, fax 273737

Waldhotel Doldenhorn Hauptstrasses, CH-3718, Kandersteg, tel. 033/675 81 81, fax 675 81 85

Weinhaus Anker Obertorstrasse 13, D-97828, Marktheidenfeld, tel. +49/09391/17 36, fax 1742

December 1999