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A Home in the Alps


It’s hard to visit the remote Alpine villages of Switzerland without wondering what it would be like to live here. Although there must be downsides to living in small, difficult-to-reach places, the natural beauty and cultural charm of these places makes them feel like heaven on earth to visitors.

This morning we visited the small town of Brienz, a village of 3,500 people in the Swiss Alps known worldwide for its history in woodcarving. But it wasn’t wood that caught my eye today – it was the magnificent houses that sit between alongside the beautiful Lake Brienz.

Historic, huge, and immaculately manicured, these houses are an attraction in themselves. Their architecture and gardens make many visitors drool, or envy or both. But perhaps their greatest asset is the view out of their picture windows: the houses face the lake, with the towering, snow-capped Swiss Alps as a backdrop. Standing looking at this view, I can’t imagine how rich life her e must be.

Apparently, the people are rich too.  Our Collette tour manager Jeff Scott told us that all of these lakeside homes are worth millions of Swiss Francs (which are very close in value to U.S. dollars.) And many times, once a family moves in, they never leave.

When a family wants to buy a house in this area, or build a new one, they take out mortgages with 100-year terms. When the original purchasers die, their children take over the mortgages, and thus the homes stay in families for a century until they are paid. The houses are built so large to accommodate the many family members that will inevitably live there together.

“You often die in the same house that you were born in,” Jeff said. “It’s not at all uncommon to find four generations living together under the same roof.”


Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.