Overwhelming No at the Ballot Box

 

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Photo: Fotolia

By: Alexis Munier

 

Swiss Voters Reject Move to Eliminate Flat-Tax Rate

A strong majority of Swiss voters – 59.2 % – rejected a proposal to end lump-sum tax payments for wealthy foreigners in late 2014. Those numbers were even higher here in the Obersimmental-Saanen district, with 87.8% of Saanen voters, 90% of Lauenen voters, and a staggering 93% of Gsteig voters rejecting the measure. 

Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, a vocal opponent of the referendum, expressed relief at the results. The ability for each canton to decide on its own whether to offer the fiscal packages ensures that the federalist traditions of Switzerland will continue to thrive. 

Saanenland City Council President Aldo Kropf, who refrained from taking a personal stance either for or against the measure, still had this to say: “The large voter turnout and high percentage of votes against the measure showed how important this was for the people of Saanen.”

 

Sigh of Relief In the Saanenland

The no vote, which continues to allow flat-tax or lump-sum arrangements for wealthy foreigners provided they do not work within Swiss borders or earn any income in the country, comes as no surprise in resort villages, where much of the local population makes a living in the hospitality and services industry. 

 

“I don’t have the luxury of taking a moral stance,” says one local handyman who is employed by a family established in Gstaad for fiscal reasons. “If the tax regime ends, I’ll be out of a job.”

While the measure didn’t pass, the Federal Council had already agreed beforehand to implement several tightenings of the tax regime. Currently, the rate is calculated at five times the cost of living, but in 2016 that figure will be raised to seven.

 

Tax Evasion or Tax Heaven?

The referendum generated heated debate, with citizens left to ponder several aspects of their economic and financial policies. The initiative’s leaders, a left-wing group that included the support of the Socialist party, urged voters to take a moral stance against tax evasion. A key argument was that the policies were unfair to monied Swiss nationals as well, as only foreigners may benefit from lump-sum arrangements.

External pressure for the vote came not just from the far left, but from the OECD, Organisation for Economic Development, which equates the regime with tax evasion. Five cantons including Zürich, Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft, Schaffhausen and Appenzell-Ausserrhoden have also abolished the regime in recent years. 

As a result, more than half of Zurich’s wealthy beneficiaries have left the canton – some choosing to relocate to other tax-friendly nations like Belgium or Luxembourg, and the others, notably Russian Viktor Vekselberg, relocating to Canton Zug, where he is privy to another fiscally advantageous arrangement.

 

Who Really Benefits

The flat-tax was originally established in the 1800s to benefit from wealthy English retirées who settled along Lake Geneva.

Records from 2012 show less than 6,000 foreigners benefit from the lump-sum tax regime, which brings approximately CHF 695m into the cantonal coffers each year. The biggest argument to continuing the regime was not this sum itself, but the amount of money these individuals spend on services and products here. A Federal Council study commissioned for the referendum showed they contributed over CHF 1bn each year to the Swiss economy, with the ensuing VAT directly adding another estimated CHF 75m in revenues. This study was disputed by the opposing side, with Le Monde and other media outlets calling into question what they deemed an outdated and erroneous study.

Among much commentary in the media, State Senator Christian Levrat mentioned Gstaad as a specific example of the harmful effects of rich expatriates in Alpine resorts. 

“What advantage does Gstaad take from these luxury chalets which sit empty a good part of the year?” Levrat was quoted on swissinfo.ch. “The super-rich spend hardly anything; they only serve to raise rents for local residents, who pay a high price for this unreasonable development.”

 

All’s Well That Ends Well

Levrat’s arguments aside, the lump-sum regime remains safe and sound. Switzerland – and the Saanenland in particular – will continue to remain a fiscal paradise for the world’s wealthiest for some time to come.

 

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Luxury Arrives in the Pays-d’Enhaut

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Photo: Hotel de Rougemont

The newly debuted Hotel de Rougemont is the first luxury establishment to grace the Pays-d’Enhaut in many years.

