The Peace of Zurich — a rolemodel for the Swiss Ukraine Peace Conference?
Swiss President Viola Amherd aims to organize a "high-profile peace summit" for Ukraine.
Switzerland, a neutral haven, is renowned for hosting international peace negotiations. In 1859, the Peace of Zurich, facilitated by hotelier Johann Bauer, led to the formation of modern Italy. Sardinia, France, and Austria were the key players, staying in Bauer's Zurich hotels during negotiations.His Hotels were fully booked: the Baur au Lac today run by legendary hotelier Andrea Kracht and Baur en Ville, todays Savoy Zurich of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group under Mark Samuel Bradford
Hotel Baur, today Savoy Mandarin Oriental Zurich, one of the two meeting places of the PEACE OF ZURICH conference and home to the delegation from Sicily and Prince Napoleon
The Peace of Zurich, or How to Save the Hospitality Industry (Temporarily)
A lengthy peace conference could serve as a financial boost for many Swiss tourist destinations. In the past, such a conference convened in neutral Switzerland saved Zurich's two most famous hotels.
Switzerland, known for hosting hundreds of diplomatic missions and legendary historical events, from peace conferences to the founding of the states, offers legendary places like Davos, Bern, and, of course, Geneva. Historically, however, we must not forget Zurich.
Hotel Baur au lac in Zurich, one of the two meeting places of the PEACE OF ZURICH conference and home of the French and Austrian delegation
Let's rewind to 1859. Napoleon III of France orchestrated the Second Italian War of Independence against Austria, culminating in the legendary Battle of Solferino. The provisional peace, known as the Peace of Villafranca, was ratified in Zurich through negotiations between France, Sardinia, and Austria. Zurich, being the only significant city between the two conflicting parties, provided the necessary infrastructure for a large-scale peace conference. Crucially, Zurich was in neutral Switzerland, a republican territory free from monarchic influences of other European states. Switzerland was ideal for bringing together the rival monarchies of France and Austria.
Now, for the hospitality aspect: such conferences are not one-day affairs. On August 6, the French, Austrian, and Sardinian envoys and their entourages arrived in Zurich. The conference began on the 8th, following a welcome by the Zurich government the day before. Austrians and French lodged at the "Baur au Lac" while the Sardinians stayed at the "Baur en Ville" (now Savoy Mandarin Oriental Zurich). Johannes Baur, aside from the lucrative business, had the satisfaction of hosting all conference participants as his guests. He became the host of peace.
Hotelier Johannes Baur - host of all delegations
Delegates, press members, onlookers, and political figures from across Europe, including "Plon-Plon" Prince Napoleon, future son-in-law of Italian King Victor Emanuel II, gathered in Zurich. Daily international press coverage documented the negotiations. The Peace of Zurich found its place in history books, like the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 or the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.
Although the government offered the casino as the conference venue, the gentlemen preferred holding discussions in private hotel salons but wished for the solemn concluding act at the town hall. The only one allowed into the private salons was Johannes Baur. Hence, he was bombarded by political reporters with various questions, including the future of Venice. Diplomatically, he replied, "He knew nothing about Venice, but it was certain that his 'Venedigli' (as he called his private house), burdened with a considerable mortgage, would be paid off after the conference."
Three months and thousands of guest nights later, Johannes Baur presented bills exceeding 100,000 francs to the three signatory powers. As a memento of the negotiations, Hoffmann and Campe published the drama "HOTEL BAUR - A Diplomatic Heroic Piece - In Four Rhymed Conferences" on 43 pages. Delegates went home, Lombardy was free, the state of Italy faced few obstacles, and Johannes Baur was restored.
For Switzerland and, in this case, Zurich, the reputation as the perfect place for peace negotiations was established. A peace conference seems a definite recovery plan for any ailing hospitality industry.