< SWITZERLAND | ZÜRICH: Baur au Lac
In 1844, Johannes Baur, who came from the Vorarlberg area in Austria, opened his second hotel in Zurich. After the Baur en Ville which was set
up a few years earlier at the Paradeplatz, he built and the second, the Baur au Lac right beside the lake with an open view of the mountains using part of the old
war harbour which had been filled in a short time before.
The hotel, still more of a large villa, served at first as an elegant residence for guests travelling incognito. After constant enlargements, the Baur au Lac had reached more or less its present size by 1898. The huge amount of customers brought to his new hotel from the very start must have surprised even Johannes Baur. In any case, his business success put him in a position to keep the Baur au Lac up-to-date at all times and to make it into the most comfortable hotel far and wide.
By 1854, just 10 years after the Baur au Lac had opened, the Leipzig Illustrated Newspaper was already devoting a whole page to the famous hotel on Lake Zurich in
issue number 575, with the headline "Zurich is made more beautiful". This article states: "Art must vie with nature, which displays, even lavishes, all of its charms
here. The exterior of the hotel promises a great deal. But when one goes inside and walks through the luxurious salons and bedrooms, all of one's expectations
Today what surprises us particularly is the magic and power of attraction which the hotel immediately exercised over large numbers of the European aristocracy. One simply had to have been there to join in all of the conversations about it.
Austria's Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) spent a whole summer here with two princes and an entourage of 60 people. The Russian Tsarina also stayed at the Baur au Lac. Later, the German Emperor Wilhelm II and countless princes, counts and barons followed. Then came the artists, invited by Zurich's young moneyed "nobility" - first and foremost the wife of Alfred Escher, the railway king. Richard Wagner gave the world première of the first act of his "Die Walküre" in the Baur au Lac, singing himself and accompanied on the piano by his father-in-law, Franz Liszt. The most famous musicians in the world have gone in and out ever since.
The list extends from Arthur Rubinstein to Placido Domingo, Zubin Mehta and Anne-Sophie Mutter. The visual arts have been represented by personalities such as Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Fernando Botero, to mention a few only.
Countless stories could be told - if it were not for the hotel's discretion which also became part of its reputation. But the hotel was making its own history: In 1853 in its Petit Palais, the "peace of Zurich" was made. And in 1892 here in the Baur au Lac, Baroness Bertha von Suttner convinced the Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel of the necessity for an international peace prize.
For 160 years, there was of course no end to the "circulus virtuosus" of constant renovations. In 1994, Johannes Baur's descendants had to face the greatest challenge in the history of the hotel. A complete renovation of the building was impending and with it, probably the largest innovatory project that Swiss hotel history had ever seen. But also in the years before this, the Baur au Lac had undergone much construction work.
The complete renovation of the Baur au Lac points the way to the next century. There is hardly any other hotel with such a range of elegant and luxurious rooms, such comfortable and exquisite marble baths as the Baur au Lac now offers to its guests. Silent footsteps on thick carpets lead to the white doors which a clever electronic security system allows only authorised persons to enter. Highly sensitive smoke detectors provide additional safety...
The editor of the Leipzig Illustrated Newspaper of 1854 would not believe his eyes if he had to describe today's Baur au Lac. But then he would probably write: "From the balcony on the spectacular classical façade, there is a view stretching far beyond beautiful, adjacent Lake Zurich to snow-covered mountains. Sweeping back to the romantic Schanzengraben, the eyes come to rest on the cedar and ginkgo trees in the wonderful gardens. It is almost unbelievable that, only a three-minute walk away, business is going on in the banking centre at the Paradeplatz and in the elegant jewellers and tempting chocolate shops on the Bahnhofstrasse."
#Jean Des Cars: Memories of a Palace: Baur Au Lac
Flammarion, 2002 | ISBN-10: 2080108190; ISBN-13: 978-2080108197
English language (French version also available) | 160 pages | Hardcover
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