En­joy­ing the Highs

Tony Gear­ing takes his fam­ily on a sum­mer trip to the south­ern Alps and en­joys the hos­pi­tal­ity of the ho­tel Neuwirt

EDP Norfolk - - Education -

WE ALL KNOW a ho­tel can make or break a hol­i­day. I have lux­u­ri­ated in fa­mous five-star estab­lish­ments in Lon­don, Paris and New York, but I have re­turned to only one ho­tel and that is in a lit­tle-known val­ley in Aus­tria.

The ho­tel Neuwirt nes­tles half-way up a hill above the bustling re­sort of Sch­lad­ming in the south­ern Alps. Fam­ily-run, it of­fers quiet re­lax­ation, al­though don’t be sur­prised to hear chil­dren play­ing. The Neuwirt achieves that con­ti­nen­tal bal­ance where chil­dren are seen and heard, but do not get out of hand.

The home-cooked food is tasty and fill­ing, and much of it comes from the fields around. The Neuwirt used to be a farm and the Hutegger fam­ily still rear sheep on the flow­er­strewn slopes above and cat­tle in the lush val­ley be­low. If you are so in­clined their fare will end up on your plate, but there are al­ways veg­e­tar­ian op­tions. My kids loved the salad bar – try the lo­cal pump­kin oil – and would run off to the play­room in-be­tween cour­ses.

Be­fore break­fast or din­ner you can swim in the pools, in­side or out­side, or go to the saunas, small gym or pay for a spa treat­ment. The bed­rooms range from cosy dou­bles in the orig­i­nal farm­house con­ver­sion to spa­cious apart­ments in the mod­ern wing.

But as hos­pitable as the Neuwirt is, don’t stay in the ho­tel all day – there is a whole val­ley to ex­plore. Pe­tra, the man­ager­ess, will give you a Som­mer­card which en­ti­tles you to free trans­port around the val­ley (al­though I rec­om­mend hir­ing a car), free rides on ca­ble cars up the moun­tains as well as dis­counted or free ac­tiv­i­ties.

Our boys tried rock-climb­ing un­der the su­per­vi­sion of a pro­fes­sional moun­taineer while my wife and I en­joyed cof­fee and ap­ple strudel. They also did archery while mum and dad went for a walk to work off the strudel.

The whole fam­ily went for a hike be­side the Wilde Wasser river. Down in the val­ley, the ‘wild water’ ap­pears to be falsely named as it flows through gen­tly slop­ing fields of wild flow­ers with cows clank­ing their bells in the back­ground. You could even push a pram here.

But, at the base of the wa­ter­fall proper, the river lives up to its name. Mil­lions of litres plunge over rocks for hun­dreds of feet. The path be­comes much steeper and your walk be­comes more of a scram­ble up be­side the falls.

The boys and I stopped on rocks half­way up but their more in­trepid mum made it higher to a foot­bridge, strung be­tween the cliffs, that looked like some­thing out of an In­di­ana Jones film.

My high­light was rid­ing on top of a ca­ble car to visit a glacier. Yes, I said on top. For the trip up to the Dach­stein glacier – at 2,700 me­tres the high­est point in the area and nearly four times taller than the high­est peak in the York­shire Dales – you can ride on top of the ca­ble car in lit­tle more than a Per­spex box.

Know­ing I do not have a head for heights, my wife chal­lenged me. I was lucky the ride went through clouds so I could not see just how high up I was. Back on firm ground I looked back, the clouds had cleared and the val­ley was beau­ti­ful.Š

Ho­tel Neuwirt’s out­door pool

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