It’s my first trip after the corona lock down and the ride feels so light and carefree. Our road trip with the new Mercedes GLA 250 4matic starts in Munich.
Our road trip with the new Mercedes GLA 250 4matic starts in Munich. Our destination is the Romantik Hotel Turm in the South Tyrolean Völs am Schlern. We deliberately avoid the motorway. The longing for fresh mountain air and boundless nature is too great. We drive via Mittenwald towards Innsbruck and from there on to Meran. The sun is shining. We keep our windows wide open and soak up the scent of the flower meadows and forests.
A road trip like this is wonderful. Wherever and whenever we like it – we pull over and gaze into the endless horizon. There are no sounds to be heard except the mooing of the cows and the buzzing of the insects. We realize – none of this is self-evident and we are grateful for this journey. Many surprises and experiences – romantic, but also mystical and adventurous – lie ahead of us.
We need longer and deliberately allow ourselves to take our time, because the view points are too beautiful to ignore. Besides, it is more fun to drive the car over a longer distance. There is plenty going on on the motorway. It seems the world is slowly waking up from its Corona sleep. Crossing the borders is easy and there are no controls. Italian policemen are patrolling their crossings, but they only got a charming smile ready and waiting for us – whether it is meant for us or the fancy SUV in which we two blondes are sitting – or both – we will probably never know.
The Romantik Hotel Turm is located right next to the local church on top of a hill. The listed tower from the 13th century radiates a mystical aura. We enter the elevator from the garage and in front of it hangs a large photograph of an eagle owl with sunglasses.
Is this the bird we’re talking about? Then there’ s a big red flag that has a black raven as its emblem on the terrace. It’s like you accidentally ended up on the set of Game of Thrones or The Witcher.
On the way to the reception we pass the modern lounge inside the old building. In addition to a small library and a grand piano, the guests can admire several pieces of art on the walls, as well as sculptures. I am standing in front of a lithography. Could it really be …!?! “Yes, it’s an original Picasso.”
The owner Stephan Pramstrahler is spirited, quick-witted and a visionary! Birds, art, old medieval castle, culinary delights and wine – everything combined so well that it all comes together in harmony! Stephan, passionate chef, who has made numerous appearances in the media with international chefs, has immortalised his own style, which makes people curious about him. He inherited his love of art from his father, who began the valuable private collection. We admire Kokoschka, Klimt, Dali and sculptures by Riemenschneider in the stairway to our suites. Then there is also a small painted picture of a child, which clearly stands out for its ‘distinctive style’: “This is made by my daughter. She said she is also a great artist herself. So we put it up here with the other paintings.” His wife Kati studied mathematics and they have five children together. She works in the hotel as well.
A fascinating South Tyrolean power couple, as we will see later. My suite is gigantic and, as expected, a combination of traditional and modern. I love the blue and purple lit rain shower, which is laid out like a stone cave, along with the bed overlooking the mountains and the small chapel of St. Peter am Bühl on the hill opposite. Getting up is fun: “I sat down on a chair in every room to find the perfect position for the bed. And each room should have a reference to South Tyrol. In yours it is the historical fireplace,” explains Stephan. Across from my front door hangs a painting of two ducks in the water. Somewhat untypical for the overall collection. Stephan laughs. “This is a gift from an Afghan prince. He usually created pornographic art. My father explained to him that he couldn’t hang his works and asked him to paint two ducks so that he could remember the beautiful women in his paintings. And now they’re hanging there.” It’s these anecdotes and stories that are hidden in every nook and cranny.
I can’t stand it any longer! I want to hear the story about the birds! Stephan is getting nostalgic. “The raven is the patron saint of our vineyard. When I was a child, we spent our spare time in nature. We were a clique of several rascals. Once one of them told me that ravens could be trained if you took them out of their nests.
