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A firm foundation of tradition for the future

A firm foundation of tradition for the future

A firm foundation of tradition for the future

Famous Bregenzerwald author Franz Michael Felder tied the knot in their hotel’s parlour. For many guests, this hotel has become a second home. Now a new generation of hoteliers are busy preparing the Hotel Adler in Schoppernau for the guests of the future.

The air that pours through the windows of the old parlour glistens in the sunlight. Close by, a waitress sets a table. The sun’s light refracts off of the cutlery and the glasses as she arranges them upon a starched white cloth. She’s getting everything ready for tonight’s meal. Guests are expected to arrive in just a few hours, and yet it’s as if time has slowed to a crawl, taking its sweet time to pass. “The parlour is the beating heart of our hotel. More than 150 years ago, the social reformer, farmer and writer Franz Michael Felder celebrated his wedding feast in this room of wooden panels, just as many residents of the Bregenzerwald have since. This space has seen both laughter and mourning, and tonight will be no exception.” From the fireside room to the spacious hall and parlour, Sandra Muxel provides a guided tour of the Hotel Adler. The mix of traditional spaces and modern amenities, old and new, is palpable yet unobtrusive. The building’s framework and grand parlour were carefully restored with close attention paid to the right fit, materials and colours. For instance, the narrow paneled cornices of the former dance hall now adorn the reception hall instead. “It was important to us to preserve the character of the house. After all, this is an original Bregenzerwald farmhouse, first mentioned in 1736. It has always been run as an inn, even from the very beginning.”

Respect for tradition

In the mid-1980s, Sandra’s parents Hermi and Willi transformed the building into a four-star hotel. Modest yet attractive, there was ample space for regular guests as well as for Sandra and her brother Bernd. “I used to do my homework in these rooms,” says Sandra. “In the parlour or just wherever there was a free table.” These days, thanks to the next generation, children once again play in these rooms. Sandra and her partner Simon Leiter joined the hotel management team a few years back. This wasn’t a planned move by any means. Let’s call it a lucky coincidence instead. “Of course, there was always talk in the family about whether I would take over the hotel,” recalls Sandra. “But I first needed to get some distance from tradition and from home, and so I had to go far away. I spent time in Canada, studied in Vienna, and then did some more training in tourism management in Innsbruck. That’s where I first met Simon. After some time, I became pregnant. It was at that point that we decided to move to the Bregenzerwald. But in all honesty, I wouldn’t have taken over the hotel without Simon. There are many wonderful women in the Bregenzerwald who manage such projects on their own, and I have the utmost respect for them. But for me it was clear that the only way forward was as a team.”

At the hotel, her parents still perform a variety of important tasks: Her father, Willi Muxel, for example, is in charge of the restaurant’s kitchen. Meanwhile, her mother, Hermi, looks after the regular guests. Their support has allowed Sandra and Simon to realise their vision for the hotel. “Of course, there are always disagreements between the generations when it comes to making changes, but this conflict can be put to good use. My parents are incredibly generous. They have allowed Simon and me to design and implement the changes we believe in. Anyway, we have an enormous respect for the history and tradition of this establishment.” In 2020, the rooms were remodelled and the hotel administration was also modernised. “The renovation period was challenging, but at the same time very rewarding. We relied on craftspeople from the Bregenzerwald for everything. In this respect, our region is perhaps truly unique in the world. Here, an entire hotel could be remodelled using only the craftsmanship and ability of just two villages,” says Sandra.

A temple of wellness at the doorstep

The new spa, which is located on the ground floor in the rear wing of the building, adds a whole new dimension to the hotel. Here, two saunas at different temperatures have been set up, along with shower areas beneath the old vaulted ceilings, a massage area, and a spacious relaxation room presenting magnificent views of the Kanisfluh massif and the snow-covered forest landscape. The outdoor area also features a whirlpool and a sunbathing area. “I used to work in the ‘event tourism’ industry,” says Simon. “The idea is to always offer something more, the cherry on top… one more event or incredible opportunity for guests. But when it comes to our hotel, I see things differently: if you’re on holiday, you don’t need constant distractions. Less is more and that’s good enough. We don’t need an oversized spa area with a kajillion square metres of space when the true temple of wellness is right at our doorstep.

I’m originally from East Tirol. In my view, as an outsider, the Bregenzerwald is outstanding, both scenically and culturally. Perhaps this is the case because here culture always draws from the value of the landscape.” It should come as no surprise then that architecture and technology of the Hotel Adler pay tribute to the surrounding natural environment: The heating is geothermal energy whilst electricity is from renewable sources. Remarkably, the outdoor whirlpool is filled with water only when it is really needed. “We thought hard about whether we even needed this outdoor pool for a very long time. So we waited until we were able to find a sustainable solution. For many guests, I am sure that the sight of an empty pool is a bit surprising. But it can be filled in just 15 minutes and, most importantly, it is energy efficient.

We are proud to be one of the few hotels in the region to have received Austrian Ecolabel certification,” explains the young hotelier. The ten rooms and eleven suites were renovated using sustainable materials and a keen sense of balance. The floors are made of ash, the furniture from elm. The walls are plastered with lime and the ceilings with clay. Window niches in the rooms have been transformed into cosy sofa lounges, whilst the suites feature surprising skylight solutions, green velvet, and elegant bathrooms. “We tried to keep the rooms as simple as possible. In doing so, we aspired to achieve timeless elegance,” says Simon. “While interior design and architecture are important, ultimately they only represent the hotel’s hardware. For any hotel to truly become a holiday home, several things are required, not least of which is a positive vibe that permeates the whole building.” This starts with Sandra’s mother, Hermi. “She’s the friendly face of the hotel. For guests who have been coming to us for decades, she acts as a friend, a psychologist, and even a surrogate mother or godmother. Our guests are like family. When they leave, they often get an ‘assignment’ from mom to check in with her briefly when they get home.”

On the lookout for the perfect cup

Times have also changed in the upper Bregenzerwald region. Today’s (not-yet-regular) guest is more spontaneous, more withdrawn, and yet still wants to feel at home. About a half a year ago, the Adler Hotel introduced a new offer for self catering: A new building was constructed about a hundred metres away towards the village centre. It is here that Sandra Muxel and Simon Leiter now offer 15 self-contained holiday apartments. Designed by the renowned Bregenzerwald master builder Johannes Kaufmann, it was constructed by the Zimmerei Kaufmann carpentry and other local craftsmen. A café was also established on the ground floor, in the same place where there used to be a local village café. “The apartment building with a café just sort of fell into our laps. The old house was in need of renovation. The owner had it demolished and built a new apartment building. We quickly agreed that we wanted to take over the operation of the building. This was a stroke of luck for us, because it’s not possible for us to expand our main building. So we were seeking a different solution,” smiles Sandra. Sandra hopes that the new café will become a local favourite. She already has the cups for the café in the cupboard. “You can’t imagine how many coffee cups I’ve gone through in the past year to find the right ones. Wherever I went, I was always on the lookout for the perfect cup.”

Villa Maund: A hunting lodge for special occasions

From May to October, the Muxel family also rent out the Villa Maund, a historically protected hunting lodge situated above the temporary summer settlement Hopfreben, as an event location. This historically protected villa, which the British banker Sir John Oakley Maund used for his hunting parties at the end of the 19th century, now serves as a venue for weddings, company celebrations, birthdays or workshops of all kinds.

Author: Carina Jielg
Travel Magazine Issue: Winter 2022-23