Guests have designs on Engadine hotels

Candles highlight the details in the room Trais Fluors. Hotel Misani

There are many celebrated hotels in St Moritz and the Upper Engadine region, including two "Design" hotels, Misani and Saratz.

This content was published on February 10, 2003 - 11:13

"Why would someone want to take the skull and horns of a dead animal into his room?"

That's not the kind of question that usually pops into my head when checking into a hotel. But when director Jürg Mettler smiled and said "no television" while holding up the heady remains of a chamois, it was one I had to ask.

Along with an Arabian water pipe, the skull and horns was one of the strange accessories Mettler told me I could choose from to customise my room.

A television and a stereo were also available - but I would have had to pay more. The chamois and water pipe were free.

And the accessories crowding the shelf in the hallway were only a hint of the things to come.

Siam and Casablanca

My tour of the hotel began in the "Siam" room, moved on to "Kyoto", progressed to "Casablanca" and finished on a high in the "Swiss Alps".

An eccentric artist from the Engadine helped transform Mettler's wanderlust into these "style" or theme rooms, so that no matter where you are from, the Misani is certain to be a home away from home.

Design hotels

The international hotel association, Design Hotels (see link) to which the Misani belongs, goes even further, refusing to call a room a room, referring instead to those at the Misani as "personal event spaces".

No fear, each personal event space is equipped with a bed - at no extra charge - and bathroom. And beside each bed is a notebook and pencil for jotting down the flood of ideas inspired by a stay at the Misani.

I found my room cheery and functional - nothing more - despite the artful aspirations.

Less gimmicky were the hotel bar and the restaurant "Voyage" where I was given a delectable taste of international cuisine.

My chicken Vindaloo, or any of the other dishes on the Voyage menu, are truly the main course at the Misani and the best reason for staying there.

Hip hotel

Just up the road from the village of Celerina where the three-star Misani is located, is the Saratz in Pontresina.

The Saratz is a notch up in the star rating, belongs to the design hotels group and - like the Misani - has made it onto the prestigious list of "hip hotels" by the American-Australian hotel guru, Herbert Ypma.

As if that weren't enough, the director of the Saratz, Adrian Stalder, is considered to be the best in the Swiss hotel business.

Stalder, as he tells me, had a stroke of good luck when he took over the historic but fading hotel about eight years ago, attracted by a very large carrot.

The Saratz family gave him SFr22 million ($16 million) to spend on sprucing the place up. Not surprisingly, it proved enough money to do more than rip out a few walls and put in new bathrooms.

Star architects

He used the money wisely and hired a couple star Swiss architects who added a cool cubist wing with 60 new rooms and a light-filled lobby to connect the old with the new.

Stalder also put money into the hotel "software" - its human resources. Each guest is invited by a receptionist to have a seat in the cosy lobby where they are introduced to the hotel from A to Z.

I find my spacious double room to be a successful compromise between functionality and style. And the floor-to-ceiling windows look out on an alpine landscape that has few parallels in the Swiss Alps.

Another key to the success of the Saratz has been Stalder's winning formula to attract a diverse clientele.

Second life people

He breaks the different groups into three different categories; families, "second life people" - better known as senior citizens - and "modest introverted luxury keepers".

The older guests in the second group want to be "in a hotel with a lot of young people, where the bars are open late," Stalder explains.

The people in the third group are wealthy guests who prefer not to show off.

I was made to feel more than welcome - despite not fitting neatly into any of the three categories.

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel

Key facts

Misani is a three-star hotel in Celerina.
Saratz is a four-star hotel in the neighbouring village of Pontresina.
Both hotels belong to the international association of "Design Hotels".

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In brief

The Misani and Saratz are two of the oldest hotels in the Upper Engadine and have undergone major renovations over the past few years.

The Misani is centrally located in the village of Celerina and is a short walk to the railway and the cable car station. The latter takes skiers up to the skiing area shared with St Moritz.

The Misani has three restaurants, including the "Voyage" which serves up international cuisine.

The Saratz in Pontresina is located at the entrance to the Roseg valley. The valley is closed to motorised traffic making it a paradise for cross-country skiing, winter hikes and sleigh rides.

The Saratz boasts three restaurants plus a spa. It is also geared to families with family-size suites, special menus and meal times, a nursery and large outdoor play area.

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