We stayed the weekend in the stylish eco-retreat Gartenhotel Theresia located in Saalbach-Hinterglemm in the Austrian state of Salzburg.
The mountain village resort Saalbach-Hinterglemm occupies a particularly pretty corner of Austria. With meandering streams trickling through deeply carved valleys, rolling green pastures dotted with grazing bell-adorned cows and postcard-pretty chalets all enveloped by the towering peaks of the beautiful Alps – it really is straight out of a scene from the Sound of Music.
From the outside, the Gartenhotel Theresia hotel looks typically very Austrian; the impressive facade is made up of lashings of sturdy pine woods, flower-bedecked balconies and shuttered windows all fused together to make one very picturesque chalet. Although, its traditional exterior belies its trendy contemporary interiors and forward-thinking ethos. A self-proclaimed ‘hotel with a heart’, the chalet-style inn is in fact an eco-retreat with a philosophy of sustainability and welfare. They only serve locally produced, animal welfare friendly organic food, participate in resource-saving management and have a policy of social responsibility for all their employees – very admirable qualities and unfortunately still a rare find in a hotel!
Inside I was warmly greeted by a pair of dirndl-clad receptionists and one of the owners, an efficient but sensitive lady who is clearly passionate about the hotel and its surroundings. After a quick welcome chat, I was intrigued to find out more about her and the hotel’s eco philosophies – a subject which was also close to my heart. Her reasoning was simple but straight to the point “If we don’t look after nature then it will disappear.”
I was then shown around by one of the receptionists: the decor was an impressive mix of contemporary and traditional – think cowhide print sofas and chic modern details juxtaposed with historic photographs and real log fires. Walking around it was obvious that compassion and a progressive ideology flowed throughout the hotel, from the aged resident cat who wandered the corridors, to the natural swimming area filled with mountain spring water and the weekly activity programme which aimed to help you get back in touch with nature – its green credentials aren’t just a marketing gimmick, they are a genuine passion of the owners.
My hotel tour ended with the receptionist handing me a keycard for the traditional Austrian ‘nude’ sauna (which I took with a nervous giggle!) then the key to my room for the weekend. The room was cosy, decorated with flair and featured plenty of pine and local oak. I opened the patio doors to let in the fresh mountain air and sunk heavily into the bed. Lying on the bedside cabinet was a book titled “Out of the Head and into the Heart” by Franz X. Buhler – a very apt choice.
The next day I explored the beautiful local surroundings courtesy of a steep scenic cable ride and a brisk stream-side walk and then returned to the hotel to soothe my aching muscles in the Mountain Green spa. The spa area consisted of an indoor swimming pool, a choice of two saunas (with or without swimwear!), a jacuzzi, a panoramic gym and a treatment room where I experienced an indulgent aromatherapy massage which, of course, used only organic products.
Food is one of main features of the hotel and is taken very seriously at the retreat. Starting with a breakfast buffet, then lunch, afternoon tea, and ending with an evening five-course gourmet dinner they ensure no guest leaves hungry! At each sitting, both ultra-healthy and hearty regional traditional food (all organic, locally sourced and beautifully presented) sit side by side and the hotel prides itself on catering for vegetarians, vegans and sufferers of any allergy.
When it was time to check out, my keycard to the nude sauna may have remained unused but I left the Gartenhotel Theresia refreshed, renewed and pleased to have experienced a stay in a hotel with a genuine heart.