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What it’s like to vacation in a historic Swiss building

Ferien im Baudenkmal - Historic Vacation Homes in Switzerland

The ancient door creaks as I open it, and my feet are freezing as I tiptoe down the stone stairs to retrieve wood.

I load up a bundle of logs into a canvas sling and haul it inside. Fog clings to the rocks above our house. It is 7 AM, and time to light the fire. Keeping the fire going provides much sport during our first days in Unterschächen.

But as the temperatures rise, we find ourselves having breakfast on the balcony, watching the cows munch buttercups and the distant cable car trundling up into the mysterious heights above.

Ferien im Baudenkmal - Historic Vacation Homes in Switzerland
 

Ferien im Baudenkmal

We are staying at Stüssihofstatt, a restored farmhouse dramatically nestled between two towering cliffs. These mark the entrance to the spectacular Brunnital valley, at the base of which our village of Unterschächen is located.

Stüssihofstatt is one of the oldest buildings in Canton Uri, dating back to 1450. This history oozes throughout the building. Each creaking floorboard reminds us that countless generations of people have shared this space. At the same time, contemporary touches like the bespoke staircase or a bold choice of lighting are reminders that we are living in the year 2020.

Ferien im Baudenkmal - Historic Vacation Homes in Switzerland(Photograph copyright Ferien im Baudenkmal/Gataric Fotografie)
 

Historic holiday homes in Switzerland

The house is part of Ferien im Baudenkmal, a foundation which rescues historic buildings from demolition and restores them. Retaining as many historical elements as possible, the foundation adds modern touches, especially in terms of kitchens and bathrooms.

Ferien im Baudenkmal - Historic Vacation Homes in Switzerland(Photograph copyright Ferien im Baudenkmal/Gataric Fotografie)

The selected designers always have a sensitivity for the historic, and the contemporary additions are always Swiss in origin to maintain some historical consistency (and quality, of course). For the Stüssihofstatt, the organization has worked with Zürich-based designers, Selected Interiors.

Best of all: the houses are rented out as holiday homes. They are a perfect compromise for those who like their home comforts, and for those with a taste for adventure. It is also a brilliant solution for your 2020 getaway, if like most, your plans to travel abroad have been scuppered.

Browsing the foundation's thirty or so properties, I see you could stay in an Engadine farmhouse, a 17th century tannery or an alpine barn overlooking Lake Thun. If that does not take your fancy, then consider a stone chateau in the Valais, an 18th century mansion on Lake Zurich or a fisherman's house in Thurgau.

What makes these places special is the feeling of history mixed with contemporary style. Our dining room is painted in striking mint green, yet contains an ancient milk-churning wheel. There is an option to cook on a tiny wood-fired stove, or a modern oven.

Ferien im Baudenkmal - Historic Vacation Homes in Switzerland

The bedroom floorboards creak satisfyingly, yet the bed has a supremely comfy memory foam mattress. It is done tastefully and with enough flair to betray the designer's taste in mid-century modern design.

 

Hiking right from the doorsteps

One of the remarkable things about the location of the Stüssihofstatt is the number of hiking routes that start on the doorstep. From sunrise, hikers stroll past the kitchen window as they begin the route up the Brunnital.

Ferien im Baudenkmal - Historic Vacation Homes in Switzerland
Ferien im Baudenkmal - Historic Vacation Homes in Switzerland

We joined them, taking this route on a sunny Monday. Over the course of the 12-kilometer route, we encountered cows, sheep and llamas, mossy forests, flowery meadows and trickling waterfalls.

Alternatively, to the east is the easy path to the spectacular Stäuben waterfall (pictured above). We were able to walk this route before the morning mist lifted, making for an adventurous trek through the fog. We got back to the house in time for brunch. The fenced-in BBQ spot at Aesch alone is worth a visit. (Bring your own Urner sausages!)

Ferien im Baudenkmal - Historic Vacation Homes in Switzerland

Or you can venture up the winding Klausenpass on the Postbus and look down upon the house from above on the wide, undulating Schächental Höhenweg. A half-hour walk takes you to visit the garden gnomes at lovely Alpbeizli in Heidmanegg.

Ferien im Baudenkmal - Historic Vacation Homes in Switzerland
Ferien im Baudenkmal - Historic Vacation Homes in Switzerland

Non-hikers could explore the history of Uri at the Historic Museum in the lovely town of Altdorf, or soak in the story of Willhem Tell in Bürglen. High above the village is the Hotel Posthaus which sits among green pastures overlooking the Schächental. Or explore Unterschächen itself to find the hidden grotto, the beautifully located chapel and the ancient wooden sawmill.

Why I endorse the Ferien im Baudenkmal Foundation

Houses run by the Foundation tend to be large enough to fit a group of friends or extended family. It is an amazing way to discover more about Switzerland, its history, culture, and architecture.

Of course, you need do very little, and just sit in the garden with the grill, listen to the cowbells and soak in history and nature all at once. Oh, and don’t forget to put more wood on the fire.

More information

Ferien im Baudenkmal - Historic Vacation Homes in Switzerland

Luc

Luc Benyon is a British writer and communications specialist based in Zurich. He has an unhealthy appetite for design and advertising history.

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