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SWISS ALPS Esther’s Guesthouse


Gimmelwald’s best-kept secret is gaining traction among American travelers


Story by Ashley Johnson A snowy village shaded by pine fi rs, Gim-


melwald goes unnoticed by the herds of vacationers passing through Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen from year to year. As an alter- native to pricey luxury hotels in the mountain village of Mürren, Esther von Allmen opened Esther’s Guesthouse in 2006 as a way to make a living and see the world. Staying in Gimmelwald is the perfect way to


absorb alpine scenery and Swiss hospitality in a town that is unadulterated by tourism and only a fi ve-minute cable car ride from Mürren. T e atmosphere of the guesthouse is some-


where between a hostel and a bed and break- fast as there are two parts to it. T e lower level features two apartment-style rooms that have bedrooms, a living space and a kitchen. T e upper half of the guesthouse has seven rooms, and not one is alike. T e rooms are simple, but the warm red and orange fabrics appear cozy against the mountain scenery. T e guesthouse has steep and narrow


staircases that twist up to the diff erent fl oors. Each wooden cabin-like hallway opens to a diff erent room. “T is is what I call my happy room,” von


Allmen laughed. A slanting, oddly shaped ceiling and a twin


bed take up most of the fl oor space. Von All- men explained that this room can hold one and a half people, perfect for honeymooners and single travelers on a budget. Up another fl ight of stairs, the large mas-


ter suite is the showcase room. Next door, a smaller room with a stargazing window is fea- tured above the bed. Denice and Gordon Price, a couple from


Massachusetts, fawned over the guesthouse and their stay. “We like to get away from the crowd when


we travel and get out in the woods,” said Denice Price.


Left: Esther von Allmen stands on the balcony of her B&B in Gimmelwald, Swit- zerland. | Photo by Kim Bissell Above: An oddly shaped room fi ts one and a half persons. No two rooms are alike in von Allmen’s guesthouse, but all have views for stargazing. | Photo by Alison Smith


“Where else would you stay?” asked Gor-


don Price. “If you are looking for seclusion, this is wonderful. Imagine no road noise out- side when you sleep.” T e village off ers a view of genuine alpine


life as cows graze up the mountain, and at night the town is silent except for the sound of crunching snow. Esther’s Guesthouse looks like a cuckoo clock on the side of a mountain, and unlike the four- and fi ve-star hotels nearby, it feels like a home. T e guestbook on von All- men’s table looks like a scrapbook with draw- ings, children’s crayon art, taped-in pictures, postcards and heartfelt notes. In her offi ce is an envelope from Shanghai. Von Allmen said that a guest took a room key home, but returned it to her via mail. She said this happens all the time. Since von Allmen’s guests are staying in her house rather than a traditional hotel, “room” keys are a little more difficult to come by. “It’s interesting,” von Allmen said. “Gim- melwald is nice, but its people have not seen


the world. So I have interest when people come from all over.” As diverse travelers check in and out, von


Allmen can see the world through her visi- tors. She picks up habits and diff erent cul- tural traditions from time to time. Because of American visitors, she said she has started drinking more water, wearing acrylic nails and speaking English. Every day von Allmen cooks breakfast


for the guests. All of the products that she uses come from Gimmelwald. Her friends in the community gather all the breads, milks, cheeses and meats organically. Von Allmen goes on daily walks through Gimmelwald and happily brings guests along. T e path- ways go steeply in between cow barns and small, wooden cheese stores. “Aſt er a long day on the slopes,” von All-


men said, “guests can come here and just feel at home. T e stars are so close and so bright here some people don’t want to leave.”


ALPINE LIVING 2011 | 91


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