Gadling takes on the Null Stern (Zero Star) Hotel

You may remember an article back in 2008 called Zero Star Hotel opens in Switzerland fallout shelter. Well, it took me a year and a half, but I managed to get there.

The “Null Stern,” or “Zero Star” Hotel is a cross between a hostel and an art installation by Swiss concept artists Frank and Patrik Riklin. The former air raid shelter retains remnants of its past purpose and challenges one’s perception of what “hospitality” means. There are ear-protecting headphones and heavy machinery, as well as sleigh beds and a sexily-dressed female butler. It was quite an experience.

%Gallery-93062%When I arrived at the Null Stern, I was greeted with the sign at right. Unfortunately, I don’t speak German, so with little idea what to do, I pounded on the door.

I was greeted by another guest, who said he’d call the butler for me. Having just traveled for over 24 hours to get to the small hotel, which is a quick walk from the train in Teufen, Switzerland, in the eastern highland region of Appenzell, I thanked him and headed inside hoping he wasn’t a serial killer. He wasn’t.

The underground cement interior was brightly painted and full of strange touches like chalkboards and hot water bottle heaters on a clothesline along the wall. A tiny reception area was indicated by a contraption reminiscent of an “ON AIR” radio sign and a couple of t-shirts saying “Null Stern: the only star is you” were for sale on a shelf.

A few minutes later, the butler arrived in the form of a glamorous Swiss woman with long dark hair and a very short skirt, as well as an adorable four year old child who I assume was her son. She gave me a key, assigned me a sleigh bed in a room of about six and informed me that there would be other guests that evening, but that she was putting us in separate areas for privacy. She asked me what I’d like to drink in the morning, and shortly after, she was gone.

After exploring the many bathroom stalls, the double shower and the locker room, which was harder to get a suitcase into than an overhead compartment (pack slim!), I headed out into Appenzell to explore the rest of the day. When I came back to the Zero Star that evening, my bed was a welcome sight.

The bed turned out to be more attractive than comfortable, but having stayed in many hostels, I certainly wouldn’t complain about this one. I availed myself of the shower as well, fortunately alone, and found it quite comfortable. That night, I slept soundly in the underground lair, waking only when a group of Russians passed through to get to their room. You can hear absolutely nothing from outside in the Null Stern.

In the morning, the butler and her son greeted me with the coffee I had requested, which I’m fairly certain came from a Keurig or something like it. I packed up my things, turned in my key and headed off into the real world again. When I stepped up the stairs into the morning light, I felt what perhaps many have felt when leaving a bomb shelter — like today was truly a brand new day.

Staying at the Zero Star Hotel is not only fun to tell your friends about, but it’s an interesting place to contemplate what you consider to be “hospitality.” Is it the cleanliness? The service? The beds or decor? The view?

If you had to spend some time in a bomb shelter, how would you make the best of it?

A stay at the Null Stern is around $30 for the highest grade of bed and includes a morning drink. While I wouldn’t say Teufen is the most “happening” town to visit, it’s very pretty, as is the surrounding area, and there’s a Spar for any toiletries or munchies you might need, as well as a couple of restaurants. Swiss Travel System train rides to local Appenzell attractions like the Appenzeller Cheese Dairy and St. Mauritius Cathedral are scenic and convenient.

My trip to the Null Stern was sponsored by Switzerland Tourism, but the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are 100 percent my own.