Eating in Zurich one reader finds "the best food in Switzerland" at a great price; A reader's recent visit to Switzerland uncovers some changes at the Hotel Hecht in Appenzell and a memorable visit to the town of Arosa.
Eating in Zürich
But for those of us who aren't Imelda Marcos or Michael Eisner, the cost of eating well in this capital city is genuinely frightening. Ah, but lucky me! A Züricher brother-in-law introduced us to a small, unassuming restaurant called Hiltl, Sihlstrasse 28, Zürich city center, katty corner to the Hotel Glockenhof and the best food we found in Switzerland.
Carnivores will be astounded, it may taste like meat but it's all vegetarian - and astonishingly meaty delicious. Fascinating selection of entrées and a salad bar with almost a hundred tidbits. One gets carried away, but watch out, you pay by the gram at the end of the line!
Desserts are outrageous and the whole meal fits comfortably into a canny travelers budget. Another nice plus - the waitresses are young, happy, speak English and are anxious to please. What a delightful discovery!
Los Angeles, CA
Appenzell & Arosa
Having just returned from a month in Switzerland I have a couple of items of interest I would like to pass on. On a visit to Appenzell I found some changes at the Hotel Hecht (Hauptgasse 9, CH-9050 Appenzell, Fax +42/071/787 1047).
The owners, Maria and Regula Knechtle, have sold their interest in the hotel to other family members. The new owners are Arnold Knechtle and Felix Walker (his wife, Prisca, is Arnold's sister). The new manager is Sammy Engel who comes from the Palace Hotel in Lucerne and Uto Kulm in Zürich. Maren Leuthard is now the chef and comes from the Hilton Hotel in Basel and Chrug restaurant in Zürich.
Many excellent home cooked dishes are offered. My personal favorites were Appenzell cheese ball salad and the Schnitzel along with Quollenfrisch and Hanfblüte (made with cannabis) beer from the local Karl Locher Brewery.
This winter there are plans to do some remodeling and upgrading of the interior. All members of the staff were pleasant and went out of their way to be helpful. The rooms were comfortable and the hotel is very clean. The wood-paneled Gaststube is a relaxing and delightful place to dine as is the larger formal dining room. I would encourage readers to make a visit to Appenzell to stay at the Hotel Hecht and to meet Sammy Engel.
Another Switzerland discovery is the town of Arosa. From Chur, a trip up the mountain on the Rhätische Bahn is something to remember. In summer, Arosa is a place to just get away and relax and enjoy the sheer beauty of the area. The Luftseilbahn to Weisshorn Peak or the Gondelbahn Hörnli-Express to the Hörnli Peak are unforgettable. There are many hiking trails to enjoy and in winter there is excellent skiing.
We were there in early October and stayed in a beautiful apartment at the Hotel Kaiser (Gerd Kaiser, Poststrasse, CH-7050 Arosa, Fax +41/81/377 4244, rooms $80 to $185). The apartment overlooked the mountains and lake and the train goes into the hill under the hotel and on up to the train station in town. The apartment had living-dining area, kitchen, bath and two balconies. The owner-chef, Gerd Kaiser, had hot bread at our door each morning at 8 a.m.
Col. David C. Snyder Sr.
Old Gemütlichkeits Never Die
The highlight of a recent trip was a three-day visit to the Dolomite region of Italy and the Hotel Cappella in the tiny village of Colfosco. We save all our Gemütlichkeit issues in binders and whenever we plan a trip to Europe we begin by leafing through the issues to see where we would like to explore this time. We knew we were taking a chance going "cold" to a region we had never visited and using a recommendation nine years old (Ed. Note: the Cappella was recommended in the November, 1988, issue). However, we knew we would find the Dolomites unchanged from the description in an earlier issue and so used it to plan our itinerary.
Note: German became our common language in this region. We speak no Italian and sometimes encountered store personnel who spoke no English, although many did. Our pigeon German came to the rescue quite often!
We planned to spend our 35th anniversary in Colfosco. When requesting our reservation (via fax) I had mentioned it would be our 35th anniversary and therefore we would like a romantic room. We were given a choice of one in the main hotel or one in the newer Residence Cappella a few meters up the street. We flipped a coin and chose the Residence (160,000 Italian lira per person per day, breakfast and dinner included) which turned out to be a stroke of luck.