 

By GSTAADLIFE

The hotel is a classic blend of luxury and alpine chic. Warm hardwoods grace the floors and ceilings, giving a calm, gracious feel beyond the standard mountain charm so often seen in Switzerland’s many ski resorts. Oversized scenes of local mountains fill the walls, all with a hint of retro glamour and artsy Alpine feel.

Opening in mid-December, the hotel boasts 19 rooms and 14 suites, including four penthouse suites. Restaurant ‘Le Roc’ is the hotel’s destination for fine food and regional specialties, while the Lounge and Bar ‘Le Roc’ provide the perfect spot for après-ski champagne and cocktails. A small movie theatre on site shows both cult classics and new releases, and the hotel’s amenities are topped off by a modern spa area.

 

Who’s the Boss?

Christine Perper, 34, had an extensive career in hospitality in far-flung locations from Hong Kong to New York. Perper grew up in Interlaken and earned a Bachelor of Science in Hotel Management at the famous Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. It was there that she studied alongside future husband Alexander Perper, 39, who was born in Cannes but raised in New York. 

The couple and their young daughter Chloé visited the Saanenland last year and fell in love with the region. Without hesitation, the Perpers took over the hotel’s management and relocated to Rougemont.

“It’s great to be back in our homeland after so many years abroad,” says Ms Perper. And Mr Perper chimes in excitedly, “The quality of life, fresh air, and the friendly and open attitude of the people here charmed us after our first visit. “

 

Mi Casa Es Tu Casa

“Chez nous – chez vous” is the motto here at the Pays d’en Haut’s new Hotel de Rougemont. The hotel offers the chance to sleep graciously in the heart of Rougemont, just minutes from the Videmanette ski area. 

If you’ve got to leave home, the Perpers’ warm hearth might just be where the heart is.

 

  (c) Hôtel de Rougemont_Lobby

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Holiday Food & Fancies, Swiss Style

Xmas market

Photo: Fotolia

Text: Alexis Munier

 

When it comes to Christmas markets, no one does it better than the Swiss. Call it a  Weinachtsmarkt or a marché de Noël, but you have to call it superbe.  Switzerland’s seasonal markets fill the streets from late November through Christmas Eve and even beyond. You’ll find anything and everything for family, friends, and your own deserving self at the plethora of colorful stands chock full of local specialties as well as imported goods. From foie gras and Berner Hobelkäse to Peruvian sweaters and handmade ceramics, your choices are many—and your shopping enjoyment is only enhanced when you sing along to the festive live music and indulge in a couple of cups of the Glühwein or vin chaud.

Whether you’re based in Gstaad or arriving here for the holidays via Bern, Geneva, Zurich or Basel, stop in at the market of your choice.  Then, stop in at the local Saanenland Christmas shopping spots.

 

The Little Swiss Market That Could -- Montreux

There’s a reason nearly half a million people show up every year for the one-of-a-kind Christmas market in Montreux. Not only is it the largest marché de Noel in Switzerland, it’s one of the most attractive and appealing. With more than 150 brightly lit chalet-style shops ringing the promenade along the lake as well as the main street, you have countless options to choose from—including a wide selection of surprisingly affordable handcrafted jewelry made by local artisans—before you take a break and head for the historic 1890s wooden dome, where the food and drink stands await.

If you’ve got kids—or you can borrow some—jump on the train that winds its way up to Rochers-de Naye and drop by Chez Santa Claus. You’ll also enjoy the authentic Christmas village in Caux—and its great views of Lac Leman.  Last but not least, Chateau de Chillon hosts a medieval market just 15 minutes’ walk further up the lake.

 

Double Your Flavor and Fun -- Basel

In Basel, twin offerings in Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz (by the cathedral) provide two unique shopping experiences. With the city’s historic old-town as a backdrop, you can check out the Christmas stands, many offering traditional handicrafts. Just remember to try one of the renowned Basler Leckerli spiced cookies, washed down  with hot cider spiced with Schnapps or rum-infused Punsch.       

 

 A Delight for the Senses -- Bern

You’ll find a small gem of a holiday market in Bern. With its quaint setting in the midst of historic 15th century buildings on Münsterplatz, this Weinachtsmarkt rivals Basil’s in sensorial charm. The air is rich with the scent of chestnuts, smoky incense, cinnamon and pine; the stands are rich with tactile treasures. Check out the main square for arts and crafts, and proceed to Waisenhausplatz for more traditional offerings. 

