History with a piece of cake
by Marita van Rooyen
If you want to experience sleeping in one of the first hotels established in the coastal town of Swakopmund, be right on the Mole and literally around the corner from the shopping area, then Hotel Schweizerhaus is the place to be.
To make your stay even better, Café Anton, a coffee shop famous for its confectionery, is found on the bottom floor of the building.
Savouring a slice of Black Forest cake and a Florentiner from Café Anton with its long history of confectioners in the family should be a definite part of your visit to the coast.
Heidi Snyman, who took over management and ownership of the establishment in 1990, explains that it all started with her parents, who came to Namibia from Germany in the 1950s.
“They had a vision of starting a small pension with a little café for cakes and pastries. My father, who trained as baker-master and confectioner in Germany and then started working in the Putensen Bakery here in Swakopmund, always had a passion for baking- specialities.”
The ‘Swiss-looking’ house
Manfred Anton (after whom the café was named) and his newly wed wife, Wilhelmine, then bought a ‘Swiss-looking’ house (which turned out to be German), five minutes’ walking distance from the beach and started out with a small four-roomed pension.
In 1983 the hotel as it is known today was finished and since then the Antons have never looked back.
Manfred trained André, his daughter Heidi’s late husband, as a confectioner, who in turned trained Junius Wilpard, a local Oshiwambo man.
Junius, who is now the main confectioner at Café Anton, still bakes the cakes according to Manfred’s original German recipes. Interestingly enough, Junius couldn’t read or write when he first started out and had to memorise ingredients. Today he knows all the recipes off by heart.
Heidi studied at the Hotel School in Johannesburg, the same place where her older daughter, Silvia, received her training.
Both Heidi and Silvia are actively involved in the management of the hotel and recently Heidi’s youngest daughter, Desirée, also started showing an interest in the family business. It seems that Hotel Schweizerhaus, which has been in the family for three generations, will be there for many more to come.
“I really enjoy the business,” says Heidi, “even though in the beginning I never would have imagined it. Since I was ten years old, I wanted to become a commercial pilot and started my career as a ground hostess. But today the hospitality industry is what I enjoy most. I still spend my free time up in the air – flying will forever remain my passion, but this is a different kind of challenge. You need a constant eye on and hand in a business like this, and in the end it’s very rewarding.”
A big happy family
Most of Heidi’s staff members have been a part of the hotel and café for between 10 and 20 years. “We are like one big happy family, and this is how I want to keep it.”
Today the hotel offers 24 rooms, ranging between standard, luxury, deluxe, suite and deluxe suite. Rooms either face the ocean, the courtyard, or the rows of palm trees behind which the state house is hidden. Book one of the rooms facing the ocean, and you’ll be able to watch the exact spot where the sun disappears into the sea after a long day of heating up the desert.
Every year, part of the hotel and rooms are refurbished to fit in with the changing times, but the magnificent setting remains unchanged.
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|Swakopmund||Telephone||00264 (64) 400331/2/3|
|Namibia||Fax||00264 (64) 405850|
This article appeared in the June/July ‘10 edition of Travel News Namibia.