A hotel without walls in Switzerland teaches its butlers how to make beds in strong winds
- Zero Real Estate has created hotel rooms without walls that are placed in vineyards, on mountainsides, and near lakes in Switzerland.
- Each room comes with a butler to cater to each guest's needs.
- Carola Holdener, one of the brand's 20 butlers, spoke to Insider about what it's like to climb 400 steps to check on guests and make beds in the wind.
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The first time Carola Holdener made a bed for guests, it took her nearly an hour.
"Now, it takes five or 10 minutes," she told Insider.
Like everything, practice was key. The sheets need crisp edges and the pillows need to be placed just right.
It's the first time Holdener has ever worked in a hotel, but her experience is unconventional. She's serving guests who plan to sleep outdoors in the middle of Switzerland's exquisite nature.
Holdener is a modern butler for Zero Real Estate, a hotel brand in Eastern Switzerland that has created suites without walls and ceilings. The goal is to strip down everything in a hotel room, so guests can immerse themselves in Switzerland's landscapes.
In seven locations in Switzerland - from vineyards to scenic mountains - guests will find a platform, a bed, two side tables, and two lamps. The simple room costs 295 Swiss francs (about R5,185) a night, but the experience is far from normal.
Each "room" comes with a modern butler who provides meals, insight into the region, and caters to the guests' needs.
Holdener is one of the four butlers at the suite in the middle of a vineyard
The 53-year-old has worked at the family-owned Weingut am Steinig Tisch winery and vineyard for the last 11 years. This is the first time she's ever made a bed professionally or worked in the hospitality sector, she told Insider.
When the vineyard agreed to be one of the destinations for Zero Real Estate, Holdener stepped up to help. She went through a training course to learn how to welcome guests to the unusual experience.
Due to the coronavirus and Switzerland's lockdown, many of the training sessions were held virtually, but the company still hosted a one-day, in-person crash course in June.
A group of modern butlers, including two of Holdener's colleagues, practiced making beds in strong winds, climbed steep slopes with trays of drinks, and learned how to quickly cover the platform when it rains.
Holdener didn't have any time to practice beforehand. "The first time I had guests was the first time I prepared the bed," Holdener said. "It was crazy and funny. It took me nearly an hour."
Her job starts by making a bed and cleaning the platform. When the guests arrive, she'll greet them at the entrance of the vineyard.
From the vineyard, Holdener and the guests must climb 400 steps to the suite, where she'll welcome them with a glass of sparkling wine.
Typically, Holdener would carry their luggage, pour the sparkling wine, and be more involved with the experience. Due to the coronavirus, she takes a hands-off approach to ensure their safety.
But the guests don't seem to mind, she said.
When Holdener isn't helping her guests, she still holds her normal job at the winery helping to grow and harvest grapes.
Daniel Charbonnier, the co-founder of Zero Real Estate, told Insider that the brand is focused on working with locals from the region
"The purpose is to have somebody from the local community that is from the region that really brings a sense of ownership and pride to the experience," Charbonnier told Insider. "At the end of the day, what matters is how you take care of people."
The butlers are there to handle every circumstance. If a guest is hungry, the butler can help. If it rains, the butler is informed on how to protect the suite from getting damaged and moving guests to a covered on-site location.
"I wanted to show that the one thing we will not compromise on is providing tailored guest services, even in the most extreme environment," Charbonnier said.
So far, Holdener's favorite memory was checking on her first guests after their first night of rest. The couple had been lucky enough to stay during a full moon.
Holdener walked up with their complimentary breakfast, and smiles were spread across their faces.
"I looked at their faces and it was just happiness," Holdener said.
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