A Guide to Weggis, Switzerland, by Ravinia President Welz Kauffman
MOUNTAIN DO: Enjoy a restorative retreat for culture lovers
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Alfresco dining, Weggis-style: A cable car near the top of Mount Rigi
“Alexander said we could go hiking, which I wasn’t completely enthused about,” Kauffman recalls. “Heights don’t bother me, but falling does, and I am a terrible klutz. But he was pretty insistent. The man is in his 60s, and he’s a world-class mountaineer.” The miles-long trek turned out to be a revelation—including the bovine bell chorale Kauffman experienced. “[Cows are] grazing everywhere, each one with that bell around its neck. And those bells, they’re all different notes,” he says. “So there’s this constant chorus of bells, echoing all around you.” He did not tumble down Mount Rigi while hiking that day, but he did fall for the breathtaking scenery.
“I think Alexander and I went hiking maybe three times together, over the course of a few years, before he let me in his grandfather’s studio,” says Kauffman, an avid jazz and classical pianist. Although he enjoys playing many pieces by Rachmaninoff, his favorite is the composer’s final work, the Paganini rhapsody, a massive half-hour opus that unleashes the key of A minor in almost a dozen variations. Kauffman’s visit to the studio in 2008 was worth the wait—for a pianist, about as close to the holy grail as one can get, short of discovering the rest of Mozart’s unfinished Requiem. “I sat at Rachmaninoff’s piano and played the Paganini, which he composed in Weggis,” Kauffman says. “It was surreal. I played Bach and Beethoven from Sergei’s actual manuscripts. All of his notes, still in the margins.”
Visiting Mount Rigi (rigi.ch) is a must, whether you hike, take a train, ride the cable cars, or plan a combination of all three. Among the numerous trails, a good half-day walk for intermediate hikers starts in Weggis and goes up roughly 3,280 feet to Rigi-Kaltbad. At the top, you can see Weggis and Lake Lucerne. Mount Pilatus (pilatus.ch) offers a day trip on what is billed as the world’s steepest cogwheel railway. The train travels a 48 percent grade that reaches almost 7,000 feet; roundtrip tickets from Lucerne cost about $90. Lucerne’s music festivals (lucernefestival.ch/en) are held annually in March, August, and November.
WHERE TO STAY One of Kauffman’s favorite reading spots is the balcony of his room at Relais and Châteaux Park Hotel Weggis (34 Hertensteinstrasse; phw.ch). He has stayed at the hotel on three visits. The 52-room lakeside boutique inn offers mineral baths, massages, and a Japanese garden. Nightly rates start at about $420 for a single room and around $3,200 for a two-bedroom suite. The family-run SeeHotel Gotthard (11 Gotthardstrasse; gotthard-weggis.ch), has 16 rooms and shares a recreation area—swimming pool, steam bath, and solarium—with the adjacent Beau Rivage Hotel (6 Gotthardstrasse; beaurivage-weggis.ch). Rates at the SeeHotel Gotthard range from about $180 to $390 per night; rates at the Beau Rivage are available at email@example.com.
WHERE TO EAT Kauffman has found the hotel restaurants of Weggis to be world-class. He loves the escargot at Beau Rivage, where diners can choose between the white-tablecloth restaurant or the casual awning-covered terrace. The husband-and-wife owners, Dorly and Urs-Peter Geering, specialize in locally caught fish. Fresh fish is also on the menu at the Park Hotel’s Sparks, where brook trout and white catfish are staples; the Annex, also at the Park, offers multicourse prix fixe dinners.
Photograph: Panoramic Images