A serenade for the Terminator
By JAKOB STROBEL Y SERRA
Photo: Picture Alliance
February 8, 2024 · The beautiful and the rich, the chic and the jet set, the wannabes and the adabeis: They all naturally claim Kitzbühel as their legitimate home. But fortunately that is only half the truth.
Rosi is tireless, insatiable, indispensable, even though she is already in her early eighties and has been up here in her “Sonnbergstuben” for fifty years. Morning after morning she puts on a dirndl and drives up to the Bichlalm. In summer and winter she treats her guests to Tyrolean Gröstl, Wiener Schnitzel and Kaiserschmarrn at low prices. Day in and day out she sings and yodels for her customers, jokes and laughs with the lucky ones , comforts and encourages the unfortunate, a hostess with body and soul and heart and blood. Rosi hates rest days, despises short vacations, would prefer to be up here until Judgment Day and would be a completely normal Tyrolean landlady if the “Sonnbergstuben” wasn’t located on the sunniest alpine pasture in Kitzbühel. But as it is, Rosi is an institution, a celebrity, a bosom friend of multi-billionaires and Hollywood superstars, the mother of courage to all Adabeis and GerneGroß, as well as the ruler of one of the most impressive wine cellars in Austria and, for good reason, honored with her own place in her hometown during her lifetime .
Whole walls full of souvenir photos in the rustic pine wood hut bear witness to Rosi's fame: Rosi with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rosi with Udo Jürgens, Rosi with Prince Albert of Monaco, always in a dirndl, always with a radiant laugh. In addition, letters and certificates testify to Rosi's immortality, which has long since begun, the Medal of Merit from the State of Tyrol, honorary membership in the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the signed letter of thanks from the legendary chef Eckart Witzigmann, and then again photos upon photos of Rosi surrounded by Boris Becker, Mario Adorf, Roberto Blanco, Roman Polanski, the Klitschko brothers, all in the best champagne mood, because in the “Sonnbergstuben” it flows more lavishly than milk and honey in the Promised Land.
Landlady Rosi Schipflinger 2022 at the Sonnbergstuben Photo: Picture Alliance
Living room of the beautiful, rich and famous: Arnold Schwarzenegger is a regular guest in Kitzbühel, Boris Becker goes in and out of Rosi's “Sonnbergstuben”.
Rosi's son Fridel comes shuffling out of the kitchen in a chef's jacket, still a little rumpled from the Hahnenkamm race weekend, there's always hell going on in the room, and gives us a Kaiserschmarrn that we didn't order but have to try because it has Fridel on it exists, and then opens up the labyrinth of the wine cellar for us, in which an incredible 45,000 bottles rest. No restaurant in Austria makes more wine sales than Rosi's Stuben, says Fridel, nonchalantly pulling one crown jewel after another from the shelves as if they were everyday Veltliner from the Wachau: here a special edition from Brad Pitt's Provençal winery Miraval for them Rosi, there a Masseto Toscana IGT for 14,900 euros, then a Romanée-Conti vintage 2017, which is available for 45,000 euros; and here the Dom Pérignon created especially for Lady Gaga in the Salmanazar bottle, nine liters of sparkling wine for 70,000 euros, of which there are only three left in the world, says Fridel and doesn't really seem to find anything in it.
Photo: babiradpicture - abp
Rosi and Fridel also have bottles worth two thousandths of Lady Gaga in their cellar, because it is important to them that they are not just a chic hut, but that everyone feels comfortable with them and is fed for a handful of euros. So on the hard wooden benches, the petty bourgeois sit harmoniously next to the big industrialist and the baron sits happily next to the mountain farmer, and the problem, says Fridel, is not the really rich and famous anyway, but the “half-timers”, the nouveau riche and would-be famous but Rosi still sings the song “Kitzbühel, mein Augenstern”, which the music producer and regular guest Jack White wrote especially for her. She doesn't know anything about it, because for her all people are equal when it comes to the joy of life, and that's why she regularly has "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" played, the wonderful final chorus of the Crucified at Golgotha from Monty Python's "The Life of Brian.”
We learn that human equality has its limits on the Bichlalm, which is not only dotted with barns, stables and estates, but also with the villas of folk music stars, captains of industry and trash TV stars. Almost without exception, they are prime examples of discreet ostentation, because they all adhere to the aesthetic dictates of the Tyrolean Baroque. Sprawling balconies, excessive wood carvings, neat stacks of firewood and decorative deer antlers make the villas appear like the larger brothers of mountain farm dwellings. Hardly any of the villas even do without the bell tower, which used to ring the bell for farmers from work in the fields for lunch, which usually costs several times what a farmer earns in the course of his life.
We encounter this amazing neighborhood of high society and down-to-earthness, glitter glamor and calmness, super luxury and everyday life at every turn in Kitzbühel, the center of which is a treasure trove full of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles in bright pastel colors - preserved for centuries, protected by metre-thick city gates of churches full of frescoes and gold leaf altars, saints and martyrs, men of sorrows in chains, and women of sorrows pierced with daggers, who are, however, pretty much alone in Kitzbühel in their symbolization of earthly suffering and misery.