 

The Right Side of the Tracks-- Zurich

Zurich’s most popular Christmas market happens right in the train station—perfect for shopping on the go. Whether you’re coming or going, you can pick up whatever you need—from handcrafted wooden toys and woolens to a wide array of cheeses and dried meats. The stands flank the show-stopping 40-foot Christmas tree adorned with Swarovski crystals. You don’t even have to leave the train station—but if you’re willing to move on down Bahnhofstrasse, you’ll discover the singing Christmas tree (performances daily), as well as additional market stands.

 

Winterzauber—Saanenlands Magical Market

Located next to the ice skating rink on Gstaad’s Promenade, this charming little market runs through the holidays straight up until January 4.  The festively decorated wooden chalets offer handmade gifts for the whole family.  Watch the ice skaters jump and spin while sipping a hot Glühwein and sampling one of the installation’s many delicious baked goodies.

 

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Closure of von Siebenthal Cookshop

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Photo: AvS

 

After 142 years, Gstaad’s legendary von Siebenthal Cookshop has finally closed its doors. 

by GSTAADLIFE

Gstaad’s Promenade has seen many changes these past few years, but none hits home, literally, like the passing of the von Siebenthal Cookshop. 

The Cookshop (which was formerly von Siebenthal für Tisch & Küche) was a haven for local kitchen aficionados. However, shopping habits have changed significantly over the past decade, with many homeowners ordering kitchen equipment on line, or buying from larger stores in Bern or Geneva for lower prices. Additionally, many chalets are now owned by jetsetters who spend just a few weeks, if that, in the region each year.

Another potential reason for the closure, given in a statement released by the family was the shorter winter season in the Saanenland. Fond memories of the Cookshop will remain with many a Gstaader and Gstaaderin. Its selection of practical quality cookware, utensils, and textiles was accompanied by whimsical cake pans in every shape and size, and funky gadgets to accessorise any kitchen.

“A heartfelt thank you to all our loyal customers,” said Claudia von Siebenthal Fust, Manager. “It’s thanks to them that we were able to remain in business for so long.”

A family affair, the current shop was run by sisters Claudia von Siebenthal Fust and Silvia Nolan-von Siebenthal, who took over management from their parents Gottfried and Katharina.

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Naughty or Nice? Neither?

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Photo: Fotolia

 

Letter from the Editor, December 19, 2014

Welcome to the first Winter 2014/2015 issue of GSTAADLIFE.

It’s that time of year again, and I’m seeing red. Poinsettias, shimmering garlands, and ruby-coloured Glühwein, that is.

You guessed it; I’m nurturing my Christian side at one of Switzerland’s many fabulous Christmas markets. Whether you make it to the loveliest installations in Montreux and Basel, or opt for Gstaad’s unusual Winterzauber holiday market/circus/ice skating rink, there’s a hot drink of your choice waiting to warm those cold hands.

 

Read, Race, Rouse the Revelers!

This year we’ve decided to throw our standard release dates to the wind, publishing both Christmas and New Year’s issues of GSTAADLIFE. So even if you’re only in town for the holidays, you’ll have one more reading option in your hotel lobby, passenger’s seat, or cosy chalet living room. 

Speaking of chalets, we sat down with Isabelle de Sadeleer at her Gstaad home for a fireside chat about competing in the Carrera Panamerica. At the world’s most dangerous rally, Ms de Sadeleer’s unusual blend of steely nerves and delicate flexibility has earned her the elite title of champion.

It’s probably my Jewish side that tells me there’s no time like the holidays to talk death and taxes. Feel like stirring up the pot at that bland Christmas event? Read our piece on the move to keep Switzerland’s flat-tax regime for wealthy foreigners alive and ask the crowd to chime in with their thoughts on the recent vote. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, remember that some people vote with their hearts… and others with their heads.

