Kirchberg am Wechsel is a small town in Lower Austria, about 100 km south of Vienna, with about 2.5 thousand inhabitants. Only a few people would probably expect to find a 4-star hotel here – a hotel with the services and the kitchen comparable to those of renowned hotels in large cities, from which, however, it differs significantly in the fact that its owners rely mainly on nature and its power, which materializes here in the wood (Holz in German). That is why the newly built hotel is called Holzbach.
We arrived here at the beginning of March, nature was just waking up from its winter sleep. Holzbach is actually an extension of the original Hotel Molzbachhof with 13 rooms, which was opened in 1969 by the couple Anton and Edith Pichler. The hotel was gradually expanded, additional rooms with new equipment and wellness were added and the kitchen was also enlarged. In 2016, the management passed into the hands of Peter Pichler Jr., who thus represents the third generation of the family business. A year later, the extension was opened – the unique natural and modern hotel Holzbach.
Only a few hotels can boast of such a spacious and bright lobby. I was also interested in the lamps made for the hotel by local craftsman Hermann Mitter. At first glance, simple armchairs, a fireplace and prepared board games evoked a family atmosphere.
The walls of the corridors spoke to us with positive quotes and messages, for example: Lache jeden Tag, liebe unendlich, lebe den Augenblick – Laugh every day, Love infinitely and Live every moment!
Every detail in the hotel was perfectly thought through. In the corners of the corridors there were not only vases and different vessels with flowers (a ceramic teapot), but also a painted wooden cupboard, pieces of wood and cut tree trunks, as well as a barrel and other parts of old village working machines. On the wall at the entrance to the restaurant, there was a branched tree trunk with hung small pots and spoons.
Our room was gorgeous. Large, with a balcony, but also with a day bed in a niche with a large window, where I immediately moved in with my papers and tablet. Most importantly, there was a lot of wood. Not only the furniture was made out of wood, but also such little things like a shoehorn or a badge with the room number on the bathrobe. Instead of a bedside table, there was a horizontal piece of a stump and a similar board, in which a sink was inserted, was also in the bathroom.
The walls were lined with solid wood as well. It is Thoma Holz100, Austria’s unique and patented system of ecological buildings made out of solid moon wood without the use of adhesives, glues and other harmful fasteners. Thanks to this special room equipment, Holzbach is more than just an ecological extension of the original hotel. It is a philosophy that consists in recognizing the power of nature and its conscious use. Each room becomes an energy center. Our room, too, seemed to be breathing of the forest! The hotel’s brochures promote healthy sleep in the rooms. In general, I have no problems with sleeping, I sleep for an average of five hours. Here, however, I slept exceptionally well and for seven hours without waking up! That hadn’t happened to me for a long time. I am convinced that it was caused by the calming atmosphere of that wooden space. And those who would still have some problems with falling asleep can even choose from a menu of seven special pillows with different natural fillings.
The room was overlooking the hotel’s paradise garden. What a pity that it was still early spring because this garden is also a special place. There are herbs planted that are used in the hotel kitchen, a natural pond to freshen up on hot summer days and a cave with a waterfall. The heart of the garden is a small energy island, perhaps that is why there is a large wire heart close to it, on which couples hang the padlocks of their love.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the herbs from the hotel garden in a different way – in the wellness area. First, the massage therapist spread a mixture of healing mud, crystalline salt and various fragrant herbs on my body, then placed me in a bath on a mattress with warm water at 38.3 ° C, covered me completely, dimmed the light and turned on some relaxing music. So I lay there wrapped up like a mummy trying to think about work, what I still had to do or to arrange. I swear it wasn’t possible at all! That delightful feeling of relaxation itself brought to me pleasant thoughts which usually take me back to my childhood. Suddenly, I felt as if I was sweating under the duvet like when I was a child, always wanting to stick out at least one toe. At that moment, I found a hot tear running down my temple until it found a salt crystal that had not yet dissolved on my neck… I truly enjoyed the garden bath (Gart‘l Bad)!
In the wellness area of the hotel, there were other pleasant resting areas, different baths (including a hay bath) and saunas – from the Finnish sauna, you looked straight at the field with trees, at the beginning of March the field was still gray, but you could run outside and breathe the refreshing spring air.
The hotel had an outdoor swimming pool as well, which offers heated water and a view of the town with the late Gothic Church of St. Wolfgang all year round.
