Stephanie Cavagnaro heads to the foothills of the Bavarian alps to experience Japanese bathing culture
Set salubriously around a rushing river are a series of squat buildings with gabled roofs and wooden balconies spilling with geraniums. It’s a quaint hotel that fits right into its surroundings in the foothills of the Bavarian alps — ripe for exploring by foot, bike or winged contraption — and a short cycle ride (the hotel has a cache for guests) to the sparkling shores of Lake Tegernsee. In fact, it’s a wonder this pile of pastoral luxury is only an hour’s drive from Munich. Dating back to 1862, much of the property’s original style abounds — thanks to a 2010 revamp by owner Korbinian Kohler — including pine ceilings and tables constructed from tree trunks. And throughout are elaborate chandeliers, pops of colour from fresh flowers and smiley staff at your beck and call.
Tucked away at the centre of the hotel is the Mizu Onsen-Spa — an impressive new pamper pad that opened in July. Lounge chairs slump around a 32C outdoor pool and over the Weissach River, which feeds into a nippy nature pool. Inside, though, is the real draw — steam rooms, saunas, onsen baths and ice water basins are peppered around a relaxation area blinged out with gold fittings, orange pillows and large glass lanterns. I grab a fizzy water on tap and head toward the steam room to find a therapist waiting at its entrance with salt scrub, which she instructs me to rub on my skin and leave for seven minutes. When I emerge slightly smoother, she’s waiting with a herbal Kusmi tea — a thoughtful touch. And for those with tots, there’s also a family spa with two pools (one exclusively for kids, of course) and an outdoor 36C whirlpool, which has views of the jagged Wallberg peak.
Having spent the past month contorting my body into strange shapes at aerial hoop classes, I desperately need full body care. The 80-minute Sensai Silky treatment seems the perfect antidote. My friendly therapist, Veronika, begins with a fragrant scrub, which is removed with warm compresses. She then slathers a nourishing Sensai massage oil on my back to begin the full body massage — a combination of deep tissue manipulation with shiatsu technique, which involves twisting my arms in positions behind my back to better reach tense muscles around my shoulder blades. The treatment concludes with a firming emulsion, which leaves my skin hydrated and smooth.
My sprawling 60sq metre Classic Suite — there are 146 rooms and suites in total — feels like private Bavarian living quarters. It’s replete with exposed wooden beams, locally produced furniture and framed images of worn lederhosen. The lounge area has a comfy couch and a wooden chest with a TV, safe and minibar stocked with free drinks, including the lovely local brew Tegernsee Hell. It leads out onto a balcony flanked with flowers and bursting with views of the soaring mountains beyond. Samsung SuitePads are a nice addition, which allow me to check activities for the day (there’s everything from yoga to jogging) and order meals. My white-tiled bathroom is modern and roomy with a walk-in shower and my separate room, meanwhile, is a minimalist dream, with a pillowy bed — ideal sans-distraction to drift off to the sound of the stream.
Eat & drink
The combination of modern Japan and traditional Bavaria extends to the hotel’s culinary table with its two restaurants. On my first evening, I eat at Gasthof zur Weissach, which is made up of several rooms hung with old paintings and dotted with handmade oak furniture. But tonight the weather is pleasant so I sit outside and tuck into a summer salad packed with crunchy lettuce, sweet mango, sprouts, organic feta and roasted pumpkin kernels. For my main course, I opt for a dish from their vegetarian section — a lovely surprise in Germany — called the Fegola Sara, which is a moreish pile of Sardinian pasta with young summer veg and chanterelles. The following night, I check out Mizu Sushi Bar, a stylish space with accents of white, red and charcoal. Paired with a signature Highball (lime, sake and ginger), I’m served a series of small dishes like beef tartar with truffle and quail egg; rolls stuffed with tempura asparagus, fig and avocado; and an addictive sesame-miso glazed aubergine.
With healthy food options, crisp alpine surroundings and a top-notch spa, this is the ideal setting for a luxurious wellness break.
A double room at Bachmair Weissah from €358 (£317). The 80-minute Sensai Silky costs €148 (£131).
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