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Swiss B&Bs gain in popularity

Eulenhof - or “Owl’s Farm” is a B&B that offers a taste of the countryside (Eulenhof)


Bed & Breakfast accommodation is enjoying a boom in Switzerland, according to figures released by the umbrella group, BnB Switzerland.

swissinfo's Billi Bierling took a trip to the village of Mur on the shores of Lake Murten to look at one B&B that offers guests a taste of the countryside - and straw beds.

Finding the Eulenhof - or "Owl's Farm" - is not difficult as little red signs in the shape of an owl indicate the way from Mur's village square to the 150-year-old farmhouse, which is beautifully situated above Lake Murten.

The Eulenhof in canton Fribourg is surrounded by vineyards and offers magnificent views of the lake.

It is run by Nadja and Willy Gaillet, a friendly Swiss couple who make their guests feel at home as soon as they walk through the door.

However, it is not only the cosy atmosphere that attracts Swiss as well as foreign holidaymakers to the Eulenhof - it is also the great selection of home-made food products.

"Our philosophy is to offer as many home-made products or products that are made in the neighbourhood as possible," says Nadja.

"This is what our guests want - everybody can buy things from the supermarket."

Own production

Almost everything on the breakfast table comes from the Gaillet's own fields or from a neighbouring farm: the honey comes from the farm down the hill, the bread is made by Nadja's bread-maker, which hardly ever gets a rest, and all the meat comes from the farm.

You can also get home-made cheese at the Eulenhof. "Every day I take some of the 200 litres of milk from our cows to the local cheese-maker, who makes delicious Gruyère cheese," reveals Yves, the family's youngest son.

A few years ago, Yves took over the farm and now looks after the 90 cows, three bulls, 20 pigs and the other smaller animals that live on the 43.5-hectare property.

He says a lot of the guests staying at his mother's B&B want to find out what life on a farm is all about.

"Many people come here to have a look at the farm and the animals. I give them guided tours, which can be fun. However, it can be quite difficult sometimes as people can get in the way of my work," he says.

Sleep in straw

The Gaillet's have two double-bedrooms and one single-bedroom, which can be booked for between SFr45 ($30) and SFr65 per person, two dormitories for up to 20 people, and a huge shed where you can slumber in straw for SFr20 including breakfast.

"Mainly school classes and families come and sleep here. However, the shed is closed from October until May as it would be too cold for sleeping here," explains Yves.

Nadja came up with the idea to open a Bed & Breakfast in 1991, when the first of the four children left home and the family could no longer depend on farming alone to make ends meet.

"As a farmer's wife I was always glad to earn some extra money. So when my oldest daughter left the house, I put out a sign saying 'rooms available'... it didn't take long for the first guests to arrive," says Nadja, reminiscing. "It was a big success right from the start."

Even though the former beautician and masseuse says she sometimes works 14 hours a day, she emphasises that she has never had any regrets since starting her B&B.

"It can be very rewarding but it can also be difficult sometimes - I suppose it's like with everything else in life. At the end of the day I can consider myself lucky as the world comes to my home," she says with a smile.

Regional speciality

Nadja's long working days are not just a consequence of running the B&B, she also organises regular dinners and lunches.

During the summer you can have dinner at the Eulenhof most evenings, but booking is essential as Nadja is the kitchen's only chef.

"I need to know how many people I am cooking for. Once I thought I was cooking for a group of 30 and all of a sudden ten more people showed up - that was a nightmare," she says.

Cooking reaches a peak from January through to March, when the regional speciality, the Treberwurst, is at its peak.

"The Treberwurst is a speciality of this region. We have our own vineyards and in the winter we make marc, which is similar to grappa. The Treberwurst sausages are steamed in the schnapps, which is extracted during the distillery process," explains Nadja.

The Treberwurst dinners are Nadja and Willy's main source of business during the winter season, and anyone wishing to sample this local speciality needs to book by 10am at the latest.

In between feeding her three dogs and five cats, preparing dinner for the guests and lunch for the farm workers, Nadja always has time for a friendly chat with her guests.

"I think the people who stay in a Bed & Breakfast want to spend some time with the host family, so I think it's important that we make them feel welcome," she says.

swissinfo, Billi Bierling

Key facts

Nadja and Willy Gaillet opened their B&B in 1991.
They have 90 cows, three bulls and 20 pigs and most of their products are home-made.
The Eulenhof is in the village of Mur in canton Fribourg.
Double or single rooms cost between SFr45 ($30) and SFr65 per person.
From January until March the Gaillet's offer Treberwurst - a speciality of the region.

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