Adventures and spa galore in Austria at The Wiesenhof Hotel
As a regular to Austria, I can testify to its beauty and variety of outdoor activities which sit available to us easily in the UK with flights taking just two hours (Fly to Innsbruck then pick up from hotel or hire a car and drive).
In summer, it has the feel of Canada: beautiful lakes to boat or water ski on, walks, hikes, riding and lunches in picturesque taverns. In winter, ski-ing including cross country ski-ing, spa and après ski is on offer.
The Wiesenhof is an established family business which has invested in every part of their venture. They have a superb chef and prosperous restaurant with good wine list; a spa which offers intriguing almost pagan delights such as water bed hay baths aswell as your usual pampering treats which on my visit included a caramel facial and they have a substantial sauna and steam area. All are designed to return you to a sprightly, happy being and holistic is a word you can use here without it sounding an over used London word.
The elegant British who visit tend to return year after year and it’s not difficult to see why. The owners know everyone personally and always dine in the restaurant or are available for questions and help.
The setting of the Wiesenhof, really helps guests shake off the City. The hotel sits on the Achensee lake on a range of mountains covered with forestry which entice visitors outside to breathe the air deeply and enjoy the sunshine and after a day or spa or activities and a tasty dinner in their restaurant each evening, you will find it difficult to stay up past 9pm.
Rooms are as you would expect in Austria, spacious with natural woods and simple furnishing. There are plentiful windows and views that bring the lake and mountain into your room. The Wiesenhof staff include a pillow filled with wood shavings from a locally grown tree sitting anonymously on a wardrobe top which are known to lower the heart rate. The bathrooms are spacious and modern and include body and hair products from a local family business supplier connected to The Wiesenhof family called Tiroler Steinoil. Made from shale oil mined from a local mountain these are minerals from prehistoric marine plants and creatures now fossilized which have been put into various products which include a vitality bath ’Vital-Bad’ with pine needle oil, eucalyptus, wild thyme and lavender. The Steinoil products made my hair shine with a silkiness that I hadn’t seen since my early childhood years and my skin baby soft. It is almost miraculous. So much so, I had to order some for my return visit to London.
The Steinoil products have been mined through four generations over a hundred years and the story is now available for visitors to see at the museum which is a short walk away and includes working machinery for the amusement of children and a spectacular café with views of the area to relax in afterwards. The Albrecht family are proud of the museum which they commissioned and had built to mirror the look of a mountain. In the museum you can see the Albrecht family toil as did early gold miners in terrible conditions to find their ‘gold’.
My Tyrolean adventure included cross country ski-ing up a mountain which is very good for your cardio fitness. It could also be boxed as a Formula 1, high octane experience as you “do the easy bit” which is just sitting your skis in their tracks and pointing yourself down the mountain after the climb up and whiz down as though in a water slide. Closing your eyes and a quick prayer are one of the options recommended by Citywealth Editor for the return journey unless of course you are an experienced cross country skier who takes it all in their stride.
The sauna and steam area are a well used part of the hotel and include many rooms to relax in with trickling fountains and views and different types of saunas to help stretch muscles after a long day skiing. These include an alpine herbal steam sauna with herbs of the Karwendel and chamomile, sage and lavenar. They also have a saline steam sauna which helps with healing of the respiratory system. There is a pool to relax in and plenty of teas are available to slurp on when you have had enough sauna fun.
The beauty rooms also allow guests to try unusual treatments like hay baths which farmers of old in Austria used to swear by for relaxing tired muscles. I also tried a bath filled with wood shavings from a local tree known for its health giving properties. All were relaxing as you would expect but also unusual and fun.
The food at The Wiesenhof is fresh and easily equivalent to London fine dining in quality although the restaurant is comfortable and not pretentious. The hotel has a farm and use their own produce in the kitchens. For starter guests visit a buffet area which is filled with a mix of fresh salads, raw fish, cooked national Austrian dishes and soups. For main course guests select food from an a la carte menu usually with three or four choices one of which is a “heart” choice.
And your heart is something that Wiesenhof know about. Having had a genetic disposition to heart problems in the family they are aware of the issues that will affect a family holidaying with an individual with heart concerns. However they don’t make a big deal out of it. They want guests to enjoy their holiday without feeling that they are in hospital. Each day in the restaurant the menu includes a ‘heart option’ which will be a small portion of fish along with the other choices. The hotel have also invested in a Cardio Scan which allows guests to have a quick test to see what level of exertion is advisable or whether they should rest. Obviously the hotel recommend you visit your own doctor but they can provide quick monitoring should you have a worrying flutter or not know whether to take part in activities or not.
I had my heart tested and the process involved me lying down for two minutes and not moving. Electrodes were placed on various legs and arms and fed into a computer which then shows you on screen image of the heart shaded in different colours . As well as the reading the software gives advice on how to improve your heart health or fitness levels. Your personal fitness level will depend on weight, BMI, age, sex, frequency of training and something called Cardio Stress Index (CSI). The CSI is calculated from heart rate variability and vital rates and looks at how your lifestyle affects your heart. A low percentage is good, a higher percentage means adjustment to exercise and diet may be needed. The heart scan is a similar procedure to a regular ECD, it applies no pressure and is painless.
For anyone who doesn’t have heart concerns, the Cardio Scan is a novel idea to try out. For those with heart problems, travelling can be a major concern as a change of diet and temperature affect how the body reacts. It allows peace of mind with a daily check and to go about your fun and enjoyment without a care in the world.
Visitors should also take time to visit the local Swarovski museum which has been built as an enchanting giant in the mountains and is filled with contemporary art installations utilising their gems. It is not to be missed.