 

The Sound of Music–and Art

It may not have the clout of the other festivals in the Saanenland, but the New Year Music Festival in Gstaad is certainly a cause for celebration. Artistic Director (and talented pianist) Caroline Haffner shows us why up-and-coming talents and established professionals musically mingle here during the most festive week of the year. This year’s highlights feature two world premieres under the theme “Cellissimo,” with performances by young cellists of increasing renown.

In our Lifestyle section, Januaria Piromallo attends the release party of Generoso Di Meo’s “Cal”—the beautifully designed calendar with world-class oeuvres by cult photographer Massimo Listri. From the sound of it, the crowd was world-class too, and packed with familiar faces of regular Gstaad guests and residents like Princess Federica de Gregorio Cattaneo, Vittorio Sgarbi and Count Gelosio Gaetani, among others.

 

The Naughty/Nice List

Naughty or nice? GSTAADLIFE columnist Mandolyna Theodoracopulos does Santa’s dirty work in “Unus Pro Omnibus” by locating his secret gift list. If you’re unlucky enough to be caught on the naughty list, never fear—there’s always next year. 

As for me, I must confess I’ve been a bit of both. I’ve been parking illegally at an undisclosed location near the Promenade, without a single ticket to date (hint: Church attendance may have dwindled to make this possible). Yet before you think me a monster, I’ve also picked up after an older lady’s little dog on the sidewalk, so the poor thing didn’t have to remove her fur-trimmed gloves to use a doggie bag.

But should good old St Nick forget me on December 25, I won’t pout or cry – because I’ll still have 8 days’ worth of Hanukkah gifts to savour.

Happy Holidays!

 

Alexis Munier

Editor in Chief

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The Best Defense is a Good Offense -- Local Security Expert James Otigbah on Staying Safe

Security

 

Photo: James Otigbah trains a female student in self-defense.

 

By Alexis Munier

 

Staying street-smart and street-safe is a major concern for the so-called fairer sex.

Even in Switzerland, where physical crime rates are generally low, women may face assault--especially in the larger cities. However, here as in most of the world, women are more at risk for domestic abuse and injury from their partners than from unknown criminals.

Local security expert and business owner James Otigbah strongly believes in ensuring women’s safety. His company, Excel Security Solutions, focuses mainly on security detail for the region’s banks, businesses and private chalets. However, Excel has developed training programs and workshops to meet an increased need for self-defense here in the Saanenland.

On the Spot Training
“I sincerely hope you’ll never need to use any of the techniques you learn today,” says James Otigbah, President of Excel Security Solutions, as the day-long self-defense for women course begins.

But the course doesn’t take place in a big city with high crime rates. In the relatively safe Saanenland, Otigbah has gathered a group of a dozen women ready to learn the basics of self-defense and personal safety.

Otigbah knows a thing or two about safety. The Malta native with Nigerian roots runs one of the largest private security firms in the Saanenland, Excel Security Solutions. With decades of experience in dangerous nations like Nigeria and Kenya, Otigbah believes one can never be too careful, no matter where in the world they are.

“Personal security is personal responsibility,” Otigbah preaches, “and ultimately, our own security is our own responsibility.”

And that’s precisely the reason Otigbah offers a variety of security classes here in the region. From group self-defense workshops for women and children to private lessons in awareness and best practices while travelling in the developing world, the company has a course to suit every need.

At the self-defense for women workshops, Otigbah and his team of experts teach a wide spectrum of awareness and prevention tools, including breakaway techniques.

This “Personal Safety Awareness Workshop” focuses on behavioural changes that may be adopted by women at risk. Highly active, the workshop involves intense physical participation in a variety of exercises.

“The course is designed to present and prepare preventative methods and measures that may be easily adopted to reduce risks,” says Otigbah. “And all this, in a warm, comfortable environment which allows participants, especially survivors of abuse, to feel safe.”

Better Safe than Sorry
At a recent course, women of all types could be found, from famous faces to local teenagers. Their reasons for participating, however, were all similar despite whether or not they had previously been assaulted – to be able to fight off an attack.

“I’m here because you just never know,” says local Laura Scherz, who has participated in several courses already. “I feel very safe in Switzerland, but this is not always the case on my travels abroad to cities like London and New York.”