So our trial of courage was to find some in the forest. We had a total of five ravens that we trained. Mine was named Rocky. They were free and spent the night outside. But when we called them, they would come flying on our shoulders. And so we strutted around the village carrying our ravens. They stay until puberty and then they fly off. Mine stayed the longest.” Unfortunately, his life came to an abrupt end when he picked the vegetables from the neighbor’s garden. He was beaten with a stick so hard that he died of his injuries. When Stephan celebrated his 50th birthday, his wife Kati gave him a German-bred raven. It is the largest and most intelligent of its kind. They are also the only ones that can fly upside-down. “He was totally focused on me. Unfortunately he did not like my children and pecked at them. I saw no other choice but to give him less to eat and so he flew away forever.”
There was another flying companion that continues to inspire him to this day. “When I was a bachelor, my nieces brought me a little eagle owl into the kitchen. It was fascinating to spend time with him. Ravens live by intelligence, eagle owls by their senses. They also possess several that have been lost to us humans. When he grew up, he had a wingspan of 2.60 meters! He lived with me in the living room and I only let him out at night. During the day he probably would not have survived. His name was Olga, even though he was a male. Eventually, he flew away and left me. It was time to say goodbye.
The trick is to let the thing you love go. The foresters told me that he was seen again and again. He wasn’t shy after all. Barely two months later, my head waiter called me and claimed he heard Olga outside. He had a special shout just for me. I couldn’t believe it. But I wanted to make sure. Olga was sitting on the cross of the spire waiting for me. I called him to me. I will never forget the sight as he spread his wings and flew down to me and leaned his head against my cheek. That was the last time I saw him.” I have teary eyes. Granted, I want a raven or an owl now. Completely unfeasible. I am grateful that Stephan shared his story with us.
It’s time to relax. A wine bath is the order of the day. Which makes sense – we are in one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. Romantik Hotel Turm is one of the 29 Vinum Hotels in South Tyrol, domiciles with mostly historical wine culture. Not to be expected otherwise – the wellness area also tells exciting personal stories. I am taken into an extraordinarily tiled grotto with candlelight, in which a beautiful nostalgic bathtub and a lounger made of solid stone await me. I lie down on the warm stone and am rubbed with a homemade paste of healing earth, chalk and grape seed oil before being wrapped in foil and blankets.
“When I was little and bathed in water, my lips turned blue. My grandmother told me to sit on a stone warmed by sunlight. That always felt so good! In a hammam you warm yourself lying on a stone. Hence this nature couch. So why a wine treatment for the skin? In the Middle Ages women liked to massage wine onto their faces to make them shiny. Our combination of naturally occurring ingredients makes it shiny and soft”, explains Stephan.For me, it’s off to the warm tub. While the skin is freeing itself from the pleasant paste in the bath, I drink apple juice. Wine is the other alternative. The warm stone is already waiting for me. A half-hour massage makes my tired muscles beneath my silky soft skin loose and invigorating. After the treatment I am asked to relax in the salt cave. I walk over tread stones in the water. Candles are stuck in salt mounds and cast blazing shadows on the rocks. Yes, it is magical! Afterwards I go for a sauna in the spruce sauna. Barefoot I walk over fresh spruce brushwood and fine drizzle rolls off on my skin. It smells intensively of the tree. “I got the idea for this sauna from a childhood experience. I spent a lot of time in the forest as a boy. This smell of spruce and earth after a rain shower has burned itself into my memory. I wanted to bring it back to my present.” Experiment succeeded!
We’re hungry. It’s June 21st. We dine under a starry sky, snuggled up in warm blankets and admire the St. John’s fires blazing on the surrounding mountains. Welcome summer! The culinary combination of our courses is, like the knight of the castle, avant-garde.
The wine bottles are also excellent. Each type of wine is dedicated to a species of bird and bears its Latin name. Of course, a raven and an eagle owl are also part of the menu. Tomorrow the great maestro will cook for us personally and tell more stories about his youth, wine and old places. There is still so much to discover. We are curious and could listen to him 1001 day and night …