A haven for body, mind and spirit17.08.2020 Gstaad Living
The term ‘haven’ conjures images of a calm harbour amid tempestuous seas, a verdant grove sheltered from lashing storms, a comfortable chair before a cozy hearth. Has the Saanenland always been viewed as such? History suggests the affirmative.
I n the last century, the Saanenland was a sanctuary to those trying to evade two world wars. In 1915, a tennis tournament was organised at the Palace to boost morale and stimulate tourism during the First World War.
Before the Second World War, several large Swiss companies were considering withdrawing to the Saanenland, which was included in the Reduit Suisse. Basler Versicherung constructed a cellar vault at its Chalet Eggli in 1940 (now part of Hotel Spitzhorn) for its most valuable assets, in which the Swiss Post also stowed 75 million CHF in stamps.
Winterthur Insurance is said to have rented temporarily at the Bellevue, and the Swiss Bank Corporation built a massive two-story vault under the Palace terrace to store their gold and important documents (now hosting the Fromagerie). Even the Swiss military stashed a clandestine unit of stay-behind operatives in this mountainous stronghold.
How about spiritual and mental benefits? The Indian philosopher and educator Jiddu Krishnamurti first gave public talks in Saanen in 1961, which continued annually until 1985, bringing mindfulness and uplifting the spirits of countless listeners. It was probably no coincidence that brought him to this paradisiacal oasis. Myriad sources extol the rejuvenating effects of nature, something in which the Gstaad area abounds. Crystalline mountain air, as effervescent as a split of grand cru bubbly, pervades the forested mountains and flowered alpine meadows, soothing cosmopolites’ stress-ridden psyches. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Saanenland continues to be a refuge for those seeking to get away from the urban cores in Switzerland and the strictly enforced lockdowns of other conurbations throughout Europe. Copious hiking trails offer visitors a scenic and pain-free way to combine physical activity with social-distancing. Taking a coffee or lunch atop the Wispile allows guests to indulge in soothing vistas unobstructed by high-rises, elevated autoroutes, and other beguiling vertebrates of the concrete jungle.
With its resources – cinema, international schools, markets, museums, galleries, shopping, airport – the area sometime seems like a tiny metropolis in itself. And it feels safe, cradled by its encircling peaks. “But it’s not going to remain that way if people become complacent,” warns local security maven James Otigbah of Excel Security Solutions, who is helping clients deal with the pandemic’s implications. “This thing is not over.”
We should appreciate Gstaad and the Saanenland as the limited natural resource that it is and not take it for granted, while keeping a weather eye open for further developments down the road. Maintain vigilance and encourage safety for everyone. After all, valley denizens have been doing it for quite some time.