 

********************************************

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES – Simple strategies for self-defense

While self-defense is allowed in Switzerland, it’s worth remembering that principles of appropriate force are applicable. The moves described below are only justifiable in cases of attack, or when potential harm is a real risk.

After a timed drill of kneeing in an attacker’s face and groin, participants move on to the next step of scratching or clawing out the eyes – a painful move which does not require much force.

“Rather than trying to hit or punch an attacker, use the heel of your palm to drive upwards into the attacker’s nose,” says Otigbah.

This move makes it more difficult for an attacker to grab your arm and prevent contact, and can potentially cause more pain and damage than a traditional punch.

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Crime in the Saanenland -- Newest Report Shows Increase in Burglary

Burglary has increased while grievous crime continues a downward trend, says a report on 2013 crime statistics recently released by the Police Department of Canton Bern.

This comes as no surprise to locals, who were subjected to string of burglaries which swept through the Saanenland in late 2013, disquieting shop owners, residents and guests. 

Word of the crimes spread like wildfire in the region last Autumn, yet there was no mention of the acts in the media, which rely on Canton Bern police bulletins for such information. The starting point for a media investigation came through an anonymous local tip. According to police, Swiss privacy laws are very strict and in order to protect the names and reputations of victims and businesses, crimes are not often disclosed unless there is a strong public need.

 

Overall Decrease in Crime

The numbers of many crimes are declining, which is reason to celebrate. Violent crime, including murder, rape and assault are on the decline; additionally, lesser crimes like threat and coercion have also decreased 

On the contrary, non-violent crimes such as burglary and theft are on the uprise. With increases of 8% last year, there were on average 13 burglaries per day in the Canton of Bern. This amounts to a yearly total of 6,202 

According to police charts, the most common offenders are young males between the ages of 18 and 30. The Police wish to take appropriate countermeasures, including a public awareness campaign. The slogan, “Watch out for theft. We do. Do you?” is meant to remind the public that awareness at all times is important.

The success rate for solving serious crimes and apprehending suspects remained high at over 82.3%. This is due to the fact that many victims of sexual and domestic abuse crimes know their offenders. 

 

Safer in the Saanenland?

For Saanen’s nearly 7,000 inhabitants (6,807), there were 310 offenses against the criminal code versus the previous year’s 296. This represents a per thousand crime rate of 45.5 (2012: 42.8), a minimal increase.

Narcotics violations were more than halved, at 28 versus 59 (4.1/1000, 8.5/1000), while immigration and alien offenses remained low at 5 versus 4 in 2012 (0.7/1000). Saanen does not include the communities of Lauenen and Gsteig. While both communities count approximately the same number of inhabitants, it’s interesting to note that criminal offenses were four times higher in Lauenen, at 45 versus Gsteig’s minimal 10. Lauenen is more frequented by tourists than Gsteig, which has just one hotel functioning year-round. A higher number of tourists, which draws more criminals to the area, may be the reason.

The report proves life is indeed safer in the Saanenland, which does not suffer the higher crime rates of the capital, Bern. In comparison, Bern noted 21,383 offenses with a frequency rate of 167.7/1000 for its 127,515 inhabitants.

Yet local businesses remain at risk, along with the many chalets that sit empty much of the year. 

“Companies are no longer taking their chances,” says James Otigbah of Excel Security Solution, who has received recent requests upgrade security systems and equipment. “Better safe than sorry.”

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Last Word Column -- The Swiss Do It Best

 

By Mandolyna Theodoracopulos

One doesn’t expect cold, clouds, and rain this time of year, but then one doesn’t expect snow in June either, and that isn’t unheard of around these parts anymore. 

Despite a wintery August, the last days of summer are finally here. Yet as soon as the long days of summer come, they seem to fade into fall and the hope of more sun and lots of snow 

What this winter will bring is anyone’s guess, though we can be sure of more visitors from the nether regions, eager to get a taste of all Switzerland has to offer. But who can blame these pilgrims? With the world in such strife, neutral Switzerland is a modern Mecca for the displaced and disheartened citizens of this world.

