Father Johann Josef Imseng took on many roles. He campaigned against local poverty and the resulting emigration from the Saas Valley; he promoted tourism and built hotels; he was a pastor dedicated to the welfare of his people. What’s more, he was a mountain guide, a hotelier, a socially engaged forward thinker, and a botanist who knew the properties of medicinal herbs like no other. But few know of the tourism pioneer ’s love of hunting.
Father Imseng was a passionate hunter of chamois. And, at times, his dedication to the hunt caused him problems. One time, an innkeeper from Visp filed a suit against him with the bishop in Sion, accusing him of being a “pastoral hunter“ who neglected his services and his pastoral care work in favour of his hunting. Complaints from others soon followed.
Imseng repeatedly assured the bishop that he only hunted for his own wellbeing. A number of travelogues from the time, however, mention and laud the exemplary food offered by the pioneer of tourism in the Saas Valley. The game dishes he served were legendary. Climbers would even make detours to the Saas Valley, not only to pick up route tips from Imseng, but also to stock up on the hunting pastor’s famous dried, jerky-like, chamois meat. Even travelers headed for Zermatt would make the detour over the Saas Valley just for the meat. In part, Imseng owed his reputation as a great host to his “wild side,“ the hunt.
Before Imseng‘s time, the offering for travelers in the Saas Valley was less than exemplary. Guests usually had to spend the night in the rectory, because the pastor was the only one who had enough room to spare for pilgrims or other guests. Imseng’s predecessor, however, was anything but hospitable, according to many traveller accounts written at the time. But that was nothing compared to the near-legendary rudeness of his housekeeper. Some travel guides at the time went so far as to include warnings about her. By comparison, Imseng, with his speciality game dishes, must have been an incredible treat for weary travellers.