The Obersimmental-Saanen district is part of the Bernese Oberland (Bernese Highlands). This mountainous region is located south of Bern, the capital city of Switzerland. The Bernese Highlands are made up of seven municipalities: Boltigen, Gsteig bei Gstaad, Lauenen, Lenk, St. Stephan, Zweisimmen and Saanen, the capital of the district. Some of these villages, in the middle of the Alps, are served by the Goldenpass line, a fairy tale train line connecting Lake Geneva to central Switzerland.
Saanen (Gessenay in French), a charming and picturesque village, represents the essence of the historical Saanenland region. Right on the “Röstigraben” - literally the border of the rösti - the symbolic edge between the French and German-speaking parts of Switzerland. Listed among the “townscapes of Switzerland most worthy of protection”, this 1,010 metres above sea-level village definitely deserves a visit. At the Saanen train station, part of the Goldenpass line, you can hop on and off the train at your convenience.
Saanen has a long history dating back to the Bronze Age, which is witnessed by well-preserved historical sites. The village church, dedicated to Saint-Maurice (in German Mauritiuskirche), dates back to the 15th century. Initially Catholic, it is now a Protestant Church. With its very well preserved Roman bell tower, the church is an important landmark in this sparsely populated natural landscape. The 15th-Century mural paintings inside the church should not be missed. Scenes depicting Saint-Christopher are visible on the southern walls of the nave and choir. Further paintings were discovered only during the first half of the 20th century. These mural paintings depicting episodes of the Bible had education purposes originally, as most people at the time could not read. The church contains further historical treasures such as a sandstone baptismal font and 18th-Century organ.
Saanen hosts other picturesque historical buildings: traditional wooden houses dating back to the 15th-18th Centuries make for a typical Swiss picture-postcard village. On the heights of Saanen, the Solsana hotel overlooks the village. Built in 1913 to accommodate patients suffering from tuberculosis, the hotel is a representative example of the Heimatstil, a 19th Century architecture style mostly present in Germanic countries and Switzerland.
Mountain lovers can enjoy a large variety of hiking trails and ski slopes around Saanen.
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