Flying into Geneva last week over the hills surrounding the lake, I was struck by the great beauty of this country, particularly in summer when everything is buzzing and green. With cows resting in fields and birds aflutter, it is a small paradise when the sun shines. Looking out the plane window it is hard to believe there is an outrageous war between great powers and religious extremists. It is hard to believe men, women, and children live under the constant threat of death as they do in the Middle East, Mexico, and South America.

For Europeans, who have not known such a world for more than 50 years, it is hard to imagine such suffering. We welcome the world with open arms and open borders, eager to help and share the riches of a peaceful and prosperous region. But at what cost, if any? Must not a people earn their own peace and prosperity? Perhaps the payment and promise of a coyote is hope enough for the truly forlorn.

It is hard to imagine the desperation and hopelessness that people who travel in unfathomable conditions to get to the West must feel. What must they be going through to mount questionable vessels in hazardous conditions with dozens of other people to cross a sea? What pray tell would possess someone to get into a container meant for goods and non-perishable items to gain entry into a European country? Do young people expect to find Shangri-La if they manage to cross a desert and make it across a guarded border?

When a camp or a slum in Europe or America is better than living under the thumb of a criminal gang or warlord, one has to wonder what is wrong with people? When America is seen as the saviour by one group and as the oppressor by another, it is hard not to be utterly confused and frustrated. It makes one grateful not to be American. More so now than ever when the country is as divided as the living and the dead. 

Why must we be either black or white, liberal or conservative, equal or unequal, rich or poor? I suppose the middle could not exist without the extremes, but wouldn’t it be nice on occasion to hear about the in-between?

Apart from its natural beauty, Switzerland’s great strength is of course its neutrality. In a way, Switzerland is an extreme in itself, lying in opposition to the rest of the world. But perhaps some extremes are not all bad. Apart from being exceptionally banal, extreme fairness is something positive. Now more than ever, who doesn’t yearn for something non-partisan, something peaceful, plain, and simple?

Let us not forget, up here in our alpine paradise, even when the grey sunless sky makes us long for something different, just how lucky we are to be living here, under cloud.

Until December…

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Gstaad Yacht Club Summer Wrap-Up

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Photo and Text: GYC

The Gstaad Yacht Club’s summer calendar illustrates the shared passions of its members – sailing, rallying, socialising and attending cultural events – from the clubhouse to Swiss waters and beyond. Here you’ll find a detailed overview of the most exciting events of the summer.

Brugger and Bühler Test the Rio Waters

A win in the final medal race has shown that anything is possible on the waters of the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games. Two weeks ago GYC members Nathalie Brugger and Matías Bühler had their first opportunity to sail a test event in Rio gathering key information and insights on the course areas inside and outside the bay. 

They will need to try to spend as much time there as possible before the games. Contrary to what most of the competitors believed, the area had surprisingly strong sea breezes over 10 – 15 knots and sometimes three-metre-high waves. This certainly provided a taste of what could be to come in future years. 

The racing itself was tactically challenging on the waters of Guanarana Bay. This was due mostly to 40 degree wind shifts and big pressure differences across the course areas. There were also a few days of no wind - but this is just another aspect of the sport. Placing 8th overall (and 7th nationally) at the end of the competition week is certainly positive. A further win in the final double-points medal race proved that the team is well and truly capable to race at the front.

This test racing experience, combined with their experience onshore, paves the way to helping their pursuit of the next medal. 

It is now time for them to refocus as the main goal of this year’s season will take place in a few weeks’ in Santander, Spain, with the combination of the ISAF World Championships and National Olympic Qualification.

........

Gyc cars

Posse and Eriksson Take Top Honours in Annual Rally

Challenging conditions and scenic roads were the highlights of the Gstaad Yacht Club’s eigth annual “Classic Car Rally & Yachting”. 

The GYC held its “Classic Car Rally & Yachting” on August 16, in a joint venture with the Gstaad Automobile Club (GAC). 

This year there were several changes to the program. To maintain the element of suspense and equally challenge all co-pilots, the road book was only given out Saturday morning, over coffee.

