Hideaway. Once a retreat for poets and painters, the "Knappenhof" now offers great cuisine, lots of design and a magnificent house terrace.

Hideaway. Once a retreat for poets and painters, the "Knappenhof" now offers great cuisine, lots of design and a magnificent house terrace.
© Christian Husar

Traditionally relaxed: A stroll through the "Knappenhof"

The hustle and bustle of the digital world is banned at the »Knappenhof«. The nature of the Rax region sets the pace. Delicacies from the region enhance the relaxing effect of your stay.

It is no coincidence that the fame of the Schwarzatal valley was made early on by travellers who could all be described as members of the "creative industries". They appreciated the wildly romantic landscape, where they could come by themselves, and yet which was so quickly accessible from the royal capital of Vienna. In 1908 Camillo Kronich made good on this claim: his "Knappenhof" provided Viennese society with a focal point that enabled anyone who did not own a villa in fashionable Reichenau to enjoy a summer retreat in the mountains. The decision was made not to build a palace of rooms like the one at Semmering; the new hotel was to have the character of a boutique hotel. And it is precisely in this spirit that the Knappenhof is run today, following the complete renovation of the 28 rooms by hostess Helena Ramsbacher!

In 2024, guests will be able to reach the hotel in the same way as the noble society once did: from Payerbach train station, the "RUFbus Semmering-Rax" makes it possible to enjoy a completely car-free vacation. Once you are on the road without a car, the natural rhythm of life in the mountains takes care of itself. When we talk about luxury here, we are not talking about frills like gold-plated door handles, but about priceless things for the soul: »Space, few people, time or silence,« is how hotelier Ramsbacher defines the requirement profile for contemporary relaxation. The newly designed conservatory is a visible expression of this "spirit". 

It’s details like this that make a stay in the hotel worthwhile, because old and analogue values are written large here. A healthy psyche and a relaxed mind have always been part of a stay here. After all, it was the great "soul teachers" Sigmund Freud, and later Viktor Frankl who were regularly inspired by the Rax massif. The current guest program at the "Knappenhof" also ties in with the strengthening of body and soul. The renowned author Arnold Mettnitzer, former priest, and psychotherapist accompanies hikers through the Rax region and poses questions of meaning in the beauty of nature. Professor Michael Musalek will also address the topic of how to be more mindful of oneself and how to gain positive aspects from old age. The saying that you have to clear your head thus gains a true quality.

This spiritual approach to the subject of vacations has also been given a symbolic home at "Knappenhof". It is a new building, but with its wooden tower it looks as familiar as if it had been part of the hotel complex since the days of Camilo Kronich. As a visible space for spirituality, it is filled with life for all Catholic festivals – engagements, marriages, and baptisms – as well as for wedding anniversaries such as golden weddings. "This space should be open to all denominations," is the cosmopolitan maxim. However, modern weddings are also conceivable. 

Incidentally, the little church is dedicated to Saint Hildegard of Bingen, for hotelier Helena Ramsbacher she is simply "the coolest woman of the Middle Ages". The Knappenhof is also hosting a church day dedicated to her, which will be celebrated in true Carinthian style on September 17 – "with church day soup, of course". And while the modern altarpiece by Virginie Bailly is the result of an art competition, a new tradition is being created on the mountain!

Wild and tamed water

One of the unforgettable impressions is the water of the Schwarzatal, which is omnipresent around the "Knappenhof" and not just during the hikes. The wild stretches and quiet bays of the Höllental valley are as far away from the hustle and bustle of the city as possible. It almost goes without saying that the hotel itself also has a spring. And the liquid element will become even more a part of the "Knappenhof". The planned infinity pool will give guests a different view of the mountains. It will replace the former "sunbathing area" with a far more dynamic element. 

This mixture of fin-de-siècle elegance and the majesty of nature is complemented by the interior. The historic hotel walls breathes happiness: pop-coloured fabrics, modern amenities such as Dyson hairdryers in every room and gourmet temptations, not least of which is the hotel bar. All guests at the Knappenhof are pleasure-loving! There’s no other way around it, as the surrounding area lavishly sets the table for breakfast. Homemade jams meet eggs supplied by the neighbour and seasonal herbs from the Huthaus. Never missing are the pastries, with which another piece of k. u. k. tradition is revived at the "Knappenhof". Only in a contemporary guise.

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Roland Graf
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