ZURICH — An overnight stay in a double bed “suite” in a field costs 295 Swiss francs (Cdn$411), but you do get a drink on arrival, breakfast and the services of a “modern butler” – typically a local farmer in rubber boots.
He or she escorts guests to the site, provides weather reports and delivers local jokes through a broken-down TV set.
Welcome to the “zero star” hotel, a conceptual art project that lets guests bed down in the wide open spaces with unobstructed views of Switzerland’s majestic landscape.
Created by twin brothers Frank and Patrik Riklin and partner Daniel Charbonnier, the project aims to explode traditional approaches to hospitality in the wealthy country known for its luxurious top-star mountain and lakeside resorts.
“Our artistic perspective is to go in the other direction. There is freedom in the zero to define luxury anew,” Frank Riklin said of the minimalist project that opens on Friday in the rolling hills of the Appenzell region near Sankt Gallen.
An outhouse bathroom is a three-minute walk away at a nearby Alpine hut that serves as a backup in case of bad weather, which wiped out 37 of the 60 available nights outdoors last year.
Previous versions of the installation have featured beds in a nuclear bunker and at an elevation of 1,600 meters in the mountainous Grisons region.
This year’s offering is nearly sold out after more than 1,300 requests for reservations from people as far afield as the United States, Australia, Iraq and Africa.
While art lovers vie for a night under the stars, Riklin said traditional Swiss hoteliers are not great fans of the project that stands normal customs on their head.
“We are very consciously mixing up the system to create a new reality,” he said