The automobiles dated from 1984 all the way back to the 30’s (!). There was a great diversity of models and marks, ranging from Aston Martins (DB 5 and 6), Corvettes, Delahayes (1937), Ferraris, MGBs, several Mercedes, Porsches, and a selection of other rarer makes.

Lucky weather conditions allowed convertibles to drive topless on some of most scenic back roads from Gstaad over the Jaunpass, crossing the picturesque Lake Gruyère via Canton Fribourg. The roads continued back into Canton Vaud, passing Moudon, Echallens and Cossonay. Finally, the route descended through Bière and Gimel, with fantastic views onto Lake Geneva, and on to the final destination in Rolle. 

This year’s special stages, contrary to previous years, demanded more imagination from the participants then the supporters. A pappara(zzi)lling quiz requested different creative picture tasks along the way. Cooling feet in running water or finding their car next to one of the same colour, make, model and/or year are just two examples out of the ten requests.

The drivers reached their final destination, which was hosted at an incredible site on the waterfront. There, thanks to the generous support of one GYC member, a BBQ had been prepared on their property right on the lake – their private pontoon was the perfect location for the later sailing portion of the event.

Wind conditions were calm and did not allow all participants to complete a race in groups of three boats. The last challenge was a “silver quiz” identifying ten pieces of an antique sterling silver collection. The final results combined the scores from the driving, photo quiz, “silver quiz” and sailing portions of the day. 

The trophy went to GYC member Arvid Posse and his pilot Carl Johan Eriksson, who drove a 1969 Volvo P1800 S. Second place went to Peter and Maria Theile in a 1970 Mercedes 280 SE; while third place was earned by GYC Honorary President George Nicholson and his co-pilot Mauro Bonaccini in a 1961 Bentley S2.

 

 

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Surgeon of the Soul -- Interview with Gstaad's Dr Ivo Pitanguy

Pitanguy

Text and Photo: Januaria Piromallo

 

“Why did you change the living room furniture layout?” He then adds, “Your husband has always had a humidor as big as a refrigerator filled with his collection of cigars. Unfortunately now I do not smoke them anymore ... “

And so begins my conversation with Ivo Pitanguy, 90 years old and the undisputed number one plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon. He is a phenomenon – a living legend known worldwide and especially beloved in his homeland of Brazil.

Although Pitanguy has not been to my home in seven years, he remembers even the smallest details.

Sprightly, witty and charismatic, Pitanguy charms in five languages – including my native Italian. This is no average 90 year old. He can hardly put down his iPad, playing with the skill of a little “digital” boy. First he shows off photos of his family, and second, a series of famous paintings – from Botticelli’s “Venere” to Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” illustrating the eternity of beauty for an upcoming conference. Now Pitanguy sees himself as a guru of the beauty of the soul.

***

JP: How many years have you been coming to the Saanenland?

I’ve been coming here for more than 50 years. My family loves the region, and one of my four children went to Le Rosey. I enjoy the landscape, the cheese, the people and, of course, the skiing. I was a champion! Just kidding.

 

JP: How often do you spend time here in your Gstaad chalet?

I don’t spend as much time here as I used to, nor as much as I would like. But that has nothing to do with my age … I’m simply too busy.

***

Despite his advanced age, Pitanguy refuses to retire and doesn’t even limit himself to teaching. He still performs surgery (with a team of assistants) in the Rio de Janeiro clinic that bears his name. A prolific author, Pitanguy’s medical series “Plastic Surgery of the Head and Body” is considered the bible in its field. His latest publication, “Maintaining the dignity of the body during the aging process” by the National Academy of Medicine of Rio will be released next month in the United States.

 ***

JP: What does beauty mean to you?

IP: Beauty is transcendental. You can’t explain it … and when we try, it runs away. True beauty is much more than skin deep.

 

JP: People call you “Michelangelo of the Scalpel”. There is a Brazilian Portuguese word, “pitanguiser” coined after you, and you are only surgeon to have inspired a highly successful television series in the US, Nip-Tuck.

IP: I am honoured that my life and professional achievements have inspired others, even for something as simple as a television program.

