Hofstetten boasts a newly added tourist attraction. In June 2022, entrepreneur and Swiss dialect musician Marc A. Trauffer opened his Bretterhotel, a hotel made of wood, along with the World of Experience, restaurants, and event spaces right next door to the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum. Trauffer’s famous wooden cow is now afforded the scale it deserves. Standing 5 m high and weighing in at 30 tons, what is probably the largest wooden cow in the world greets guests outside the entrance.
It all began in Hofstetten near Brienz in 1938, when professional bear carver Alfred Trauffer and his wife Rosa opened a wooden toy shop where they sold the wooden carved cows and other farm animals he made. Whether it was down to their charm or their simplicity, the cows sold in their millions and are still hugely popular the world over today. Now in its third generation, the company produces a wide range of products – but the traditional red-spotted cow is still the undisputed star.
Since 2008, the company has been run by Alfred’s multi-talented grandson Marc A. Trauffer, known locally as “dä mit de Chüeh” (the guy with the cows). Besides running a business, he is also a Swiss dialect musician who charms audiences all over the Alpine region. “Doch Heiterefahne, miis Härz ghört da hi” (“I just can’t help it – this is where my heart belongs”) is something he not only sings but also puts into practice. In his hometown of Hofstetten, the plucky, out-and-out entrepreneur has invested several million Swiss francs in a hotel complete with the World of Experience, a restaurant and a bistro, and event spaces – all made out of wood.
The idea came about because his company was unable to meet the high demand for factory tours and woodcarving courses. As the concept took shape during the planning stage, it also gained in size. On June 4, 2022 – Trauffer’s 43rd birthday – , he and his wife Brigitte opened the World of Experience which, alongside woodcarving courses, a shop and tours, also boasts a hotel with a bistro and a restaurant. It took them just three years to get from vision to reality. In addition, the Trauffers incorporated the village shop and post office into the buildings, now also a popular meeting place for locals. Trauffer even rolled up his sleeves and lent a hand during the building phase, and as this was a project that was very close to her heart, Brigitte took over as director.
From wood board to wooden cow
Hofstetten is an idyllic woodworking village with beautiful timber buildings and trades such as carpenters, chalet builders, a turning shop, a flooring supplier, and a construction company. There used to be a carpentry shop on the site of the Trauffers’ World of Experience. And the new buildings almost look as if they were made from the stacks of boards that would have stood there – although much of the wood the hotel is built from comes from a forest in Eastern Switzerland owned by Brigitte Trauffer’s parents.
Wood also features extensively in the interior of the World of Experience – as does the cow. Visitors can take a tour and discover step by step how a board of certified Swiss wood is transformed into a cow. The non-guided tour is visually beautifully designed, with display cases in the form of bird nesting boxes, a sawmill, and, at the end, a hall of mirrors with cows reflected to infinity and beyond. Each piece is meticulously worked 24 times before it can be sold as a cow in the shop. Visitors can even try their hand at carving and painting one of their own in the carving boutique and the painting workshop.
The tour is not the only place you get to see craftsmanship at work. Artisan skills are also on show in the restaurants. Potatoes are cut into fries before your very eyes, and you can also watch the baker baking bread. Then you can make yourself at home in one of the spacious restaurants and feast on raclette, fondue and burgers all year round.
Every aspect of the architecture combines tradition, modernity, energy efficiency, and experience. Not least in the hotel bedrooms, where an alpine chalet atmosphere is tastefully blended with modern furnishings and fittings. Some rooms feature special extras such as a family room with a tunnel slide or a double room with a Swiss pine sauna. There are solar panels on the roof that supply the World of Experience with clean electricity. This win-win situation was made possible thanks to the Solarify crowdfunding model, in which single panels can be bought by individuals, grouped together and installed on the large roof of one of its partners. Solarify then sells the solar power to the partner and pays out the proceeds to the individual panel investors.
Even more to discover
The World of Experience makes the Brienz region even more attractive for tourists. It is also easy to access by public transport. The nearest bus stop, Kritz, is located right outside the main entrance at Holzkuhplatz 1. Parking is available at the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum. The western entrance of this popular museum is within walking distance of the Trauffer World of Experience. The Ballenberg museum runs a range of courses and guided tours that can be conveniently combined with a visit to Trauffer. This mix of different tourist offers in the immediate area is rated by tourism professionals as a success factor. For anyone staying in Hofstetten for a few days, Lake Brienz with its glittering turquoise waters, the pretty villages of Brienz and Meiringen, and the steam railway, the rack-and-pinion railway, and the cable cars into the mountains are all within easy reach.