Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – “You are in Room Nine, which is one of our rooms that crosses the two countries.” So says Alexandre Perón, manager of Hotel Arbez Franco-Suisse, with a smile as he hands CNN’s tourism contributor Miguel Ros a metal key.
For Ross, the prospect of staying in a hotel without knowing which country he would be sleeping in that night was really exciting, but what about sleeping in two countries at once?
Ross took a long drive through winding roads to reach La Cure, a small town high in the Jura Mountains between France and Switzerland.
Thanks to a little-known international treaty in the mid-19th century, Ross was about to enjoy one of the most unique hotel experiences in the world.
The small, family-run hotel, also referred to as “L’Arbézie”, is located just above international borders.
Its exceptional location resulted from the Treaty of Dappes in 1862, in which France and Switzerland agreed to a small territorial exchange to allow full French control of a nearby strategic route.
The treaty required any existing buildings along the border to remain in place, something a local businessman took advantage of to open a store and tavern to take advantage of the cross-border trade.
This was followed by the opening of the hotel in 1921.
The result was that almost half of the hotel was located in France, and the other half in Switzerland.
And Ross was scheduled to stay in one of the rooms split between the two states, with an invisible international line running through the bathroom and the bed.
This means the guests sleep with their heads in Switzerland, and their feet in France.
The complex right side
From world wars to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hotel’s unique location has become an endless source of bizarre situations and stories.
This is also reflected in the many decorative elements found throughout the hotel, such as the flags that adorn some of the walls, and other subtle details.
During a tour of one of the suites, the hotel manager said: “Mirrors and windows are not only a decorative element, but also a symbol of the connection between worlds and adjacent realities.”
Overlooking the restaurant is a replica of the famous “The Card Players” painting by French painter Paul Cézanne, which hangs at a point where the border passes.
This scene, showing two men playing cards, can be found on a large mural adorning one of the hotel’s exterior walls, and it alludes to an incident that took place in the hotel during the 1920s.
A group of patrons were fined by a Swiss customs officer after they were caught playing cards, but their crime was not gambling, but using a deck of French-made cards on the Swiss side of the hotel without even to pay customs duties, Peron explained.
Sanctuary during World War II
The legal framework is also reflected when it comes to the dining options available at the hotel.
And when you sit on the French side of the restaurant, you won’t be able to order the “tomme Vaudoise” cheese.
This local Swiss cheese cannot be brought to the French side due to strict European regulations affecting unpasteurized dairy products.
The same applies, conversely, to some French meals, as saucisse de Morteau may not be distributed in Switzerland.
The hotel has two phone numbers for each country, and it has provided the rooms with two types of electrical sockets, as they are different in the two countries.
It served as a refuge during World War II when German-occupied territories and Vichy France’s Collaborative territories merged with Free Switzerland on the grounds of the hotel.
The Germans occupied the French half of the hotel, but the upper floors were off limits because the stairs to the rooms were partially over Swiss territory, making it a relatively safe haven for refugees and fleeing Allied airmen.
In the early 1960s, the Hotel Arbez was also the site of secret negotiations that led to Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.
The Algerian negotiators did not want to set foot on French territory for fear of being arrested, but the French authorities wanted to conduct the talks secretly within their borders, and a private room in the hotel was the ideal solution for this.
People with bad intentions are also likely to use the hotel.
In early 2002, shortly after the events of 9/11, Perron mentioned that agents of an undisclosed security service visited the hotel to investigate the possibility that an al-Qaeda operative had used it to secretly cross the border. to stab
With the outbreak of the “Covid-19” pandemic, the hotel once again found itself on the front lines and managed to stay open for some time, providing accommodation to healthcare workers.