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The “Good German” - A Neo-Classical Jewel Box on Lake Geneva
by Bonnie Carroll

Beautifully situated on the bank of Lake Geneva, the view from Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues encompasses Geneva’s most significant icons; the Jet d’eau, world’s tallest fountain, and Old Town, where many buildings date back to the 16th century. Geneva is recognized as the city of peace and major international negotiations. The view from the hotel also includes the shopping district and financial center, which are only steps away across the footbridge. The hotel owes its nickname to Hans Kleberger (1486-1545), a wealthy German merchant and financier, who was the original owner of the property where the hotel stands today.

The hotel opened its doors in 1834, and was the largest hotel in Switzerland, with shops, a café-restaurant, and three hotel floors; an attic floor accommodated the staff. From the beginning the hotel amenities were designed to offer individual or group special requests. In 1917, the hotel interior was completely refurbished, and an additional floor was added. Hotel des Bergues became the headquarters of the French Delegation of the newly-born League of Nations, and in 1967, a new wing was added to the hotel.

Des Begues - interiorFour Seasons selected the celebrated French interior architect Pierre-Yves Rochon to recapture the spirit of this distinguished neo-classical building,and no effort was spared to create the ultimate in understated refinement. The eleven month undertaking included the creation of the staff décor, a delicate technique, rarely performed today that is taught only in Paris, Milan and Saint-Etienne (France). The shell-shaped niche in the entrance hall is reminiscent of Boticelli and was worked out element after element before casting into one piece. The elaborate cornices were cast on site, allowing painters to work on minimal filing. The fluted cornices were prepared on site, and the entire process was a completely authentic reproduction. The Italian medieval scenery in the Il Lago restaurant was painted entirely by hand.

Des Begues - roomThe 68 bedrooms and 35 suites offer color schemes of Wedgewood blue and light almond green, with “toile de Joury” wall motifs. Louis-Philippe-style furnishings are featured and delight the eye with their white-lead stained wood technique. Each bedroom has an en suite marble bathroom, bar and LCD flat-screen television with a DVD player and computer keyboard. All equipment needed to work in the suite is standard. Every detail has been carefully thought out to make these accommodations incredibly tasteful and comfortable.

Working out at the hotel can be enjoyed on state-of-the art equipment in the Fitness Centre, located on the top floor, where a complimentary juice bar is featured, as well as lovely Spa service suites, where a variety of wonderful treatments are available and each begins with a soothing foot massage. If you are the outdoor type there are over 20 golf courses nearby, water sports on Lake Geneva, including sailing and water-skiing. Snow skiing opportunities abound in winter, as well as mountain climbing and biking in summer. The hotel welcomes children, and provides activities and special amenities to make them welcome.

The Executive Chef Marco Garfagnini was hand selected by the hotel general manager Jose Silva, and Garfagnini is from Tuscany, where his family manages his very successful restaurant. Mr. Silva felt a room containing a hand painted fresco of a 17th century Italian landscape warranted a talented Italian chef, and Chef Marco is magical at creating the best in Florentine favorites. The dining room is one of the most elegant I have ever experienced, for a quiet breakfast or by romantic candlelight in the evening. It is filled with precious paintings and art pieces, as well as glimmering china and crystal service of the finest quality. Do try the oxtail consommé, tortellini with aged parmesan cheese for a starter. My favorite entrée was black olive crusted turbot with potato and basil, the shrimp ravioli in crab sauce is outstanding, as is the seared scallop dish with mushrooms and shellfish reduction. Marco’s signature risotto dishes, such as risotto with calamari and champagne emulsion or risotto with Brittany lobster and basil melt in your mouth. Dessert was a stylishly presented signature tiramisu with Il Lago written across the top in Swiss chocolate. This elegant landmark restaurant represents the graceful merging of the best of all culinary worlds in Switzerland. Sitting peacefully on the right bank where the Rhone and Lake Geneva meet, the adjoining cherry wood paneled hotel bar is a memorable place to enjoy an after dinner cordial or a sip of local grappa.

The concierge at the hotel welcomes guests to join tours to the countryside and experience local wines from one of 95 wineries in Geneva. This canton is the third largest wine-producing area in Switzerland, and offers high-quality white wines such as Chasselas, flagship reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamaret. Geneva wine won five gold medals and three silver medals at the Vinalies wine competition in Paris last year. The Office of Vine and Wine sponsored contest includes contestants from around the world, and Geneva’s awards provided a confirmation of the expertise of the Swiss winemakers and the fine quality of wines they produce.

Geneva is an exciting city that is filled with museums, cathedrals, and is drenched in world history. The people are charming and the entire city is colorful and fun. The food throughout the area is simply wonderful; from the five-star dining rooms to the small café’s in Old Town and Carouge. For tourist information or to book a personal tour of the city please visit: www.geneve-tourisme.ch.

Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva
33, Quai des Bergues
1301 Geneva, Switzerland
41 (0) 22 908 70 00


© 2008 Bonnie Carroll, All Rights Reserved