Xenia Rules

  20.01.2013 Archiv


I love hotels. I spent the better part of my early years living in them: the Caravel, the Carlyle, the Stanhope, the Palace, and the Arc-en-Ciel. My grandfather owned two in Greece. When I was small I spent many summers in his hotels feeling like Eloise, the fabled children’s-book character who runs wild at the Plaza in New York.

Back then, a hotel was also home. When I was a child, the Caravel in Athens felt like it was all mine. I loved ordering room service and getting to eat anything I wanted whenever my tummy desired it. I loved the crisp white sheets and the endless flow of white towels. I loved robbing the housekeeping cart of soaps, creams, shower caps, and stationery. I loved the grand marble-covered entrance and the statue of Zeus that greeted guests just beyond the sliding glass doors. I loved the industrial air conditioning that hit you like a wall on the other side of those doors and emancipated you from the scorching summer heat. I loved the pool and the pizzeria. I loved the green carpets, the plush velvet chairs, and the nightclub downstairs. I loved the jewelry shop, the newsagent, and the mosque on the top floor that had lots of men’s slippers strewn about in front.

I also loved Room 701. That was our suite whenever we stayed. But most of all, I loved knowing everyone who worked there—and more importantly, the fact that everyone knew me! From the bellmen to the telephone operators, wherever I found myself I had a friend.

During the winter months, the Palace here in Gstaad was home. Though I don’t remember it now, I am told I had dinner every night with Gildo downstairs. I don’t live at the Palace anymore, but it is still home and every Christmas I await coming back for the first time with pleasure. I most look forward to greeting Andrea at the front desk, Domenico at the coat check, Franco and Massimo in the restaurants, Romano in the GreenGo, Davide and Max behind the bar, the nice gentleman with glasses at the door, the valet boys...and on and on. And these wonderfully kind and hard-working people—many of whom have known me all my life and have been at the Palace for longer than I have been alive—are the ones that bring me back. They are the ones I most want to see. Their hospitality is the reason I love hotels.

My favorite kind of hotel is one that never changes—the staff most importantly, but also the decor. I like old-fashioned hotels because I like the old-fashioned style. This is why I love the Palace most. But even the Palace had to put in a new carpet a few years ago and had several upgrades before that. But it hasn’t much changed since I can remember, and what has changed was done in a way so as not to offend people who dislike such modifications. But it wasn’t all good news for the nostalgically minded, what with the new Alpina and the Bellevue’s new proprietors. 

The Alpina has brought Gstaad to new heights of modernity. For the fashionable set, Muhammad has certainly come to the mountain. On the other hand, the community’s sentimentalists were sad to see the old Alpina destroyed and are worried about the sort of clientele the new and improved Alpina will attract. Among other projects such as the art center, the Alpina has divided the community between those who support growth and those who resist expansion. Perhaps the Bellevue is a perfect example of how to please both camps. The new owners, similarly to those of the Alpina, have roots in the region. But in contrast, they will not destroy a landmark building to start anew. Instead, they are keen to draw out the warmth and soul of the existing building, which has been around for 100 years. They are updating the sterile decor and creating a more hospitable and youthful atmosphere for the village inn.

Let us hope that the new group of hoteliers abandons the often lifeless, inferior, and impersonal service that is so ubiquitous of late. Let us hope they remember the ancient Greek tradition of xenia, or hospitality, so that current and future generations of children who come to Gstaad can have experiences similar to the ones I remember.

Related article: The Alpina Gstaad



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