The town of Colfosco sits high in the Dolomites and sports many hotels. The Capella's main building is huge and built, like most of the others, in typical Bavarian style with window box laden balconies overflowing with bright flowers. Save for the Italian signs and flags it could be mistaken for any German Alpine village.
And the scenery? Breathtaking! An expanse of lush valley capped by a mammoth rock formation that changes color with the traverse of the sun and dwarfs otherwise huge buildings, this is the kind of scenery for which postcards were invented!
Upon arrival I asked the usual, "Sprechen Sie English?" The young lady at the reception desk said, "Yes, I do. You must be the Kiehns. We have a lovely room reserved for you." Well, not many Americans must find their way here, we supposed.
The room turned out to be exquisite. Done in natural pine furniture, blue carpeting and with a blue patterned chintz covering the love seat and side chair the room was dominated by a canopy bed and replica of a built-in porcelain stove. Matching chintz curtains, cushions on the stoves attached bench, quilted coverlet and bed hangings completed the decor.
We giggled as we realized this was obviously a honeymoon suite. The entire underside of the pine canopy was a large mirror! Wall mirrors were placed strategically, though tastefully, on either side of the bed as well. Ah, the Italian sense of romance, even for a 35th anniversary!
The staff had placed a large platter of great pastries and a bowl of fresh fruit on the coffee table along with a hand written welcoming note from Signora Pizzanini. On each night table was a small fruit brandy nightcap and chocolates on each pillow.
The bathroom was large and luxurious, with marble tile, great fixtures and a towel warmer.
A keyless entry system allowed access to the room and was also needed to activate and maintain the lights.
Inquiring as to dinner serving time, the young lady advised us that they had "prepared an aperitif for 7:15." Not quite understanding this ritual we were surprised to find what appeared to be a lavish private cocktail party in full swing in the hotel lobby. This, however, was the "aperitif" and consisted of champagne, wine or beer and a bountiful array of delectable hors d'oeuvres including thinly sliced salmon, cheeses, stuffed mushrooms, crudites, etc., all served by gracious waitresses.
The evening being cool, even in mid July, a fire was burning on the hearth near the piano player. We migrated toward both of these attractions and had just settled down on a leather sofa when a couple approached and introduced themselves. Signor and Signora Pizzanini, the owners, were making the rounds of the guests.
Upon hearing my American accented German, Signora Pizzanini exclaimed, "Oh, you are the Kiehns!" (We were beginning to get swelled heads or did they have us confused with someone else? Do we have a famous relative of whom we are not aware?) She then called over to the piano player who broke into Mendelssohn's Wedding March while the entire room smilingly applauded us. Since we eloped 35 years ago it was touching to hear this march, which I as a former church organist have played so often, finally played for us.
Our reserved table in the dining room had been specially decorated with ribbons and a blue candle. At my place was a wrapped gift from the Pizzanini's, a small, gold painted heart shaped mirror with a lovely hand written card wishing us continued happiness.
After dinner we returned to the lobby and the piano player. Again, German was the common language although all the music was American! With the lounge almost to ourselves we danced the night away as he smilingly played our requests.
My husband asked to purchase one of the beer glasses as a souvenir. They would not hear of it, but washed and wrapped it for him as a gift of the hotel! The next morning when we checked out the young lady asked us to wait while she summoned Signora Pizzanini who made a special point of coming to bid us Auf Wiedersehen.
The entire wonderful experience, including the aperitif hour, a varied salad bar, excellent half board entrées from which to choose, a superb bottle of a local Pinot Grigio with dinner, dessert, coffee, several after dinner drinks and a generous breakfast buffet, cost 400,000 Italian Lira. ($231 at the time.)
It was a true gemütlich experience, a visit not soon to be forgotten and well worth a return trip and a longer stay. Thank you Gemütlichkeit for introducing us to this wonderful establishment! Hotel Cappella 1-39030 Colfosco (Corvara), Strada Pecei 17 Dolomiti/Alta Badia, tel. (0471) 836183/836168., fax (471) 836561.
(Ed. Note: Traveling isn't always this good, but once in a while, for those who are open to it and can handle it, a little magic happens.)
(U.S. Dollar prices quoted in this issue of Gemütlichkeit may be inaccurate for these reasons:
* Prices in local currency have not been updated since the date of publication of this newsletter, and...
* The dollar prices shown were obtained by using exchange rates in effect at the time of publication.