With a passion for its roots, the prestigious Ferienhotel Kolmhof in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria, is a family-owned property, which mixes tradition with contemporary Austrian lifestyle. Sitting at the foot of the Nockberge Mountain range and opposite St. Kathrein thermal spa, the hotel was our perfect base for three days of relaxation, rejuvenation and active-adventure.
Bad Kleinkirchheim sits within the region of Carinthia known for a Mediterranean-style climate. Nearby, the borders of both Italy and Slovenia help influence the relaxed nature of locals and the fine regional produce. As the owner of the Kolmhof, Achim Lienert casually remarked “we are on the sunny side of the Alps.”
Having taken over the business from his late father, Lienert has brought an entrepreneurial energy to the hotel, which caters for all ages and tastes, in both summer and winter. Returning guests and new arrivals to the area are greeted by staff in the national dress (Dirndl and Lederhosen) and more often than not by Lienert’s mother, the matriarch of this family-run hotel.
The hotel has a photo wall running along a corridor linking the wood-panelled restaurant with the lobby lounge. Celebrated figures of Austria and beyond are now part of the hotel’s history, ever since it opened back in the 1960s. One face and photo that appears often in Carinthia is that of the legendary skier Franz Klammer, who was born in a village close to Bad Kleinkirchheim. He achieved Olympic gold not so long after the hotel had opened and he remains in the hearts and minds of Austrians to this day.
Even when ascending the summit of the Nockberge Biosphere Park, our gondola passed another in descent, fully wrapped with a golden livery devoted to Klammer, featuring his distinctive silhouette, crouched and on the edge of his skis hurtling towards one of many victories of his career. Nowadays, Klammer is a devotee of golf and cycling, as much as skiing, and helps promote the Alpe Adria golf trail between Carinthia, Italy and Slovenia, playing on some of the finest courses in the Eastern Alps.
Using the hotel’s state-of-the-art e-mountain bikes made the 5km ride up toward the St. Oswald’s cable car station and Biosphere Park in Brunnach, an easy and scenic ride. The verdant panorama is punctuated by the sight of dark-wood farm houses, adorned with geranium-filled balconies and deer antlers mounted under the pitched roofs. Ancient orchards, and farmers scything the long grass in the fields during early summer, completed the chocolate-box setting, attesting to the conservation of the alpine’s natural and cultural landscape.
Atop the Nockberge, the dramatic vistas stretch out to towards rolling rather than jagged peaks, which is a unique geological feature and rare in the Alps. The moving shadows, created by the odd passing cloud, slowly unveiled a mountain hut that offers refreshment to hikers from the many trails that split like veins across the torso of the mountain range. After our own short hike, the upper cable car restaurant provided deck-chairs from which to bask in the sun and enjoy a coffee before we zipped back to the hotel, our own downhill mountain bike race an exhilarating end to our elevated excursion.
Bad Kleinkirchheim has a very long history as a spa town, stretching back to the Middle Ages – more so than as a winter ski or summer resort. The many active adventure pursuits are one way to enjoy the balmy climate in the region; the other is through the thermal waters. The town is book-ended by two major spa facilities, Römerbad and St. Kathrein, sitting at either end of the main thorough-fare. The former is the larger of the two, set across three storeys and 12,000sqm of alpine spa and wellness to help soothe well-hiked muscles, whilst the latter incorporates an 86m waterslide alongside Roman baths and swimming pools.
The Kolmhof, like other hotels in the area, offers its own spa facilities. “We developed and built our own spa area of 1000sqm to reflect the changing nature of what our guests wanted,” stated Lienert. To access the heated hotel pool, one swims from inside to out, with head popping up from the surface of the water into the calm serenity of landscaped gardens and a full sweep of pine-covered mountains.
The Kolmhof also has its own private beach beside Lake Millstätter, the second biggest lake in Carinthia. The vast body of water stretches 12km in length with a depth of just under 150m. The 19th and 20th century villas that rise from the northern shore to the hillside, the cafes and the bathers provide an ‘‘Alpine Riviera’’ feel. The northern shore is also home to a Romanesque Benedictine Abbey whose gardens, arcades and cloisters provide shade to retreat from the summer heat.
Having followed the meandering journey of the clear mountain water, which begins as a trickle of a stream and ends in flowing rivers that finally spill into the lake, we then had to retrace our steps back up towards our evening meal. The Ferienhotel Kolmhof prides itself in serving Austrian and Carinthian specialities using local produce, which like most things in Bad Kleinkirchheim, benefit from a sun-filled climate!
For more information go to www.kolmhof.at.