TRAVEL

Kin­der­ho­tels are the va­ca­tion se­cret your kids want you to know

METROPOLE - Vienna in English - - CONTENTS - By Erin East

Kin­der­ho­tels give both kids and par­ents a well-de­served break.

Let’s play a game. It’s a sim­ple one, not dif­fi­cult at all. It’s called “Spot the fam­ily who just got back from hol­i­day.” I’ll give you a hint: Your typ­i­cal fam­ily va­ca­tion sur­vivors look like weary, shell-shocked vet­er­ans. Di­shev­elled cou­ples lug piles of toys, ath­letic equip­ment and over­flow­ing suit­cases. Cranky, tired kids whine, tick­ing time bombs sec­onds away from a tantrum. Rather than be­ing well rested, ev­ery­one longs to fi­nally re­lax. If this sort of get­away seems all too fa­mil­iar, don’t despair. Let me in­tro­duce you to the Kin­der­ho­tel way.

It’s a cold Sun­day, and a large suit­case, my three­year-old daugh­ter and I are wait­ing out­side the train sta­tion at St. Jo­hann im Pon­gau. I’d heard that Kin­der­ho­tels, the brain­child of Aus­trian hote­liers Ger­hard Stroitz and Siggi Neuschitzer, are rein­vent­ing fam­ily hol­i­days, and we were ea­ger to put that to the test at their Alpina Fam­ily, Spa and Sportho­tel.

RE­LAX AND REWIND

The courtesy bus drove us through the hills of cen­tral Salzburg­er­land, where the choco­late browns of moun­tain chalets pop against the snowy land­scape. Ar­riv­ing at the vil­lage St. Jo­hann-alpen­dorf, we pulled into the drive­way of a sprawl­ing, white com­pound with teal balustrades and pur­ple hang­ing flow­ers pro­ject­ing a fairy tale air. In­side, the gold light fit­tings, dark wood fur­nish­ings and wall-mounted hunt­ing tro­phies gave an at­mos­phere of alpine op­u­lence. Af­ter check­ing in, we by­passed the gym, the ten­nis courts and the hik­ing tour and headed straight to the spa.

“Is this your first spa?” the 20-some­thing masseuse asked my daugh­ter, lead­ing us through doors cov­ered with faux lilies and cherry blos­soms into a softly lit treat­ment room. A true fash­ion­ista, af­ter gig­gling her way through her bub­ble mas­sage, my daugh­ter had a mani-pedi and re­quested ev­ery color, en­cour­ag­ing her mommy to get mul­ti­col­ored nails too.

Be­neath the spa is an adults-only world of saunas and sun lounges. As I walked in, two Ger­man par­ents greeted me. We shared a look that said, “We’re go­ing to do ab­so­lutely noth­ing for the next sev­eral hours and we’re not go­ing to feel guilty about it.” Sa­vor­ing mo­ments with­out parental re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, we were pro­pelled back to a time of lazy morn­ings and

We were pro­pelled back to a time of lazy morn­ings and un­hur­ried af­ter­noons, re-en­ter­ing the years BCE (Be­fore Child Era).

un­hur­ried af­ter­noons, re-en­ter­ing the years BCE (Be­fore Child Era). As the Ger­man dad put it, “The kids should be in the kids’ club.”

ALPINE PLAY­GROUNDS

Kids’ clubs are a su­per­vised sanc­tu­ary for ba­bies to teenagers. My daugh­ter loved the ac­tiv­i­ties, es­pe­cially the dance party. While not tech­ni­cally in­vited, par­ents joined in, bust­ing out long-for­got­ten (and kid ap­pro­pri­ate) moves. If con­fronted, I will deny singing along to “Bar­bie Girl” and get­ting re­ally into the “Macarena.”

At one point my daugh­ter re­fused to leave. As I waited, I spoke to an­other mom whose child wanted to stay. “More time to en­joy our­selves,” she said with a wink. Know­ing my daugh­ter was hav­ing fun, I headed to the pool.

From the blue bal­cony of our taupe-col­ored room, we had 180-de­gree views of the sur­round­ing moun­tains. They called us to ex­plore (and maybe sing about some of our fa­vorite things), and soon enough we were float­ing up the Gernko­gel in the Alpen­dorf Gon­dola ca­ble car. Dan­gling from a wire far above the ground in a glass box, my ex­treme fear of heights may have had some­thing to do with the singing too.

We ar­rived safely at Snow Space Salzburg, a 120 km net­work of con­nected slopes. Here, fear­less tots snake down­hill be­hind ski in­struc­tors and glide across the snow. Once a week, bud­ding Olympians race for prizes as par­ents cheer. As we ex­plored, we found the Teufel­sroute (Devil’s Route) where stat­ues of witches and other things that go bump in the night watch as fam­i­lies bar­rel down. As kids hurled snow­balls at par­ents, and shrieked with joy, I swear I heard a devil statue laugh with them.

FAM­ILY HOL­I­DAY FIX

Ex­hausted but elated, we re­turned to Alpina for din­ner. That night the din­ing room was full, and my daugh­ter was done with her kids’ buf­fet meal be­fore all five cour­ses of the adults’ à la carte din­ner ar­rived. Thank­fully, I’d packed my iphone, and my daugh­ter re­ceived a stash of draw­ing sup­plies to pass the time. Alpina’s sleek fur­nish­ings con­tain a se­cret: Be­hind un­ob­tru­sive doors, pool toys, prams, cots, even car seats wait to be used. But you have to know to look. As my daugh­ter trans­formed a crisp white table­cloth into a Pol­lock-in­spired can­vas (mixed me­dia with ketchup and crayons), I no­ticed sev­eral well-dressed cou­ples en­joy­ing their meals alone. While some Kin­der­ho­tels are for fam­i­lies only, Alpina wel­comes ev­ery­one. Es­pe­cially pop­u­lar in win­ter, skiers em­brace the slower pace, eas­ier ski runs and more rest­ful nightlife in St. Jo­hann-alpen­dorf, where piste is where you ski, not how you end up ev­ery night.

Now let’s play a new game: “Spot the fam­ily re­turn­ing from a Kin­der­ho­tel.” You can tell them by their re­laxed pos­ture, smiles and min­i­mal lug­gage. My only re­gret, as we set­tled onto the train back to Vi­enna, is that I had to go home and cook din­ner.

Snow Space Salzburg has 120 km of slopes, in­clud­ing eas­ier runs per­fect for be­gin­ners.

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