Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hotel Arbez Franco-Suisse, Located Half in Switzerland and Half in France

The Arbez Hotel is a small two star hotel located in the quite border town of La Cure, five miles north of Geneva. A nice, cozy little place built in the nineteenth century in alpine style with wooden beams and country kitchen, and located a thousand feet above sea level - a popular resting place for cross-country skiers. The hotel looks normal except for one small detail - it is located exactly on the border between France and Switzerland and is probably the only hotel on this planet to do so. The dining room, kitchen, gift shop, hallways and several rooms are crossed by the international border, in a case unique to the world.

The hotel's history dates back to the nineteenth century. In 1862, the Swiss and French Governments agree to a modification of the border in the Valley of the Dappes; the Treaty, named after the Valley, was signed on December 8, 1862, The text of the treaty states that no building existing at the time of ratification will be affected by the modification of the border. Taking advantage of this, a clever businessman, Monsieur Ponthus, built a building in an area of their property which was on both sides of the new border, with the intention of doing cross-border business. The building was put up in record time before the treaty went into effect on February 1863. When the treaty was ratified by the Swiss government, the three-story building was already complete and thus not affected by the new border. Ponthus opened a bar on the French side and a shop in Switzerland. The store was there until 1921 when Jules-Jean Arbeze purchased the building and turned it into Franco-Suisse hotel that stands now.

arbez-hotel-1

The line separating France from Switzerland passes through the building. The international boundary runs through the kitchen and continues to the rear of the building, which houses a ski shop. The border also runs through several guest rooms in the hotel. In two of the rooms you can sleep with your head in Switzerland and feet in France. Another room is located in Switzerland but the bathroom is located in France, so it becomes necessary to cross an international border to relieve yourself.

The exceptional location of the hotel has brought a few curious stories. During World War II France was occupied by Nazi Germany, while Switzerland remained neutral. German soldiers could enter the hotel, but only the part located on French soil. To access the upper floors it was necessary to climb the ladder, but the ladder started in Swiss territory. So the upper floors became a refuge for fugitives and the resistance.

In 1962 towards the end of the war of independence of Algeria, when a neutral place was needed to sign the Evian agreements, Hotel Arbez Franco-Suisse was chosen for the historic negotiation. A resistance cell was installed on the top floor, dedicated to protecting the threatened and the persecuted.

arbez-hotel-9

A shot of the store of Monsieur Ponthus at the end of the 19th century

arbez-hotel-2

The hotel Arbez Franco-Suisse, seen from Switzerland, in March of 2012

arbez-hotel-4

The hotel seen from the French side. In the bottom corner of the image is a magnified view of a border pillar located next to the wall of the House.

arbez-hotel-3

The boundary cutting across the staircase.

arbez-hotel-5

Sign at the hotel entrance on the French side.

arbez-hotel-6

A view of the dining room located exactly on the border.

arbez-hotel-7

View of the frontier line from the Swiss customs office, with the border of the floor plates in detail.

arbez-hotel-10

A border pillar stone at the rear of the building

arbez-hotel-8

Aerial view of the area of the hotel with the milestones and antitheses of the border highlighted.

Official website of the hotel: http://www.arbezie-hotel.com/

Photos and text taken, with permission, from Fronterasblog

2 comments:

  1. It is NOT the only hotel sitting on two sides of an International Border.
    The Hotel Kalin sits right on the Slovenian - Croatian Border near Bregenz. The Bar , Restaurant and Hotel rooms are bi-sected by the international and EU (Slovenia) and non-EU (Croatia) border. I even have have photo of myself inside the bar which is non-smoking on the Slovenian side of the thick black line and ,you guessed it, smoking (obligatory almost) in Croatia ! Izzy of Australia

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was wondering about that and thought I might have heard of another. I visited Arbez a long time ago with my mom and sister when they came to pick me up from my grandmother's who was in Germany at the time. We zig-zagged our way back down the French Riviera stopping to visit interesting places and spent a night there. My mother has travelled extensively and gave me the bug now! She always the coolest things! I'd forgotten about this place until i read it here. And didn't know about a 2nd one. Thanks Izzy for your info!

    ReplyDelete

Comment moderation is enabled. It may take a while for your comments to appear.