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Einstein and the Swiss Government

Beatrice Lessi

Once upon a time…

…the magnificent Bellevue Palace, in the heart of the Swiss capital, Bern, was sold for 1 Swiss Franc.

You might think: what a shame I couldn’t buy it myself! But the Swiss did find a clever way to do it, therefore today they technically own it. A smart move – maybe it’s not a coincidence that Einstein used to live five minutes from there.

Let’s take a tour of this beautiful building, which is also the official guesthouse of the Swiss Government. At the end, I’ll finish the 1 Swiss franc story.

We start in the elegant neoclassical lobby with its magnificent stained glass window on the ceiling. Politicians, diplomats, and rock stars from all over the world regularly gather here (when I visited, my suite has just been occupied by Guns’n’Roses) and make history while enjoying superb views of the Bernese Alps. 

The famous collection of silver frames with photos and autographs or well-known guests is a fun contrast to the DJ equipment in the grand room. After having checked in, the hotel General Manager, Urs Buehrer, smiles and explains that yes, things do happen here before the press or anybody else hears about them. He also tells me that the Belevue Palace is above all a hub, a perfect place that enables you to come and go to different parts of Switzerland, and therefore the ideal accommodation for those who want to see a lot. He has a full program prepared for me, but first of all I need to check my room.

When I enter the newly renovated suite overlooking the Parliament, I immediately notice two things: chocolate and a binocular….

Yes! I’ll give you the 1 Swiss Franc story in a minute

But if you want to read the whole article, you will have to go to any of the rooms or suites of the 39 , five stars, Swiss Deluxe Hotels, where you will find one a copy of H, the Swiss Deluxe Hotels Magazine. Alternatively, you can check it online. H, Magazine conveys Swiss flair, savoir vivre, and the elevated world of the member hotels with engaging stories penned by renowned journalists.

It happened during the Cold War, when the family who originally owned the Bellevue Palace decided to sell it, and the Soviets offered to buy it to turn it into their Embassy. The hotel is literally attached to the Ministry of Defence, and a few meters from the Parliament Building, so the Swiss Government didn’t like the idea one bit. and asked the Swiss National bank to acquire a majoritystake to save it from the foreign takeover.

About 10 years later, the Swiss National Bank wanted to sell the hotel to the Swiss Government – after all, hospitality wasn’t its main interest. But i had kept it without investing any money and or doing any renovation, so the Government refused to pay, and only after some negotiating, managed to get the property for the symbolic value of 1 Swiss Franc. Fair and square, with Swiss flair.

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