Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pension Pertschy, A Palace Revisited 44 Years Later

Reception Area on Second Floor of Pension Pertschy

I remember the room - beds for six, high ceilings, large windows opening to the street below.  It was 1969 and my family had been traveling in Europe for weeks, arriving in Vienna on July 17th.  The large, friendly woman in reception at the Pension Pertschy offered to house us all in one room.  “Talk about togetherness”, commented my mother in her diary.  Mom had booked the pension upon  recommendation of “Europe on $5 a Day”, the book that opened up a world of economic travel in Europe.  In the heart of historic Vienna, the hotel’s location allowed us to walk to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna State Opera, Spanish Riding School and the Albertina museum.  


Finished Exterior dates from 1605
The building had been a palace as early as 1605 for the Italian Cavriani family, who were drawn to Vienna for the fighting horses.  They married into the royal Hapsburg family and  constructed the five story home around a courtyard  that fronted two parallel streets.  Their wealth is reflected in the finished building on both exteriors.  Rooms later became apartments and then hotel rooms.  

Fast forward forty four years to 2013.  My friends and I were planning a trip to Vienna and one recommended the Pension Pertschy based on its location and price.  Only after reviewing my mother’s diary did I realize it was the same hotel we had used in 1969.  Since it was still owned by the same family, I wanted to know what had happened in the last four decades  and asked to speak with a family member upon arrival.  

Licia Pertschy is married to Thomas, son of the original owners of the pension.  His father was Hungarian whose family left for Canada when the Communists arrived.  His mother was German who moved to Canada for the adventure.  They met in Toronto, married and had two children there.  Mr. Pertschy’s sister, Therese (Aunt Resi), wrote them of an opportunity to buy a pension in Vienna.  After purchasing the pension together in 1964, the family moved to Vienna where their son, Thomas, was born.  Aunt Resi would have been the woman who greeted us in 1969.  

The business began with a reception area, washroom, and 12 rooms that had housed military students from a nearby academy.  Being named in “Europe on $5 a Day” was a huge boost for them.  Over the years, the family added rooms as they became available with 55 rooms now used by guests.   In 2005, a large, exterior elevator replaced the small, cramped one we used in 1969.  The family works hard to maintain its four star rating, a rating system that is less about luxury and more about safety, security and certain amenities.


Breakfast Buffet at Pension Pertschy
Today, the rooms are not as large although they can still offer spacious rooms for a family. The baroque exterior has been maintained.   Televisions and wifi are now standard.   Its location still can’t be beat.  And breakfast has improved dramatically from a Continental breakfast of a solitary hard roll, jam, butter and coffee to a buffet of 6-8 cheeses, boiled and scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, many breads (really good ones with grains similar to Paris Bakery), mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, basil, chopped fresh fruit, chocolate cake, local jams, honey and honey comb, six kinds of cereal, dried apricots, raisins, seeds, prunes, fresh plain and sweet yoghurt and great coffee.
Breakfast Buffet at Pension Perstchy

Their guests have always included Americans but I didn’t hear many of our accents at breakfast.  Licia noted a larger number of Spaniards now visiting.  Statistics bear out the changing face of visitors to Vienna.   Germans and Austrians are the largest groups, as always.  But in 2012,  Russian tourists surpassed the number from the United States, China’s travelers grew by 40% and Saudi Arabians’ by 76% - all contributing to a record year.  


Courtyard of Pension Pertschy
Licia mentioned some of the new, large hotels built in the last two years, including a Kempinski, Four Seasons, Park Hyatt, and Marriott hotel - a surprisingly  late appearance of these hotel chains.  She thought Vienna’s designation as one of the best places to live in the world is contributing to the increase in attention.   In contrast to the United States, Europe has long had a tradition of independent, family owned hotels with only half the hotel rooms in Vienna being “branded” or associated with a chain.  The rest are under private management such as the Pension Pertschy and many could qualify as boutique hotels.  Whether the Pertschy family will continue the hotel another generation is not decided.  But if I ever returned to Vienna, I would love to introduce the Pension Pertschy to our grandchildren.  

Pension Pertschy Website

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