Why the Santa Claus lives in Switzerland. A Christmas stroll in Eastern Switzerland.
High above Lake Constance, in the far east of Switzerland, lies the village of Wienacht. Dreamy, tranquil, fairytale-like. Once a year, just before Christmas, the village comes to life. And the Santa Claus, who lives there, breathes life into the village.
The metropolis in the east of Switzerland becomes a star city just before Christmas. Nearby is the village of Wienacht. This is where the Santa Claus lives.
A mysterious, mystical landscape.
It’s windy in Wienacht. The old, stately homes shrug off the cold air. The thin snow cover wraps Appenzellerland in a wintry robe. The fog clouds the otherwise glorious view of Lake Constance. There’s a captivating silence in the 450-person village. This is the way it is all year round here.
The Santa Claus' hideaway
Someone who feels comfortable in this silence, needs the sense of belonging, privacy and harsh climate of the village of Wienacht (German for Christmas) – that’s the Santa Claus. He lives in seclusion in a simple house and, just like every other year, is extremely busy in the period running up to Christmas. He finds a considerable pile of letters in his letter box today again. All are addressed “To the Santa Claus, 9405 Wienacht”, and they come from all over the world. From Japan, Brazil, Germany.
The Santa Claus is a real person and has a Swiss passport. Willi Würzer gets post for the Santa Claus from all over the world.
From post office manager to Santa Claus
Willi Würzer served as the manager of the post office in Wienacht-Tobel for many years. That’s what the hamlet is really called. Because of its name, Swiss children have always sent their letters to the Santa Claus to Wienacht-Tobel. Through the Internet, the story has spread, and today people from all over the world are sending letters to the retiree.
The Santa Claus opens every single letter carefully and reads it. The Santa Claus really does exist. It’s not only a pity that we have stopped believing in him, it’s wrong. Because he is sitting here. His real name is Willi Würzer. He is retired and has a Swiss passport.
Deeply moving wishes
As Willi Würzer reads his “Santa Claus post”, he keeps on breaking out in a smile and nodding in satisfaction. For the past 30 years, he has received over 200 letters just like this every year before Christmas. He reads, sorts and replies to every single one. “I’ve received around 5,000 so far,” he says. Most of them are colourful and from children. “The beautiful words fill my heart.” However, the wish lists are not always joyful. Letters from children whose parents are sick are closest to Willi Würzer’s heart.
It used to be wooden toys, today it’s all about electronics
The retiree used to manage the post office in Wienacht. It was closed down in 2003. The Christmas letters still end up in his letter box and he continues doing what he always does before Christmas – reading and replying to each and every letter sent to the Santa Claus. The wishes have changed over the years. Children used to mainly ask for wooden toys; today, they almost always ask for electronics. He cannot fulfil their wishes. But he can help children to “believe in something as wonderful as the Santa Claus for a bit longer.”
Going to St. Gallen for inspiration. Christmas markets enchant Swiss cities.
Sometimes Santa Claus Würzer leaves his native Wienacht and travels to nearby St. Gallen. The city is full of stars during advent. Some 700 remarkable stars shine over the people strolling by, immersing the Christmas market, the public squares and the entire old town in a magical light. Almost every Swiss city dons its individual Christmas dress in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Willi Würzer likes the relaxed atmosphere and is inspired by all that’s on offer.
Christmas, in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Convent of St. Gall shines with particular splendour.
17-metre-high Christmas tree
His personal favourite is Klosterplatz square, the heart of the Convent of St. Gall, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here, a mighty, 17-metre-high fir tree stands proudly. It is decorated with thousands of little lights and gives St. Gallen a fairy-tale feel. Almost unnoticed, Willi Würzer sneaks over to the Christmas tree and hangs something on one of its branches. What it is, and whether he does that every year, remains his secret.
“The Santa Claus cannot reveal all his secrets,” he says in a soft voice as he sets off back towards Wienacht. There’s a host of letters for the Santa Claus waiting for him.