The art gallery in the mountains
In the depths of Austria, where every view is like that of a postcard, you will find the Hotel 12 Bodensdorf – a new alpinechic hotel where the owner, Walter Junger, insists on making every guest feel like a close friend. So much so that you will receive special, Austrian-themed homemade cookies on departure as a token to remember them by and if you don’t get a hug, too, the staff will feel as if they have done something wrong.
Walter is indeed a man who knows a thing or two about running a hotel. He worked in the hotel industry for 30 years prior to opening the Hotel 12 Bodensdorf, in a career that took him across 12 countries and four continents from France to Bermuda, the USA and Asia, working for companies such as the Shangri-La and the Ritz Carlton, specialising later in unique design and lifestyle hotels. The H12 came about because he said:
“it was time to develop my own brand of hotel and own concept. I decided to search for the most beautiful place in Austria and I found it.”
That he did. The Hotel 12 Bodensdorf occupies a beautiful position nearly 2000 metres high in the Alps with incredible scenery. Walter believes that the scenery is one of the features that makes the hotel so special.
“From a scenic point of view, it’s absolutely stunning. You are atop the mountains, looking over three absolutely beautiful lakes below. On the ski run you’re looking into Italy and Slovenia via the Alps and you can also see the Milky Way – an amazing weather phenomenon.”
While finding the ideal location was high on the agenda, there are many other parts of the hotel’s origins story that are just as special.
“The story is quite unique,” explains Walter. “Out of this little mountain jewel we created an international hotel brand and company. We want to create a niche product, unique place in the world, an art and lifestyle hotel with warm heartfelt service and stimulating artwork.”
Indeed, art played a significant role in the conception of Hotel 12 Bodensdorf. With Walter the owner of two art galleries, in Berlin and Shanghai, this comes as no surprise and his innovative, passionate vision has helped to make every aspect of the Hotel 12 Bodensdorf extremely special. “The idea was to create a type of art space, an art gallery. When we bought the property, it was an old mountain chalet but it was very rundown; totally raw conditions. So we got a bottle of wine and a cigar, we got the designers in and we sat down with them. That was the design process.”
He also enlisted the help of a number of artists to create unique pieces for the hotel. He tells me the brilliant story behind the H12’s “centrepiece” – a canvas that hangs in the restaurant. “We invited 12 Olympic skiing champions to my restaurant in Berlin and asked them to pose nude but in a tasteful way. We then put these 12 photos on a 12-metre canvas.” Sasha Kramer, a famous German photographer, created the eye-catching piece, and its story reflects the attention to detail that has been invested into every aspect of the Hotel 12 Bodensdorf.
The focus on art doesn’t finish there, as Walter has stayed true to his desire to create a hotel as an art gallery. “It’s art first,” he explains, “and then we designed the interior, with fireplaces, leather couches and cement floors with sheepskin rugs. It’s designed in a loft style.” He worked with 12 different artists from Beijing to New York to create unique art pieces in each of the 12 guest rooms and more than 130 art pieces throughout the hotel’s spaces. Walter smiles as he describes it. “It’s like an art gallery and hotel atop a mountain with some beds in it.”
Mushrooms and meditation
Indeed, the art is not even confined to the interiors, as “the path of the philosophers” is one of the most unique ways to enjoy the Hotel 12 Bodensdorf. This mountain path that runs around the hotel offers a type of meditation route illustrated by artworks. Encompassing an Asian lake garden and Tibetan stone garden, different artists have created pieces for various meditation points around the hotel.
There are more signature experiences to be enjoyed, with regular, special dinners held in the hotel — any excuse for a bit of socialising —and guided mountain tours. The staff and guests also play regular games of pétanque and golf on the mountainside. The Hotel 12 Bodensdorf also has their own cigar roller, and they make their own wines, too.
As an extremely intimate art and lifestyle hotel, the Hotel 12 Bodensdorf is by no means a traditional Alpine hotel; as Walter explains, “it is not the typical Baroque, Austrian-style of hotel.” There is a focus on “simple things like in the old days,” such as the opportunity to go mushroom picking with the staff and then cook your stash with the chefs in the kitchen. On Friday nights, the fishermen make their catch in the lakes below the hotel, and the fresh fish is then served in the hotel restaurant. The Hotel 12 Bodensdorf also has its own organically grown vegetable and herb gardens, “every leaf of mint you get in your cocktail comes from here.”
It’s these lovely personal touches that make the hotel such a great place to stay and the “young, enthusiastic” staff has been carefully chosen to enhance this experience at every point. To this end, the Hotel 12 Bodensdorf, or H12, does not even have a reception desk. The staff comes outside to welcome you, “so that you are not on top of a mountain on your own,” and then invite you to sit in the restaurant with a coffee or glass of champagne while they attend to the admin. “It’s very relaxed, casual service that is warm and heartfelt but still very efficient.”
Walter is proud to explain that the H12 is firmly placed in the top 10 in Austria on TripAdvisor and the H12 success story just looks set to continue. As a joint venture with the second largest hotel brand in China, the next H12 is currently being conceptualised in Shanghai. Set over 73 hectares of farmland with military bunkers, it looks like the brand is soon going to have another great story to tell.
There’s just one final question I have for Walter. What does the “H” in H12 stand for? “It stands for hospitality, heart, hot, exciting experiences!”
And the “12” is named for the 12 Chinese astrological signs that the guest rooms are named after and the 12 artists whose work illustrates the rooms. It even gives a nod to the 12 hairpin bends on the road that lead up to the hotel.
It’s clear that the passion behind the Hotel 12 Bodensdorf knows no ends. And that sounds good to us.