The question in the fall of 1986 was how many people are sufficiently interested in travel to Germany, Austria and Switzerland to spend upwards of 50 bucks a year on eight flimsy pages of info a month, no photos. The next question was could we find them. Well, we located enough that we're still around more than seven years later and eager to get on with year number eight. Thank you.
So how did Gemütlichkeit get started? Here's a little background. Since the mid-70s Liz and I had made a yearly European trip, almost exclusively to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I was a front office executive with the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association, a team that had begun to slide quickly downhill after winning the NBA championship in 1975. As miserable season followed miserable season, our light at the end of the tunnel each spring was the annual escape to the restful Bavarian countryside or the old-world charm of Vienna. Perhaps not financially prudent but therapeutic. Then, the day we returned home from the 1984 trip, a note was waiting for me. It was an invitation to breakfast the next morning from the team's owner. Before I could finish my orange juice I was fired. A great way to start the day.
Later that year I opened a small marketing and public relations company. One October afternoon in 1986 my youngest brother Tom (he was then 29, I was 49) showed me a Money Magazine article about a successful newsletter on travel to France. He also told me about a new development in the publishing field called "desktop publishing." One didn't need typesetters or an art department, all that was necessary was a Macintosh computer and the proper software. Tom already had a Mac and we bought the software, a program called Pagemaker. A travel newsletter was something I had been thinking about for years and away we went.
Though he was and is a Francophile, Tom joined me in the venture. At the time he was a free-lance video script writer by day and an aspiring fiction writer by night. Some nights, though, he did gigs as a stand-up comedian at such San Francisco comedy clubs as Cobbs Pub and the Holy City Zoo. Tom gets around. In the early 80s, when United began to promote its service to all 50 states, the airline offered a year of free, unlimited first-class travel to anyone who would fly to all 50 states within 50 days. Tom, who then worked in the public relations department of GTE Sprint (then U.S. Sprint), convinced his bosses that the promotional benefit to the company would be worth their paying his airfare to accept the United challenge. He completed the journey in an exhausting three week itinerary that included something like 30 plane changes at Chicago's O'Hare Airport and flying everyday from dawn to midnight. The year of free travel? Well, there was at least one Hawaii vacation and various short trips to visit friends. And then one Saturday he left on the earliest flight out of San Francisco to Boston where he stayed just long enough to buy a dozen live lobsters which he brought back for a family dinner that night.
After a couple of years of Gemütlichkeit, Tom decided his writing interests and aspirations extended well beyond travel newsletters and anyway he was more interested in France. It was the right move, because today he is a successful writer and creative consultant with a client list that includes Apple Computer, Sun Microsystems, Johnson & Johnson and The Gap. You'll also see his byline in such magazines as Wired and Skiing.
About the time Tom decided he'd rather be rich and famous than a newsletter publisher, Roger Holliday and Claudia Fischer hove into view. Their speciality at first was eastern Europe but recently their savvy and European travel expertise have been employed to cover more conventional travel destinations like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Würzburg and Stuttgart. Between trips last summer they got married.
Other major players in the Gemütlichkeit support team include:
Liz Bestor. Wife of publisher for 32 years, voice of reason and road manager. Her trip diaries and note-taking are essential. Keeps remarkably cool when publisher loses boarding passes, passports, keys to rental cars, etc.
Laura Bestor, Nancy Badely, Robert Bestor III and Andrew Bestor. All have filled orders, answered phones, sent faxes, stuffed envelopes and slaved for hours over a hot database. Employee Bestor III recently married employee Badely and in early 1994 they will open Travel Essentials in Ashland, Oregon, a retail store for travel books, maps and accessories. Laura Bestor now works in the marketing department of Boston's Beth-Israel hospital and Andrew Bestor is the incumbent Gemütlichkeit dogsbody.
Lois Troop Bestor. Mother of publisher, 1930 champion speller of Cass County, Nebraska, and first queen of the Kass Kounty King Korn Karnival in 1935. As evidenced by a recent rash of typos and misspelled words, an ambitious travel schedule has curtailed her work as a Gemütlichkeit proof-reader. Bob Bestor, father of publisher and just turned 80, keeps a low profile, does occasional electrical and plumbing work around Gemütlichkeit offices and confides the secret of success in his 57-year marriage to the Korn Queen is in the repeated use of two simple phrases, "Whatever you want to do" and "I'll take care of it."
John K. Bestor. Uncle of publisher and semi-retired partner of Kansas City law firm of Stinson, Mag & Fizzell. The first of the above to travel regularly to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Inspired the Gemütlichkeit travel philosophy of backroads exploration with an open-ended itinerary.
Paul Merschdorf. Peerless graphic design and computer consultant. When hard disks and software go south, Merschdorf brings them back.
One person outside our organization who must be mentioned is Joe Lustenberger of the Swiss National Tourist Office. I suppose it can now be told that when we started Gemütlichkeit seven years ago we included Switzerland in our coverage area almost as an afterthought, chiefly because it is, at least in part, German-speaking. We had very little Swiss travel experience. From the beginning Joe treated Gemütlichkeit with a respect it probably did not deserve and his advice and guidance about his marvelous country kept us from embarrassing ourselves. We used to get letters complaining about our lack of stories on Switzerland but these days we hear beefs that there's too much Swiss coverage. The guy is a dynamo and a marvel of information and contacts. The San Francisco SNTO closes on December 31, 1993, and Joe moves to the Chicago office. We'll be in touch.
And we'll stay in touch with you, too, as issues #85 through #96 take us through 1994. For starters, well return to Vienna for a look at several wonderful pensions, report on the charming Austrian town of Steyr, checkout the German ski resort of Oberstdorf, relate a drive to three magnificent Baroque churches in southern Germany, devote an issue to the old Swiss town of St. Gallen and venture north to Bremen.