***

But it’s not all fame and fortune for Pitanguy. His philanthropist’s soul still brings him to the public hospital Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Rio, where he has operated for many decades without cost on the poorest of the poor who live in the favelas.

***

JP: What was the best moment of your career or your greatest professional achievement?

IP: My audiences with the Popes were very special moments. I was profoundly touched to be honoured with the “Prize for Culture and Peace” from Pope John Paul II for my surgical work with the Red Cross on severely deformed children.

***

Pitanguy’s commitment to education has enabled more than 600 surgeons to graduate from his Ivo Pitanguy Institute, founded to strengthen plastic surgery training and pass on his expert knowledge in the field. Professor Pitanguy’s commitment to the legitimacy of plastic surgery is clearly evident in the program – students first learn restorative surgery, and only after that begin study of purely aesthetic procedures.

***

JP: When you entered the field, plastic surgery was quite new, wasn’t it?

IP: Yes, plastic surgery in the 1940’s was not yet a respected and valued specialisation. I earned my Master’s degree in the United States and when I returned to Brazil, I saw the need to develop the field there. I created the first Clinic for Hand Reconstruction in Rio de Janeiro, then was invited to study in Paris, rebuilding the mutilated limbs of World War II victims.

***

The next day he extended me an invitation to his home. I sat down to tea with Professor Pitanguy, who was dressed casually in a grey and black tracksuit, iPad in hand.

***

JP: Even at 90, you’re still very active professionally. What is the secret to your longevity and good health?

IP: I exercise every day with elastic bands to tone my muscles. I’ve always been an athlete – I’ve got a black belt in karate, am a good swimmer and tennis player, and was quite a savvy skier too in my day. 

Here, touch. 

***

Pitanguy invites me to touch his bicep, hard as marble. And while he shows me the trophies he’s won, all poised on a display shelf, he gives me some numbers.

His lifetime of achievement includes speaking at 2,500 conferences at the world’s most prestigious universities, from Harvard to the Sorbonne; 1,000 scientific publications; and 40 books, including his bestseller “Le Chemin de la Beauté”, translated into as many languages.

Still playing with his iPad, Pitanguy shows me the poster of a conference at the Benedictine Library of Bologna entitled, “The man between the suggestions of the world and a call from God”. Fittingly, right now Pitanguy is reading “E disse”, by famous Italian writer Erri De Luca, a re-interpretation of the Ten Commandments.

Pitanguy has his own 11th commandment embroidered on a pillow under the King of Swords which reads: “King of What’s Left”.

We move on to the topic everyone wants to hear about. It’s rumoured that Pitanguy counts royalty and the greatest celebrities amongst his famous clients.

***

JP: Can you name any names?

IP: No names. My lips are zipped. I am like the priest confessor.

 

JP: Is there anything you refuse to do?

IP: I don’t do corrections at the registry office (he smiles). I try to reseat the facial outlines against the effects of the law of gravity. A harmonious middle ground, or trait-d-union if you will, between youth and maturity. Only with respect and limitation can a person bear to look at himself in the mirror with dignity.

 

JP: Lifting remains the secret dream of women in general, is that true Professor?

IP: This is also now the secret dream of many men! My male patient rate has grown from 4% to 22%. If the average age of intervention was between 46 and 55 years, it has now increased. Today I see first time patients who are between 70 and 75 years old. Although I do not recommend waiting so long before a first procedure…otherwise the difference between the “before” and the “after” is too obvious.

 

JP: Have any of your four children followed in your famous footsteps?

IP: My three sons and daughter took a different path. Helcius is an entrepreneur, Ivo Jr a sports manager, Bernard paints and Gisella is a psychologist. She works with me in the clinic because interventions are not only for the body, but also for the soul. I do have a nephew, Antonio Paulo Pitanguy, who is 26 years old, and just finished his specialisation in surgery. He’s next in line to take over the throne.

***

Next to Professor Pitanguy’s pillow is another, embroidered with the words “Queen of Everything”. 

JP: If I say love, what ‘s the first thing that comes to mind?

IP: My wife Marilù. We have been married for 56 years. She is the only woman I’ve really loved and I owe everything to her.

 

 

What do you think? What do you think? (Comments 1)



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