As we flew into Innsbruck, the closest airport to the Hotel Klosterbräu, I knew in my heart that this weekend was going to live up to my extremely high expectations. I had not been to Austria for years and the last time was only to Salzburg. Now I was going to spend a very short visit to the town of Seefeld in Tirol, a southwestern region of the country nestled between Munich and Milan.
Seefeld had always been a go-to for skiers. After the 1930s, the town played host to the Winter Olympics Games and now it’s one of the most popular destinations in the Tirol both summer and winter. It was even the birthplace of Anton Seelos, the father of the parallel turn. Since I was to be there in the summer, I dreamt of invigorating walks in hills alive with the sound of music – I couldn’t help myself.
On the road into the village of Seefeld, every house was overflowing with flowers. This passage through town is known as Grüß Gott way (Good morning in Austrian German) because the locals want every visitor to feel welcome. They compete to see who can outdo each other.
Our home for the weekend was to be the Hotel Klosterbräu, celebrating its 500th birthday this year. The original building was a monastery (kloster) and a brewery (bräu). The monastery was consecrated in the 14th C and, in 1516, Emperor Maximilian I presented the building to the town of Seefeld to host visiting pilgrims. It has been transformed, since those more than humble beginnings, and now is one of the most luxurious hotels in Austria.
The building is seeped in history and you can feel it the moment you enter. The current owners, the tightly knit, omnipresent Seyrling family, have been innkeepers since the late 1880’s. Blending the old with the new, the religious and the secular, they have been able to keep it alive and fresh for each generation.
Everywhere traces of its origins remain. I loved that if you wanted to leave a message for a guest, it is placed into their very own bierstein behind the front desk. A reminder that this was and still is a brewery.
Original frescos line the walls, dedicated to the Miracle of the Bread. One Sunday morning, around 1384, Sir Oswald Milser got a little too big for his lederhosen. During communion, the knight demanded a bigger than normal host. The moment he put it to his lips, the ground opened up and the knight was pulled straight down to you-know-where. Grabbing the altar as he struggled, his thumbprint was left there for all eternity. You can still find it in the church adjoining the hotel.
Our room was located on the first floor where the monks had their living quarters. Obviously it has been updated since the 14th C, but every doorframe is authentic and unique. Paintings, armoires, candle-shaped ceiling lights – all very monastic until you open the door to your suite.
I only hope the cells were as comfortable then as they are now! It would be nice to think of the monks scribing away, enjoying all the comforts we did – fabulous towels, a bath you could swim in, signature products and, of course, down pillows!
The eldest brother of the Seyrling family, Alois, greeted us upon arrival. Before sitting down to dinner, he gave us a tour of the wine cellar in the basement. Over 500 candles are illuminated throughout the hotel every evening, making the wine cellar one of the most atmospheric I have seen.
To our surprise, hidden in every corner of the cellar were tables filled with people dining. Alois pointed out the “engagement table” in the way, way back of the cellar. It’s known that if you are invited here by your schatzie, then the question is popped even before the champagne.
We made our way back to the formal dining room through the kitchen, where you can eat at chef’s table for two if you prefer to be in the middle of it all.
Our five-course tasting menu was a work of art, modern, locally sourced, and, of course, most importantly delicious! The menu changes seasonally and we sampled Cream of Celeriac soup, local marinated Salmon Trout with red cabbage and yellow turnip, followed by Braised Beef Cheek with semolina and onions as my main course. The Cypriot had a gorgeous dessert of Raspberry Pannacotta with homemade sorbet, while I chose the extensive cheese course….my favorite of all endings to a meal!
The next morning we quickly discovered that the wine cellar isn’t the only place champagne corks are popped. The Hotel Klosterbräu breakfast is not complete without a sip or two. I think Austrian breakfast tops all others with its smoked salmon, herring, trout, smoked meats, pretzel bread, not forgetting, the dessert that masquerades as breakfast, Bircher Muesli served here with fresh honey and homemade jams.
I couldn’t leave without trying the beer! The brewery has a Bräukeller attached. so you can taste typical Tyrolean treats as you sip. They even have a room in the back that’s available to rent by the hour – pay your money and you can have as much beer on tap for a fixed price. Needless to say, the taps are attached to the walls.
After trekking and hiking (a separate post on activities in Seefeld is on its way), it was time to head down to the award-winning spa. I can honestly say that I have never been to a hotel spa quite like this. You could spend a week here and never take off your robe; there are so many indulgences, and I mean in the secular sense of the word.
The spa has embraced the concept Younique in their approach to everything at the spa. Every treatment is personal: your attendant sits down with you before each session to discover what you want from your massage, facial, wrap, etc – relaxation, sports massage, aromatherapy, cleansing, hydrating, a combination of them all. Then, their work begins.
After you’ve been pounded, relaxed, cleansed, polished, you are free to try one of the many saunas and steam rooms. Outside, inside, modern, traditional, quirky – there is so much choice! My personal favorite sauna had to be the one with the bread-oven inside. Bread, which will be served at dinner, bakes while you are in the sauna, the most mouthwatering aroma-theraputic of my life.
When the heat got to be too much, we made a bee-line for the Beir-Wunder Meditation Room (yes, that’s Beer Miracle!). Sit in silence and pour a pint straight from the tap on the wall. Makes a change from all that green juicing!
If beer doesn’t tempt you, then maybe the indoor or outdoor pool or the exquisite relaxation room with a church bell in the middle of it, reminding you that this was once a former place of worship.
IT’S A HOME
Most of the Seyrling family grew up in this very hotel, literally. Alois learned to ride a bike up and down the corridors of the first floor. Only in the past few years has everyone moved out. The hotel is filled with secret spaces where the family’s presence is felt, a private chapel, a reading table nestled into a corner where you can write postcards, a children’s playroom. When you discover these on your own, you can’t help but feel at home as well.
As a dog lover, there was one aspect of the hotel that I couldn’t help but adore! The Seyrlings pride themselves on being “five stars for four paws”. If they know furry friends are on their way, everything is done to make them comfortable. Beds are made, bowls laid out and there is even a special section in the dining room dedicated to those human guests who travel mit hunde!
We were so sad to say good-bye to everyone at the Hotel Klosterbräu. The Seyrlings go out of their way to make sure everyone’s experience there is wonderful. Though, Moritz Seyrling can be very picky when it comes to who can pet him. The Cypriot did not make the cut. Moritz knew instinctively I was a dog-lover and escorted me out as we said goodbye, hopefully to return in winter to see the town covered in snow!
FYI: The bar was so fantastic that deserves its own separate post! Coming soon!