April 2024
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A Saigon Kid Visits Liechtenstein in 1968

by Bruce Thomas, ACS

During my stint with the US Army in northern Germany, I took a week’s leave in the summer of 1968 and drove south, visiting Bavaria and crossing over into Switzerland.  As I wandered eastward, I crossed the Rhine into the neighboring tiny principality of Liechtenstein.  Meandering along a small street in the capital city of Vaduz, I soon found myself driving on a switchback road rising higher and higher.  The view of the river below and the distant snow-covered Alps was breathtaking. I kept going until at last, nearly 3,500 feet above the river I came to the Alp Hotel Gaflei at the end of the road.  It was a charmingly modern building, and quite inviting in the bright summer sunshine.  I parked and admired the spectacular vista from the lawn near the swimming pool, and then decided to go inside to see if I could get a room.  But there was nothing available, and I retreated back down the mountain.  I remember thinking, “That hotel would be a great honeymoon spot. I’ve got to remember that.” 

When, seven years later, Linda and I had met, working for the same company in Honolulu, and decided to marry, the idea of the Alp Hotel Gaflei as a honeymoon site had been forgotten.  But in recent years while looking at the 35mm slide of this picture of the hotel, I wondered if it was still there in business.  Researching on the Internet, I came across references to the property that indicated it had been leased by the International Academy of Philosophy (IAP) as its campus about the turn of the millennium.  Then other sources gave the impression that the IAP had moved out a few years later, even though it was noted to have been a 25 year lease.  I kept thinking what a wonderful thing it would be if the hotel had been reopened, and what a fantastic vacation that would make, especially in the winter.  I fired up Google Earth and directed it toward tiny Liechtenstein. Once again I climbed that winding road, steering my computer’s cursor this time, until I came to the recognizable shape of the hotel, at  47° 8.57 ’ N,  9° 32.67 ’ E. 

Alp Hotel Gaflei, Liechtenstein, summer of 1968.

Alp Hotel Gaflei, Liechtenstein, summer of 1968. CLICK IMAGE for LARGER VIEW.

But alas, I’ve now come across an online news site in Liechtenstein carrying a story (in German) about the hotel property.  Near as I can translate, when the IAP moved out the property went belly up, with no one wanting to take it over. Much money had been lost over the years, before and after the IAP’s use of the property.  In fact, the article begins with the ominous words, “From the beginning, the hotel was a flop.  Various efforts to build a prosperous business failed.  Even the addition of a small bowling alley in the indoor sports facility did not bring hoped-for success. A total of 10 management teams failed to attract guests. The only bright spot came in 1998 with the IAP lease. After the IAP moved out in 2003, no further tenant could be found.”  The article ends with the words that make me sad: “The hotel was completely torn down in July 2005.” 

I went back to Google Earth, and at the bottom of the screen the date of the imagery for that area is shown as 1997.  I hope they never get around to updating that imagery.

4 comments to A Saigon Kid Visits Liechtenstein in 1968

  • frank

    Bruce, I have taken Teenagers for 9 years to Europe. Every year I have said this is my last. Well, last year was my last. I really do not sub-teach anymore, but two teachers asked me if I could do it for them…So I’m back. Next June, I will no longer be in charge of our trips to Europe, my friend Carlos will now be in Charge.But, under Carlos as the boss, I’m going back. Bavaria and southern Germany is even nicer than it was in the 60’s or 70’s. Gaflei was a hotel, but the area is even better than you remember. I promise you that! Go there and have a romantic time with the world and your wife.. Believe me, Europe, and especially that area is special. Frank

  • You’re right, Frank. Even if the hotel itself no longer exists, the enchantment of the surrounding Alpen beauty remains. But, just in case anyone is puzzled because my little tale about the hotel has no apparent connection to the Saigon Kids, I’ll explain.

    This story can be viewed as an allegory. The hotel was something unique encountered years ago, when I was young … it’s something of lasting memorial beauty. The Alp Hotel Gaflei is Saigon and ACS and Cercle Sportif and all those memories of idyllic youth we share. It receded into memory, like the days of our youth. In later life, the memories of the hotel are rekindled electronically via Google Earth, just as Bob’s blog digitally renews our memories of Saigon and our unique school. Reality says they are never going to be like what they were before. We may never even visit them again in person. But as long as they can be seen, even dimly, through that digital lens, they continue to give pleasure to us all … and I fervently hope this blog, thanks to Bob and all who contribute to it, continues to provide us that opportunity and joyful pleasure.

  • frank

    This week has been very emotional for my wife Susy and I. Bob will explain as soon as we come to terms with it all. It is about the Vietnamese kids that Father Crawford brought to America in 1975. I and my wife never thought that we would hear from them. I think we are on the edge of knowing this. Thanks to Bob’s blog, we have heard from these “people”. In the next few weeks I (we) hope to find out what this is all about. I have been wiping tears from my eyes all day. Yes, tears of gladness..not joy..just gladness,

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