Mountain inns in Switzerland
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Whole books have been written about the joys of staying in a Swiss mountain inn (Berghaus, Berggasthaus, Berggasthof, Berghotel; auberge de montagne). The term is a tricky one to pin down, since it can refer to varying styles of simple rustic accommodation in a mountain setting. All, though, possess unique character, by dint both of their often spectacular isolated location (generally only accessible by foot, and then often involving hard long hikes) and of their history – many are old Alpine farmhouses converted more than a century ago to meet the needs of the first holidaying British gentlemen and ladies on their summer tours of the Swiss Alps. Most have undergone some renovation over the intervening decades, but often not much: in general, you can expect an all-wood building in the local architectural style, with rustic decor throughout (window boxes, antiques on the sideboard, ticking grandfather clocks) and a uniquely relaxed, informal atmosphere of cosy communality. Hikers are the main clientele, and Swiss families may return season after season to hike their favourite paths, stay at their favourite Berghaus, and catch up on news from the family who owns and runs the place.

Nature, not amenities, are the focus: most Berghäuser maintain charmingly old-style bedrooms, with chunky old beds smothered under plump duvets, but very few offer private bathrooms, some may not have showers, and a handful have no hot water, or must generate their own electricity. Most have plenty of dorm places. Food is universally good: a Berghaus that skimps on sustenance is a contradiction in terms. Prices are not that much higher than elsewhere – an average Fr.130 for a double, or Fr.45 for a dorm place, both including dinner and breakfast – but you invariably have to pay in cash. It’s customary to settle your bill the night before you depart.

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