A final arc over the grassy meadow in the middle of town and the paragliders come in for a landing. With legs in motion, pilot and passenger convert gliding into running and bring their light-as-air wing to a resting spot in front of the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa.
High mountains, Alpine streams and fresh water lakes dominate the Swiss landscape. Life in Switzerland is shaped by that geography. The best Swiss destinations take advantage of their locations by bringing visitors up close and personal with nature.
Part of the Victoria-Jungfrau Collection-- a Swiss-owned hotel chain--a member of the Swiss Deluxe Hotels and The Leading Hotels of the World, the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa offers 5-Star luxury in a location of great natural beauty.
Rooms at the front of the hotel face a line of mountains that stretch across the horizon. On blue-sky days, the Jungfrau, one of the tallest mountains in Europe is clearly visible in the distance.
Located between two lakes—Brienz and Thun--the hotel is a jumping off point for excursions into the countryside. During warm weather, take a day-hike above the hotel and enjoy views of forests, streams and waterfalls. Besides hiking and paragliding, there are music festivals, guided wilderness explorations, river rafting, boating, water-skiing and skydiving.
When the weather turns cold—although in Interlaken the winters are temperate—an hour from the hotel there are areas for skiing, sledding and ice-skating.
But the pleasures of the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel can also be enjoyed with less exertion.
Named for the two 19th century hotels—the Victoria and the Jungfrau—that were joined together to create the property, the Victoria-Jungfrau is thoroughly rooted in traditional Swiss values of hospitality, service and comfort.
Having remodeled the historic Belle Epoch property twice in the last several decades, the interior of the hotel reveals a modern heart. The atrium at the lobby entrance soars into the air with a five-story, wide-open expanse. Fresh cut flowers decorate the public areas.
All of the rooms have been remodeled with electronic conveniences and thoroughly modern bathrooms. In addition to the rooms in the main part of the hotel, there are ten suites above the spa. Those sleekly designed rooms are large and comfortable with decks looking out to the public areas below.
There are three restaurants and two bars, including Salon Davidoff for cigar aficionados and the Intermezzo Bar with a selection of Swiss whiskies.
The crown jewel of the hotel is the Spa. A great expanse of the property has been developed as a center for wellness. A fitness center shares space with an indoor pool, an outdoor salt water Jacuzzi, saunas and whirlpools.
Massages are available in the ESPA Spa and in the Sensai Select Spa, which adds beauty treatments to the menu of offerings designed to relax and rejuvenate. Hot stone therapy, exfoliation, acupressure, facials, body wraps, aromatherapy, body peeling, moisturizing, silk powder massage, salt and oil scrubs and private two-person massages complete with a meal are offered in the Spa.
During a recent stay at the hotel, I had a Nordic massage in the ESPA Spa. After several weeks traveling around Switzerland, my legs, shoulders and back had suffered the inevitable strains from packing and unpacking, climbing on and off trains and moving from one hotel to another.
As the massage therapist from Spain began the treatment with a footbath in warm soapy water, she described the details of the massage. When she heard about my travels, she made special note of areas in need of attention. On the table, the soft music, low lighting and the therapist’s firm touch brought my tired mind and aching limbs to a better place. The massage was refreshing and gave me renewed energy.
Feeling invigorated, I talked with José Maia, head concierge, about excursions in the area he could suggest. Standing on the open, front patio of the hotel, he pointed to the Jungfrau in the distance. Just below the peak, I could have a meal at Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station and restaurant in Europe. I could either take the train, a several hours journey in each direction, or he could arrange a helicopter to take me, in which case I could be there for lunch.
He told me I could go paragliding with no prior experience. A guest had once arranged for his mother to take the flight from the top of Schynige Platt, the mountain above the open meadow in front of the hotel. She had no problem and she was 97.
If I wanted to have a dinner party, the hotel's chef would plan a meal on a yacht on the Brienz or Thuner Lake. If I wanted to explore the local area, a guide could lead me to see the all-seasons waterfall at Lauterbrunnen.
Or, like the royal princess who visited one year, I could stay in town, relax and enjoy Interlaken. Traveling with a large retinue, she had spent two weeks in each city she visited. Amazingly, wherever she stayed, she would not leave her room protected by armed guards. That was the plan when she arrived at the Victoria-Jungfrau Hotel. Then something happened.
She left her room without her bodyguards. The concierge did not know why. Her room had a view of the Jungfrau and the wide expanse of blue sky and clouds. Maybe that encouraged her to walk outside and enjoy the fresh Alpine air. Maybe she liked watching the herd of cows grazing in the meadow in front of the hotel and she wanted a closer look.
The concierge would see her on the far side of the meadow under a tree, reading a book or walking around the small town along with the crowds of tourists who stopped in the small shops buying chocolates and souvenirs. Ultimately, her two weeks at the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel lasted six months. It’s difficult to know for certain, but it seems as if the princess had found a place where she felt happy, safe and serene.
Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa (Höheweg 41
3800, Interlaken, Switzerland,
Tel: +41 33 828 26 36
Fax: +41 33 828 28 86, www.victoria-jungfrau.ch)
Located in the center of Switzerland, Interlaken is easily accessible by train and car.