Das Kranzbach, Bavaria
A stylish spa retreat nestled in the German Alps
Pity poor Lady Mary Portman. The beautiful, young English aristocrat was a talented violinist – studying in Leipzig in the early 20th century – and friends with the most prominent German musicians and artists of the day. In 1913, after visiting the picturesque Kranzbach Meadow in the Elmau Valley, she bought the land and set about building a stunning home in this idyllic Alpine setting.
But history had other ideas. Just as “The English Castle” (as it became known to the locals) was nearing completion, WW1 broke out and Lady Portman was forced to return to Britain, never to see her beloved creation again. But she left a legacy – the only English country house in Germany, Das Kranzbach.
Mary may struggle to recognise her would-be dream home 100 years later. After stints as an artists’ retreat, a movie set, athletes’ dormitory and a convalescent home, Das Kranzbach is now one of Germany’s premier spa break locations.
The original house still stands and was recently refurbished by another stylish Brit, Ilsa Crawford, of Studio Ilsa fame. The place has a fun, retro art deco feel, with sleek chairs and oversized lamps in gaudy colours. You can sup tea in the afternoon or something stronger in the evening in front of roaring log fires, perched on huge, colourful chaise longes or sofas or play chess and backgammon in the games room.
It’s lively and bustling during our stay, particularly in the evenings and feels like an imagining – barring the odd anachronistic iPhone – of how Das Kranzbach may have been in the roaring 20s, had Lady Portman had a chance to entertain the great and the good there as planned.
Next to the historic house now lies a large spa and hotel complex constructed in modern wood and glass but blending into the natural, mountainous surrounding effortlessly. The building houses numerous steam rooms, saunas, in and outdoor swimming pools, hot tubs, treatment rooms, sports facilities (more of which later) and an exceptional restaurant – the buffet breakfast was a particular highlight where we sampled everything from healthy drinks from the bespoke juice bar to hearty German sausage and cheeses, all while watching the brilliant morning sunshine rise over the mountains.
Video: Ihr Winter-Urlaub im Hotel Das Kranzbach in Bayern
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