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Leissigen Youth Hostel
History - The Albert Wander House
Leissigen Youth Hostel owes its existence to the remarkable social personnel policy of the Wander company as well as to the generosity of the founding family. The building was once the holiday home of company founder Dr. Albert Wander who sweetened the childhood of entire generations in many countries since 1904 with his Ovomaltine. In 1952, following the deaths of the founding couple, their descendants gave the “La Nichée” property on Lake Thun, together with most of its furnishings, to the company’s pension fund with the aim of making it available to Wander employees as a holiday home. Since 1992, the Youth Hostels Association has looked after the hostel.
In 1863, a young academic by the name of Georg Wander from Osthofen near Worms was appointed to the then Institute for Chemistry and Pharmacy at the University of Bern. He quickly felt at home in Bern and, in addition to his duties as an assistant, devoted himself to malt which at that time attracted a great deal of attention as a nutritious and easily digestible food. He soon became so absorbed in his own research that within two years he gave up his university post. From then on he earned an income as a producer of mineral water and supplier of chemical analyses of all kinds, devoting himself first and foremost, of course, to malt. Soon Georg Wander offered malt in the form of a bitter tasting syrup that was given as a tonic especially to new mothers and infants.
In the mid-1890s, Georg Wander became so ill that he was forced to hand over his business to his son Albert who continued with the malt research on his father’s behalf. Continued development of the vacuum-drying process finally made it possible to produce malt in powder form. This meant the great breakthrough for the family company. Just one year later, Ovomaltine was launched.
Company social policy
Alongside an expansion of the malt product, a laboratory was built and in due course followed a pharmaceutical department that was soon also able to launch successful products. In 1963, the company operated in 93 countries and employed a workforce of around 6,000. In the 1960s, no less than eight persons were occupied almost exclusively with social tasks for the benefit of the employees. It was thus only natural that after the deaths of the founding couple, their heirs bequeathed the family property on Lake Thun to the company pension fund in 1952 with the aim of turning it into a holiday home for the employees.
The “La Nichée” residence
A total of three buildings are arranged at different levels in the extensive grounds. At the very top is the house for the staff, on the lakeside the spacious boathouse and between them the chalet-style main house from where a wonderful view over Lake Thun to the Niesen mountain rising on the opposite shore can be enjoyed.
The end of the 1980s saw a gradual decline in interest in holidays at home with the result that the running was transferred to the Youth Hostels Association in 1992. Since 2001, the properties have been owned by the Swiss Foundation for Social Tourism.
Leissigen Youth Hostel today
Earliest export label for Ovomaltine
Bedroom Dr. Albert Wander