We recently stayed at a bubble suite hotel in remote Graubünden. The experience took me right back to my childhood in Eastern Ontario, Canada.
Back then, I would spend two weeks at my friend's farm helping with the haying each summer. When we didn't sleep in the fort we built in the garage rafters; we would sit on lawn chairs in our sleeping bags. With twinkling stars above, we would pass out next to a dying fire, then wake up with the first rays of the sun. Naturally, we were soaking wet with morning dew and covered in mosquito bites. But despite that, the juice was still worth the squeeze, as I still cherish these memories some 30 years later.
Two guys, a pandemic, and a bubble
Fast-forward to last year when the second wave of the Corona pandemic was coming to a close. Josua von Reding and Nico Berghöfer contacted me to fill me in on their business idea. Now, I hear about a new start-up idea about once a month. And like many of my own, most ideas are better left scribbled on a napkin than actively pursued.
But I was curious. We met, and they pitched me bubble tents: transparent tents erected in secluded places and serviced by farmers. Their reasoning was two-fold:
- Farming is not lucrative, given a median annual income of CHF 79’000 per farm in Switzerland. As a result, many farming households find work off the farmstead to supplement their earnings and support their families.
- During the pandemic, more people sought unique adventures close to home by exploring Switzerland.
In short, the business concept behind the bubble tents was to provide an additional revenue stream for Swiss farmers. For city-slickers like myself, they would be a way of experiencing the Swiss countryside and the night sky without the bug bites and wet sleeping bags.
Meet the Adventurly bubble suite hotel
I am glad to see that this exciting proposition is now a reality. And I got to test the Adventurly bubble suite hotel firsthand. The location is in the hamlet of Silgin in the Val Lumnezia valley in Eastern Switzerland. Run by Maria-Barla and Leo Camenisch, this bubble hotel sits in a stunning location right across the town of Lumbrein, with views of the surrounding mountains.
We are struck by the beauty of the surroundings. We settle into our bubble tent and air it out (it has warmed up to more than 25 degrees C during the day). Next, we venture towards the town's suspension bridge.
After briefly exploring the area, we stop at Anton's kiosk for a drink. Anton has lived in Silgin since the late 1960s and has seen the hamlet transform. A few years back, he put in the self-service kiosk where patrons serve themselves and pay what they think is fair.
And in true Swiss fashion, this works like a charm. Anton's kiosk is sophisticated enough to offer no fewer than four beers, several fizzy drinks, numerous snacks, and a selection of meats and cheeses. What more could you ask for?
Dinner is served at the Besenbeiz
We make our way the Camenisch's broom restaurant. Besenbeiz or Besenwirtschaft quite literally means broom restaurant. The tradition dates back to Charlemagne the Great who allowed farmers to run small restaurants for two months a year as long as they served the food and beverages they produced.
These establishments would signal that they were open by hanging an upsidedown broom outside the door. Broom restaurants are hugely popular in many of the German-speaking wine regions.
For dinner, we have a well-garnished salad as a starter, followed by a main of organic lamb chops, polenta with mascarpone, and steamed vegetables. It tastes delicious with that drizzle of lemon oil on the cauliflower and roasted almonds on the broccoli.
After dinner, Leo lets us in about hikes in the area. He speaks very positively of the bubble suite, surprised by its success. Even a biker from Sweden has spent the night - she would have likely bypassed Silgin if not for the bubble suite hotel.
Though the Camenisch family was initially skeptical of working with Adventurly: "They come and build everything; they do the advertising and bookings. We only need to take care of guests while they're here. We clean the bubble, and thanks to enough bedding sets for four turnovers, we don't need to do laundry every day."
What it’s like to spend a night under the stars
On the way back to the suite, we collect two red wine glasses Anton has readied for us. The stars slowly reveal themselves while we sip on our nightcap on the patio. The baby goats and lambs next to our home for the night have returned to their shed, and everything is silent.
We turn in early and fall asleep quickly - elevation will do that to you. The bed and the down cover are more comfortable than in many three-star hotels…
In mid-June, days are naturally long. And so, by 4:30 AM, the sky transitions from midnight blue to royal blue. By 5:30 AM, the first rays of sun begin to pierce over the mountain crests.
And by seven, the tent is warming up quickly, so we get out of bed and take a stroll before collecting our delicious homemade breakfast from the house. Bread, yogurt, fresh butter, homemade jam, muesli, tea, coffee, and orange juice: we enjoy our breakfast right there on our patio as the Val Lumenzia becomes fully illuminated.
After breakfast, we return our basket to Maria-Barla and have an interesting chat with her. Back when she had agreed to host the bubble suite, she thought it would be successful if it attracted 15 guests throughout the year. They have already passed that by June.
She tells us that for her, it is essential to be a proper hostess and welcome each guest. After spending the night, we can testify to her and the family's hospitality. Depending on how things work out this year, she and Leo already have plans for additional services to offer to guests. We're excited to see what they end up doing.
Our trip to the Camenisch's Adventurly Bubble Suite was an incredible adventure that transported me back to my youth. I highly recommend staying there and believe each bubble suite offers its guests a unique experience. I am also delighted to see a business model that supports Swiss farmers and helps people get back to nature, even just for a night or two.
How to get to Val Lumnezia by public transport
We arrived in Silgin by public transport from Zurich, taking the InterCity train to Chur and then the Rhaetische Bahn to Ilanz before switching to the Postauto bus. The travel time of 2.5 hours was probably faster than with a car - especially on a Friday afternoon.
Thanks to some excellent coordination between Josua and Maria-Barla, she was waiting for us at the bus stop, and we saved ourselves an hour-long march from one side of the valley to the other.