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The "art hotel" in the city of art

The passage of time is counted with newspapers in the room, "Weekly leaves-seasons". Teufelhof

It should come as no surprise that a city stacked with so many cultural treasures as Basel should also play host to an award-winning "art" hotel.

This content was published on December 13, 2001 - 14:27

The Teufelhof, which lies in the city's old town, is a remarkable blend of comfort and culture, featuring gourmet dining, beautifully decorated rooms, an art gallery, a theatre and some of Basel's oldest ruins.

The hotel is the life's dream of Monica and Dominique Thommy-Kneschaurek.

"The idea for the Teufelhof is that we have different forms of culture," explains Monica. "We have the culture at the table: the art of cooking and the art of choosing wines; and we also have the theatre and our art galleries.

The Teufelhof is proof that Monica and Dominique have found the means of funding their passion for the arts through their work.

Transformed into theatre

Their journey began in 1975 when they founded the Café zum Teufel just 300 yards from the site of the Teufelhof, running it as a café during the day and then transforming it into a theatre at night.

Then 12 years ago they set their eyes on an old abandoned building that is now the Teufelhof Culture and Guest House. "The Teufelhof was a private house but it had been left empty for 15 years and it was in a terrible state," remembers Monica.

"We could hardly save anything. We had to start from scratch and rebuild the place from the inside."

However some of the building's original features still remain in all their glory, including the sweeping wooden staircase which carries guests up to the gourmet Bel Etage restaurant and the Art Hotel's nine subtly designed rooms which are all dedicated to the theme of "time".

The restaurant has a wonderfully homely atmosphere, retaining the original parquet floor with star-shaped patterns, stuccoed ceiling and chandeliers.

Art bathed in light

On the walls, hang works of art from the Thommy-Kneschaurek private collection, bathed in the light which floods in through the tall windows looking down onto Leonhardsgraben.

Such was the demand from guests when the Teufelhof opened in 1989 that the couple were moved to convert a neighbouring building into the Gallery Hotel, adding a further 24 rooms in 1997.

One of the hotel's most unusual features is undoubtedly its 100-seater "Oberes Theater" which was formerly an attic and now hosts award-winning performances four nights a week from mid-September until the beginning of May. The programme consists mainly of cabaret and satirical productions, with a view to uncovering new talents - something which is also true of the hotel's art gallery.

For Monica and Dominique, the theatre and the art gallery lie at the core of the hotel's philosophy: of introducing art and culture to those who have yet to discover its pleasures.

Theatre and wine

"Perhaps some people come for the theatre and can discover good food and wine; while others come for the wine and discover the theatre," Monica says. "So here we have the opportunity to awaken people's curiosity."

For the culturally curious the hotel is a maze of treasures which stretches well beyond the fine art and cooking. Down in the bowels of the Teufelhof can be found the "Archaeological Cellar", containing some of Basel's oldest walls dating back to the 11th century.

Housed behind glass cases, stand vases and plates found during the renovation of the Teufelhof. The cellar is also home to the hotel's wine shop, selling exclusive wines from undiscovered vineyards as well as homemade pasta, sauces and jams from the hotel's kitchen.

The sense of creativity not surprisingly extends to the steamy, sizzling confines of the kitchens which produce dishes for the Teufelhof's Bel Etage and Weinstube restaurants. The menu changes daily and the hotel's owners take pride in the fact that everything is home-cooked using fresh ingredients from the sauces and jams, down to the bread and croissants.

"Creativity is very, very important because it is the only way to enjoy life and enjoy your work," reveals Monica. "Without creativity life would be boring."

by Adam Beaumont

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