The hotel’s cuisine was also exceptional. The room where breakfast was served, as well as the composition of the breakfast buffet, resembled the grandmother’s kitchen. Vegetables and herbs were from the hotel’s garden, other fresh products from local farmers. Even here, I found wood in the form of the stands for boiled eggs!
The restaurant is open also to the public, hotel guests eat in a separate, very pleasant, bright and quiet room overlooking the small lake at the entrance to the hotel. The evening menu was excellent – beetroot soup with horseradish foam, veal steak with vegetables and green puree (I learned that they make a paste from wild garlic, which is mixed into mashed potatoes to add the taste and color) and a curd cheese dessert with blueberries and vanilla mousse. In addition to being very tasty, the food was also beautifully served. We could see that culinary art is a real passion of Petr Pichler Jr. No wonder that the most important Austrian gastronomic magazine, Á la Carte Magazine, nominated him the discovery of the year in 2019.
However, that’s not all. The prestigious gourmet Baedeker Gault Millau awarded Peter Pichler Jr. and his team with two Chef Hats for their exceptional creations this year. We were able to admire (but also taste 🙂 his imaginative creations during the second evening in the special restaurant Gaumenkitzel (we can freely translate it as a place to tickle gourmet tongues) for a maximum of 14 guests. The menu consisted of seven courses. I must admit that each time I was looking forward to not only the food itself but also its styling. Indeed, there was always something to admire – pieces of wood, various wooden plates, a piece of a hollow bone, a ceramic cup resembling a broken ostrich egg, a dessert placed on coffee beans or chips hung on twigs landed on our table. You could see the imagination of the kitchen team in the following photo collage:
Every morning we also had breakfast mail on the table – an information leaflet with weather reports, the horoscope and offers for leisure activities. Here are some tips:
*** the old mill – from Easter to November, bread is baked here once a week
*** hikes and walks in the alpine meadows and forests in the vicinity or trips on e-bikes, which can be rented at the hotel
*** we also took a trip to the nearby winter resort Steyersberger Schwaig (1371 m above sea level). Even at the beginning of March, there was still a lot of snow. Especially cross-country skiers will enjoy the surroundings of Kirchberg, there is 80 km of cross-country skiing trails for both beginners and advanced skiers. Hotel guests can borrow the necessary equipment free of charge.
*** trip to the Kirchberg monastery. In the pre-Easter and pre-Christmas period, the largest fasting canvas in the world is exhibited here. 40 biblical scenes on a 100-meter-long canvas were created by artists Sepp Jahn and Edith Hirsch. The work is called “Memory of the Forgotten”, it interweaves historical and modern figures and its main message is: Never again war! It was truly impressive and in addition, small objects which we often lose or throw away have been incorporated into the paintings – buttons, office clips, fabric rests, pop tabs of cans, empty tealights, glass fragments from beer bottles collected somewhere on the seashore… Opening hours need to be verified by telephone: 0043 2641 62 75 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
*** I also recommend a visit to the shop in the hotel lobby, where you will find various homemade jams, schnapps, herbal oils and salts. In fact, I can say that the herbal oil was one of the best I’ve ever had in my kitchen. In the shop, we also met Hermann Mitter, who is the author of the lamps in the lobby and also offers his products in the shop – made of limbo and olive wood, copper and brass. You can also visit his studio, more information at m-art-handwerkskunst
As I mentioned, we had visited Molzbachhof at the beginning of March this year, at the time when the words virus and corona were slowly beginning to be used in the world. We had no idea yet what the coming weeks and months would bring us, we were even entertained when we discovered a nearby village called Corona.
I do not know how the inhabitants of this place are coping today with the fact that the same word as the name of their village has become an attribute to the pandemic that has changed the lives of all of us. However, I am glad that the situation is slowly stabilizing. The hotel will reopen for guests on 29 May. I am sure that during this period when we also reconsider our relationship with nature, it is an excellent place to find inner peace again during these difficult times. The location of the Hotel Holzbach has its charm in every season and offers plenty of opportunities for an active holiday both in summer and winter or at least during an extended weekend.
2880 Kirchberg am Wechsel
I would like to thank the Pichler family for the invitation and the opportunity to spend a beautiful weekend at their Hotel Holzbach.
Note: all opinions expressed in this article are my own.
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri