With the last of the winter snow melting, the Bavarian valleys are flourishing with wild flowers, new green shoots are appearing and the streams have a newly found spirit. As the heat rises in the city, so does the noise and smell. Now, is the time to escape the daily routine and treat yourself to a luxurious break to recharge those batteries! Das Kranzbach, located in a secluded and protected valley, is the ideal place to recuperate.
Only an hour's drive south of Munich, this delightfully original spa hotel in a beautiful valley in the Bavarian Alps inhabits an Arts & Crafts country house. Commissioned in the early 1900s by Mary Portman, an eccentric, violin-playing aristocrat, the house was built in 1915 by architect Detmar Blow. Das Kranzbach opened as a hotel and spa in 2007, after a four year renovation, including the addition of a 60-room, wood-and-glass extension, designed by the Austrian architects Edinger and Fischbach based in Innsbruck.
The British interior designer, Ilse Crawford from London, was chosen for the interiors of the Mary Portman house because she instinctively understood the Arts and Crafts movement. She also channeled the property's original owner, ‘I imagined the taste of such a free-spirited, cultured woman and brought it up to date,' Crawford explains. She updated period furnishings with contemporary twists: Chesterfield sofas are upholstered in bright yellow; in the ‘kitchen room,' a papier-mâché Studio Job chandelier dangles in front of a cross-stitched-rose wall hanging by Dutch designer Kiki van Eijk. Many decorative touches are one of a kind. Crawford commissioned wallpaper from Timorous Beasties and scoured vintage markets for quirky knickknacks to place strategically throughout the hotel.
Wisely, no attempt was made to integrate the two parts. Crawford's 31 bedrooms remain very Arts and Crafts but with twists – pastel-coloured paneling, the odd chaise longue – while all five of the lounges downstairs have a more languid, country-house style, with the twist of Anglepoise lamps apparently fed on steroids. The modern wing is full of light (bathrooms are see-through) and has a Scandinavian elegance; but alongside the old building it seems prosaic.
The rooms and suites, each with its own individual touch, are a true delight not just because of the way in which they are furnished but also because of the breathtaking views of the Alps that tempt guests to get out and enjoy a bracing walk or to explore the surrounding region.
As the first rays of sunlight sparkle onto the hilly meadow, humid from dew, groups can be seen dispersing from the house. Some to undertake a brisk Nordic-Walk, others; roll mats under arm to loosen up under the direction of the Yoga instructor and for those that would rather swim lengths, the 210m² outdoor pool is heated all year round. If you prefer to relax in comfort then breakfast is served until 1030, which means you can enjoy the comfort of the luxurious bed linen just that little bit longer.
However, the temptation of the breakfast buffet is sure to stir even the deepest of sleepers. The superlative scent of the homemade breads will lure you to a spacious dining room with panoramic views of the impressive Karwendel and Wetterstein mountain ranges. The breathtaking scenery will give you time to consider whether you create a made to order omelette, with fresh herbs from the kitchen's garden or treat yourself to a bowl of fruit and a basket of pastries. A must is to try the homemade honey produced in the meadow above the hotel. The bees have a limitless supply of wild flowers which blossom in the meadows; completely undisturbed by the pollution that settles around the cities.
Prepared for the day, the adventurous can explore the valley on foot or bike, langlauf skis or snow shoes: season dependent. With numerous forest tracks linking hidden meadows, the opportunity for remote, undisturbed hikes are endless. For those that need to burn of that extra breakfast pastry, the mountain ridges are invitingly close, and offer striking views of the Zugspitze (2962m). Highly recommended is a hike up to the King's House on Schachen, which can be reached within three hours from the hotel. This impressive lodge is perched high up on a plateau overlooking Garmisch. It was built for King Ludwig II, and was used for birthdays and celebrations. The extravagant interior is in stark contrast to the wooden exterior, which was modelled on a Swiss Chalet.
For those that want to explore further afield, the fairy-tale castle, Neuschwanstein, classically captured in the film Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang is within 90 minutes' drive of the hotel. A closer alternative is the impressive, Kloster Ettal near Oberammergau. This Benedictine monastery was founded in 1330 by the Emperor, Ludwig the Bavarian. In the 18th Century, the site was additionally used as a ‘Knight's Training Academy!' It is now a spectacular Abbey in the Baroque style with a double-shelled dome, and is well worth a visit.
For those that want to put more emphasis on recuperation, then the hotel runs regular Yoga sessions. The new open-air meditation rooms provide gorgeous views of the surrounding landscape, whilst removing needless barriers between the body and nature. It has been said that, ‘the unity of body and soul, of nature and inner life can best be achieved in a place where nature itself is balanced.' For this reason, ‘Das Kranzbach' is an ideal place for practising Yoga: absolute peace and quiet in the extensive grounds and nature with its big and small wonders form the perfect basis to find the way to one's true self.
On completing your day's activities, you can sun-bathe around the infinity-pool, drink a tea and devour cakes straight-from-the-oven. The highlight of the day is still to come. To relax in the heat of a Finnish sauna, whilst admiring the stunning view of the Karwendl, puts the dimension of one's own problems into perspective. Truly spectacular!
The new Ladies' Spa and Sauna, is an area where gentlemen have no admission. This peaceful place is entirely reserved for women, so that they can simply relax and be themselves. All the worries and stresses of the day-to-day world remain outside. It´s a haven for reading, reclining, sleeping and chatting…all completely undisturbed.
To compliment this, the hotel has a spring-fed spa, with 25 treatment rooms that offer cosmetics, massages and relaxation baths. Hotel guests will be well looked after by highly trained and certified therapists and beauticians. All wellness products and treatments are based on highly efficient natural cosmetics from, ‘Thalgo' and ‘Pharmos Natur'; both are holistically oriented manufacturers of products, using only natural ingredients.
For those exhausted, from the day's exertions, dinner starts from 1830. For others that want to catch the last of the sun's alpine rays, you have more than enough time to shed the bath robe and dress for the evening. Across a candle lit table, you can savour a first-class 5-course table d'hote dinner with wine pairings, prepared with locally purchased produce by a dedicated team of chefs. After dinner, you can retire to the bar and relax in front of log fires or gaze at a galaxy of George Nelson lanterns. Either way, a good night sleep is promised with nothing but fresh mountain air to disturb you.
Note, that Das Kranzbach does not welcome children. Quite right: they wouldn't enjoy the tranquility, relaxation and silence.