The drive from Klagenfurt Airport to Bad Kleinkirchheim in Carinthia, southern Austria, takes you on a country road and across open fields within minutes of leaving the airport. Suddenly, having left Gatwick on a cold and grey Saturday morning, you are transported to another world; one filled with views of lakes, forests and sky and, on this particular morning, with warm spring sunshine.
Just 50 minutes by transfer bus or taxi, Bad Kleinkirchheim is situated among the Nockberge mountains in what has now been recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere Park. The soft rolling hills are snow-covered at this time of year, but being situated at only 1,100m the valleys are green as we wind our way through the village, strung out along the Tiefenbach river.
Made up of 7 smaller hamlets, including Unterschern, where Hotel Trattlerhof is located, BKK, as it is often known by travel companies in the UK, has a local population of only 1,800 people but has many hotels, restaurants and attractions as this is a town now dedicated creating ‘sunshine moments’ for visitors. Being situated so close to the Adriatic, BKK enjoys more sun and offers fabulous fresh air all year–round. The Italians in particular are great lovers of the lakes and mountains, coming here to escape the city and heat and to ‘respirare’.
We’ve come for the wintersports (skiing, snow-shoe walking and cross-country skiing), but the hotel, indeed the whole village, is open year-round, with activities such as walking and mountain-biking in the hills and sailing and swimming by the lovely lakes. What sets this village apart from others in the region, apart from having one of the largest ski areas (105 km), is the thermal spas; the mineral-rich water emanating from its source beneath the church. As a result, the locals talk about moving from the ‘slopes to the spa’ (Von piste in die therme) in winter and from the mountain to the lake in the summer and that is just what we experience on our stay; it really is a little paradise.
Like much of the region, there is rich history and tradition surrounding the Hotel Trattlerhof, meaning horse paddock. It gained its licence to brew beer and make bread from the land-owning Jesuit order in nearby Millstadt in 1642, around the time it first became a guesthouse and began to thrive because of its position near to the road into BKK. Since then it has developed into a large and well-run hotel, spa and restaurant business but has also managed to retain much of the tradition and romance of alpine life.
Acquired by the Forstnig family in 1884, the hotel and restaurant has passed through the generations, and is now run by Jacob V Forstnig (the fifth). It’s a family-run business with Jacob, his wife and mother Elizabeth, all playing a big part in making the hotel so welcoming. Their passion for the region, the hotel and the local culture really stands out and they have continued to innovate and add new facilities.
For example, the hotel has recently been certified as a Bio zero-plastics and minimum waste hotel, buying as many ingredients from local farms as possible, including the bio-dairy situated right across the street. These happy cows, sheep and goats produce the hotel’s milk, cheese and cream, with much of the meat and fish coming from other local farms and lakes. More about the excellent restaurant later.
On arrival we are also briefed on the environmental approach to housekeeping; towels are changed daily but you can opt to use the same ones for another day and the bathrooms do not feature little plastic packets for soap, shampoo or body lotion; these create plastic waste. Little touches like these indicate the care the family takes around the guest, and whilst not every detail is relevant to every visitor it all adds up to a great experience.
The reception, bar and lounge areas reflect the traditional Austrian style, with Elizabeth and the front desk staff wearing traditional costumes; ‘dirndl’ dresses for the ladies and woollen suits and lederhosen for the men.
From the location some 400 yards from one of the main ski-lifts, one can easily walk to the Bach hamlet centre with its little bars and restaurants and one of the larger public spas. The walk along the river is very pleasant, day or night, or take the bus from the bus-stop right outside. The free resort bus service also allows you reach the other parts of BKK, including the fabulous Thermal Spa Römerbad, and other lift stations.
Of course the mountains are the main attraction of the region, with the Brunnach Biospherepark lift from St Oswald taking you up to view the Nochberge mountains all year-round, and similarly the Kaiserburg lift station taking you up to 2,055m where there are also one or two lovely panoramic restaurants to enjoy after your ridge walk. The skiing is excellent too, with very well-groomed pistes and paths even though the valley is somewhat green. It is a really picturesque wooded resort.
The hotel has its own spa and pool area, so if you don’t want to go out for a trip to one of the larger public spas, this is a great option. It’s quite extensive, with areas to relax after your dampfbad (steam bath) or dry-hot Finnish sauna, with easy access via lift to and from your room. Bathrobes and towels are provided, as is a useful spa bag with your room number on.
The Trattlerhof is a great base from which to explore the nearby area and there is lots to see and do. It’s a true pleasure to come home to an afternoon tea or a lovely three-course dinner after your exertions and this is where the Trattlerhof comes into its own.
Breakfast, served from 7-11 am, is a buffet with local hams and cheeses, with great breads as you’d expect in Austria, with eggs and bacon and omelettes, fruit, yoghurt and fresh pastries – whatever you need to get you going of a morning.
The afternoon tea served from 1-4pm includes not only cakes and desserts, but also salads and savoury options, meaning you can ski or walk in the morning and then go to the spa or lake in the afternoon, having had a snack after changing. Served in the lounge, the antique grand piano is used as a serving table and there are lovely old tables and comfortable chairs to relax in this bright and airy room – you can read the Forstnig family history and the days papers in the small library area.
Dinner is available a-la-carte as a guest or as part of the resident half-board option. Consisting of excellent salads from the buffet and a soup course, as well as a choice of two mains and two desserts, plus cheese from the buffet, the half-board option provides a chance to taste a number of local dishes and was of an excellent standard. Austrian Grüner Weitliner wine is recommended, and there is a good selection of other local and International wines that you can view in the wine cellar next to the restaurant.
If you fancy a night out, then the hotel has opened an excellent ‘Einkehr’ just 300 yards from the hotel near the main lift. This serves great pizzas and beers, as well as traditional local fare, and has a really warm and fun atmosphere. Walking there by candle-light from the back of the hotel adds something special to the experience (candle torches available from the hotel). There is also a nearby sports bar where one can catch the football, should that be a matter of life and death.
Inghams Winter Offer
Inghams is offering a seven-night ski holiday on a half board basis at the four-star Hotel Trattlerhof in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria, from £864 per person based on two sharing in January 2020. Price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Klagenfurt and airport transfers. Lift passes, equipment hire and tuition can be pre-booked through Inghams. To book, visit www.inghams.co.uk/ski-holidays or call 01483 938 047.
Inghams Summer Offer
Inghams is offering a seven-night summer holiday on a half board basis at the four-star Hotel Trattlerhof in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria, from £819 per person based on two sharing in June 2019. Price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Salzburg and airport transfers. To book, visit www.inghams.co.uk/lakes-mountains-holidays or call 01483 938 047.