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Burgenstock: Ukraine summit venue used to hosting glitterati

By AFP

June 10, 2024 05:42 PM


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The uber-plush Burgenstock resort perched high above Switzerland's Lake Lucerne -- the dramatic setting for this weekend's summit on peace in Ukraine -- is well-accustomed to hosting world leaders and movie icons.

The luxurious hotel complex will on Saturday and Sunday host leaders from dozens of countries -- although not Russia, whose invasion of its neighbour more than two years ago sparked the Ukraine war. 

 Hepburn, Bond and Chaplin 

 The exclusive complex, in classic picture-postcard Switzerland scenery, has been welcoming leaders and the well-to-do and for more than 150 years.

Charlie Chaplin met Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the resort in 1953, along with his daughter, the future Indian premier Indira Gandhi.

Actor Audrey Hepburn married her first husband Mel Ferrer in the Burgenstock's chapel in 1954, and they made the luxurious destination their home, living in the resort's Villa Bethania.

Italian actor Sophia Loren had a chalet on the Burgenstock -- now the site of its Persian restaurant -- while Queen Ingrid of Denmark was among the hotel's visitors.

Sean Connery was based there when shooting the 1964 James Bond film "Goldfinger", spending a month at the resort and shooting scenes on the mountain.

Israeli prime ministers David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir visited, while West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer spent July and August 1950 there.

Jimmy Carter stayed before becoming US president in 1977. 

Location, location, location 

Eight kilometres (five miles) from Lucerne in central Switzerland, the Burgenstock mountain dominates the centre of the lake and is surrounded by the water on three sides, making it easy to seal off.

The mountain's peak is 1,128 metres (3,700 feet) above sea level and the northern slope plunges nearly 700 metres down to Lake Lucerne.

The Burgenstock resort sits 450 metres above the water on a ridge below the peak.

It comprises four main hotel buildings, from the Belle Epoque to the ultra-modern, plus seven restaurants, along with other villas and residences.

While the contemporary lake view royal suite could set guests back more than 16,000 Swiss francs ($17,850) a night -- before fees and taxes -- a simple chalet room can cost 320 francs. 

 Funicular railways and breathtaking lifts 

 The brainchild of sawmill business partners Franz Josef Bucher and Josef Durrer, the Grand Hotel opened in 1873. The Palace Hotel was added in 1903.

In total, there are 360 rooms and suites, and up to 700 staff.

The Hammetschwand Lift, a rocket-shaped metal lattice tower and the highest outdoor lift in Europe, shoots up 152 metres to the mountain summit.

Katara Hospitality, owned by Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, took over in 2007 and completed a revamp a decade later.

Most regular guests will arrive by road, or by catamaran from Lucerne followed by a funicular railway, 929 metres long and rising 434 metres.

The Buochs Airport at the foot of the mountain can also take private jets and helicopters.

Third-generation Swiss hotelier Chris Franzen, who took over as the Burgenstock's managing director in April, said he was accustomed to hosting prominent personalities.

"But not 80 to 100 at once," he told Swiss news agency Keystone-ATS.

It will meanwhile be up to the Swiss foreign ministry to decide which leaders get which rooms. 

Previous peace talks 

 This weekend's Ukraine peace summit will not be the first time world issues are hashed out at the Burgenstock.

The resort hosted the secretive annual Bilderberg meeting of global power brokers in 1960, 1981 and 1995.

The Sudanese government and the main rebel group agreed a six-month ceasefire in the Nuba Mountain region in 2002 at the Burgenstock, paving the way for a peace agreement in 2005.

In 2004, four-way talks were held on a plan to reunify Cyprus, presided over by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, but failed to produce an agreement.

It was to have hosted the World Economic Forum's 2021 summit amid the Covid-19 crisis, but the annual gathering of the world's political, economic and business elite was shifted to Singapore before being cancelled altogether.


AFP


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