It turns out beauty is a 360-degree endeavour – who knew? Well, Susanne Kaufmann did
Standing on my balcony, I have a 180-degree view of the misty Alpine landscape. Directly in front of me is a swathe of farmland being picked over lovingly by a single man – it turns out that he’s spent the last few months growing the components of almost everything I will eat during my stay. Organically, no less. Hotel Post Bezau (now with ‘by Susanne Kaufmann’ added to its moniker), parked on the far western edge of Austria in the Bregenzerwald region, has been in the Kaufmann family for two centuries – but it is under the methodical eye of natural beauty maven Susanne that it has undergone its biggest transformation into a sustainable heaven. The food is but the tip of the iceberg.
Kaufmann set out to create her natural beauty line 15 years ago, simply to satisfy the needs of her own in-house spa but her well-heeled guests quickly clocked its high-potency ingredients and soon the range had fans all over the world. But in Kaufmann’s approach to beauty the skin is just one element. Encompassing nutrition, movement, sleep and happiness, a stay at Hotel Post is designed to send you home not only physically rebalanced but educated – remodelled from the inside-out. “If our posture is bad, our lungs aren’t working fully and can’t possibly service the epidermis properly,” Stephanie Rist, the hotel’s general manager tells me in our skin analaysis.
As such a personal trainer will identify any wonky, out-of-order parts of your body and prescribe corrective exercises to take home with you. As will Sicco – Cher’s former physio whom she’d fly around the world with her when she was on tour – if you’re lucky enough to catch him, crack your hips into shape and iron out your spine with his frying-pan-sized hands. Qi Gong classes in the morning will re-align your chi (even if they are entirely in German) and forge positive brain space for the day ahead – not least with thanks to the panoramic views of the mountains from the gleaming yoga studio. A face yoga class will teach you an eternally memorable set of expressions to pull when driving to work/watching TV/brushing your teeth that will ensure the strength of the scaffolding of your face for years to come.
There are skin treatments galore – though the experts will tailor a programme for you. I opt for the holistic beauty retreat, hoping it includes wine (at dinner, it can). Detox facials, body scrubs, facial massage and fascia body massage – where the therapist targets the tangle of connective tissue that attaches and stabilises your muscles; it’s both agony and ecstasy – leaving me as shiny as a new penny.
For sleep, many rooms are kitted out with the Samina Sleep System – a mattress with a three-inch incline at the head designed to better let your spine unfurl as you sleep. In your room you’ll find an enamel basin and jug encouraging guests to enjoy a nighttime footbath in alkalinising salts that will lead you into shutdown mode (and no doubt preserve the crispness of your sheets). The wi-fi turns off around 9pm. There’s pillow spray and a silk eye mask filled with lavender – the combination of which is so inviting it’s impossible not to fast-forward your bedtime by about 2 hours – especially with the cool mountain air whistling through your window at night.
The approach to food is also very well rounded. While there’s an excellent detox menu that will leave you magically well fed, brimming with enormous breakfasts, gallons of specially concocted herbal teas (guests carry their flasks with them dutifully wherever they go) and virulently coloured broth, beautifully cooked vegetables and chef Jan’s homemade detox bread, there’s also a more traditional Austrian menu and an excellent wine menu, once the size of a novella but now trimmed back to ten or so natural wines. (Susanne is a wine expert as well as an expert drinker – ahead of a decadent dinner party planned for that evening, I see her flying up a hill on her mountain bike, later she’s quaffing an excellent Gesellmann with the rest of us. Beauty, it seems, lies in the balance.) There’s no banana or pineapple on this menu since produce is sourced within a maximum of 500 kilometres from the hotel – however the blueberries are so organic that mine came complete with a yellow ladybird.
Besides the yes, very important physical, logistical, even mechanical means of wellbeing, there’s the peace of this place. The fresh air. The sparkling iciness of the glacial streams. The hotel’s stark Modernist architecture as designed by Susanne’s brother Leopold. Then there’s the piece of mind provided by the hotel’s evident dedication to sustainability. The local spring water is bottled on site and travels zero miles to feed the masses; the beauty products come in recycled plastic and glass containers; food is pesticide-free with minimised travel; meat is grass-fed and local; vegetables are farmed on-site and preserved so as to feed guests come winter.
The compliments I received about my skin when I returned were divine; but it felt like it had gone deeper than that somehow. Something in that glacial water maybe...