SPIEZ, CH. Nestled among the striking peaks of the Swiss Alps, on the train line between Bern and Interlaken, sits a quiet town where the day unfolds just as peacefully as the snow melting off the summits in the distance; where the swans emerging from the fog settling over Lake Thun are not afraid of the passersby strolling on the nearby promenade; and where the sun still shines, even in the middle of a cold, late autumn day.
Hotel Belvédère was one of my top lodging choices in Spiez, given the town’s reputation as a wellness destination. Located right next to the lake, the property offers stunning views of the alpine panorama, a private garden and an extensive spa amenity list, which includes an outdoor heated pool, indoor jacuzzi, Finnish saunas and hamam steam baths. I am pretty sure I was just as excited (if not more) about spending time inside the hotel as I was about strolling outside!
Oh, did I mention the breakfast buffet is also to die for?
From the hotel, you can choose to walk towards the main square in two ways. You can either follow the garden path, which will lead you to a tiny trail next to the water (this is the route to take if you don’t mind going down a few flights of stairs and enjoy quiet, romantic strolls). Alternatively, you can walk through the residential neighbourhood and enjoy admiring traditional Swiss chalet-style architecture (this route also provides picturesque views of Schloss Spiez and the nearby hill).
I decided to follow Schachenstrasse downhill and in just under fifteen minutes, I was at the edge of the water. A few kids playing in the nearby playground, one bundled up lady walking her Fox Terrier. I exchanged a few words, patted the friendly companion, who was already jumping into an invitation to play, and soon after, sat down admiring the clouds forming over the mountaintops in the distance. I closed my eyes embracing the mountain breeze, the sunrays like soft waves transferring heat energy onto my already bright red cheeks. There is a sense of peace in Spiez that you don’t get to experience in many other places. On one hand, you feel tiny, like a helpless creature at the mercy of the powerful mountains enveloping your surrounding. On the other, you feel this invigorating power that somehow allows you to transgress into a space that is void of any stress, far away from the loudness of daily life. You don’t quite understand it. It feels somewhat peculiar, this emotional paradox. Yet, you embrace it, and secretly, like it very much.
Just up the stairs, you can go explore the grounds of Scholss Spiez, a 12th century castle with beautiful gardens and numerous viewing points over the water. If you pause for a moment, you can hear the distant sound of cowbells, and if you look up, you might notice the nearby flocks of birds jumping from one tree to another. I made my way to yet another garden, this time overlooking the Niesen mountain. Rightly named The Swiss Pyramid, due to its geometrical symmetry, this magnificent summit acted as a muse for many artists throughout the last century and until today, it keeps inspiring many visitors who come to explore its beauty. You can actually take the funicular all the way to the top and spend the night at Berghaus Niesen Kulm for stunning sunrise and sunset views all year round! For those alpine adventurers out there, Niesen even boasts the world’s longest stairway with 11,674 steps that can take you all the way up, however this endurance feast is only open once a year, during an organized race. I can’t help but imagine all these people rushing to check-in at the Belvédère spa shortly after this particularly courageous endeavour!
I stopped for a late lunch at Bellevue Restaurant, a traditional Swiss ‘comfort food’ venue, located in an intimate, rustic setting, with stunning panoramic lake views. I was lucky enough to get a window table and a friendly waiter who kindly explained the specialties on the menu. I opted for a protein and carbohydrate-filled option, paired with a hot apple cider, given that my legs were already sending me warning signs, both from the cold and my overly extended stroll. Before leaving, I was offered a freshly baked donut filled with strawberry jam. What a lovely surprise! I was actually planning on avoiding dessert, but I guess the hosts had other plans for me that day. How did they guess my willpower to avoid freshly baked anything is rather weak?
I went back towards the hotel and spent the rest of the evening at the spa. I remember waking up at one point in the night, and after bundling up in two layers of bathrobes (the perks of being a solo traveler), I stepped out on the balcony to watch the lights of distant houses flicker on the mountains across the lake. I felt like a tiny human, yet again, but also at peace. Perhaps this is what relaxation feels like. Stripping off your armour, and almost like stepping into an audacious memory, your feelings overpower your thoughts and your spirit is in synch with the heartbeat of the people and places of your surrounding. You feel half-dreaming, half-awake, yet you’re there. And in that moment, you know that’s the most important thing.