In 1897, in his ‘A Tramp Abroad’ memoirs, Mark Twain recorded that the Schwarenbach Hotel sat “on a lonely spot among the peaks where it’s swept by the trailing fringes of the cloud rack and is rained on and snowed on and pelted and persecuted by the storms nearly every day of its life”.
He’s not wrong.
As I arrive, in late June, at the grey stone building with its wooden shutters and expansive outside terrace, the cloud has descended and is clinging to every surface so that my hair is as drenched as if I’ve been caught in a downpour. Outside, dainty gingham tablecloths do their best to distil the gloom of the weather but their efforts are thwarted by the forlorn sun parasols, shivering by their sides.
At 2060 metres above sea level in the Swiss Alps, roughly half way along the Gemmipass to Sunnbüel hiking trail that links the Bernese Oberland and the Valais, the Schwarenbach has been welcoming weary travellers since the mid 18th century, providing them with food, warmth and, should they wish it, a place to rest overnight.
By no stretch of the imagination could I qualify as a weary traveller having traded the precipitous path of the Gemmi for the convenience and effortlessness of the cable car and then enjoyed a leisurely walk along the snow encrusted banks of the Daubensee before arriving for lunch. An interloper on this historic hotel’s prestigious guest list I may be, my feet treading where those of Twain, Jules Verne, Picasso and Sherlock Holmes, the last metaphorically speaking, have trod, but I am no less a refugee from the miserable weather.
The contrast between the dismal, sightless atmosphere outside and the bright, convivial interior of the Schwarenbach was as night to day. Beneath the low beamed ceiling, almost all the pine tables and benches were occupied by hikers revelling in the respite from the cold claw of the cloud, their jackets, gloves, hats and fleeces draped across the backs of their chairs. Despite the demands on their services, the staff smiled, laughed and joked with their guests in a medley of languages as they brought a steady succession of steaming, aromatic dishes from the kitchen.
As bottles of water and wine made their way down my table, lunch began to arrive – a savoury vegetable soup sprinkled with tangy, fresh chives; a crispy, mixed leaf salad drizzled with mayonnaise dressing; tender strips of beef in a creamy gravy with butter noodles and sour cream and finally, a home made ice cream roulade.
Appetite sated, by the time I had finished my coffee I could no longer see anything through the windows and emerged reluctantly into opaque drizzle to continue my journey to Sunnbüel, looking back over my shoulder as the oasis of the Shwarenbach was swallowed into the mist and disappeared.
The food at the Schwarenbach isn’t gourmet; the décor isn’t casual chic or boho brash; the menu isn’t molecular and the wine isn’t vintage. But the welcome is warm and genuine; the food is delicious and plentiful, and the atmosphere is infectious. If you’re on the Gemmi Pass, be sure to pop in and experience some of their hospitality, in fact, I defy you to walk past, especially if it’s raining, or snowing, or being ‘persecuted by the storms‘.
Berghotel Schwarenbach; 0041(0)33 675 12 72; firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+