We walk past the Capuchin monastery from 1698 with real padres, the district office from the 13th century, the pink town hall, where pictures of the deceased are still posted today, the ancient guild houses, which can either be a tobacconist, a bookshop or a traditional costume factory Offer shelter - or Armani, Moncler and Chanel, Rolex, Louis Vuitton and a luxury fashion store where colorfully scribbled sneakers cost 495 euros and rough leather pants 1,900 euros.
At the age of 88, tailor Franz Prader still goes to work every day. Photo: Picture Alliance
There is the modest shop of the tailor Franz Prader, who at the age of 88 still goes to work every day, and right next to it is the headquarters of the Kitzbühel fashion label Frauenschuh, where a pair of ski outfits including pants, jacket and hat costs almost as much as a small car . There is the village butcher's shop with a snack bar, the elementary school in the middle of the town, the old-fashioned film theater and the "Huberbräu-Stüberl", a family business since 1911 with simple home-style food at tavern prices, where an eighth of Grüner Veltliner costs 3.20 euros. But there is also a specialist shop for Alpine kitsch with an attached wine shop that sells caviar like minced meat, the recently opened branch of the Munich star restaurant “Les Deux” and a vegetable shop that advertises its truffles in letters as tall as a man - the black one from the Périgord White ones from Alba, this year they ordered a whole kilo for 7,000 euros, says the saleswoman, and everything was gone by Christmas.
During the high holidays and the Hahnenkamm Race, Kitzbühel can claim the world's highest density of Mercedes G AMGs with 585 hp, a shame for their owners that - unlike on Munich's Maximilianstrasse - they cannot patrol the Kitzbühel pedestrian zone. It is good form that in the minibars of five-star hotels like the A-Rosa there is a Chianti Marchesi Antinori Solaia for 754 euros as a nightcap. And just as common is the real estate agent opposite St. Catherine's Church, in front of whose window we press our noses in disbelief: He has a country house villa with eight bedrooms on offer for 25 million euros, that's three million per mattress, almost a bargain all in one Place that has been notorious for years for the highest real estate prices in Austria.
To the chagrin of the owners, you cannot patrol Kitzbühel's pedestrian zone in a Mercedes G AMG with 585 hp - only carriages are allowed here. Photo: Lookphotos
The locals pass by such advertisements carelessly, preferring to pay attention to themselves. Everyone knows everyone, everyone greets everyone, there is always time for a chat and there is still enough space in between for the “operated people”, as the locals call them without any resentment, Pepi for example, our tour guide, a Kitzbühel veteran, already in his mid-seventies , who, at the end of his tour, serenades us with the horn trumpet, gives us an amulet of the Mother of God and says that neither he nor anyone else in Kitzbühel has ever bowed down to the super-rich and high nobility: “Always the same height, they are just people.”
The key to this serenity lies in the high medieval city tower, which houses the excellent Kitzbühel History Museum. For 3,000 years, we learn in a hall with Bronze Age gravestones, copper has been mined here, which made the place rich centuries before its tourist career. And the Hahnenkamm, Pepi had told us, was not the location of a famous ski race for a long time, but a mine in which there are still 20 kilometers of tunnels to this day. Kitzbühel was made a city as early as 1271, and thanks to its location on the trade route from Venice to southern Germany, it learned early on to lose its fear of foreigners. As early as 1875, the railway arrived and with it its early tourist fame. The Grand Hotel opened in 1903, the Hahnenkammbahn in 1928, and a little later the Tennerhof, where Ian Fleming was a regular guest and where, according to legend, James Bond was born - in one of the films, 007 supposedly reveals that he learned to ski in Kitzbühel.
Kitzbühel's history began long before the first lifts and has left behind treasures such as the Chapel of Grace in Mariastein. Photo: Mauritius
Now we no longer have any doubt: it must be these 753 years of city history, these foundations of perseverance and self-confidence, that make Kitzbühel resistant to all siren calls and attempts at usurpation and protect it from self-corruption, chic or not. Kitzbühel has not only become important thanks to its glamorous guests, it was already that way, everyone here tells us that, and that's why Pepi is right about its same height.
In any case, you don't do Kitzbühel justice if you only look at it through the tabloid lens. Of course there is an overdose of the uniform luxury splendor of the Tyrolean Baroque with Herrgottswinkel, Lüftl painting and larch shingle roof. But there is also the Hotel Seebichl, run by two young brothers who have transformed their parents' house into a living museum with 1,000 icons of industrial design, a motley collection full of originals that defies any stylistic doctrine. And there is the Stanglwirt, the most famous luxury hotel in the Kitzbühel cosmos, which only from a distance is a Waldorf Astoria in the Tyrolean snow and up close something completely different.
The Stanglwirt was founded in 1609 as a miners' house for miners and has been owned by the Hauser family since 1722, now in the tenth generation. The Hausers started very small with an inn and slowly expanded it into an upscale hotel after the Second World War. But it has long since become an alpine organic palace, a world of its own at the foot of the Wilder Kaiser with five outdoor swimming pools, 170 rooms and a 12,000 square meter wellness area. And it is a favorite place of the jet set, as documented by a picture gallery in the basement that is a little more discreet than at Rosi. Clarke Gable and Audrey Hepburn, Muhammad Ali and Buzz Aldrin, Hillary Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all been here, and Texas arch-villain JR Ewing even left his signed cowboy hat, now displayed in a display case like a relic, not far from the regulars' table where the locals meet three times a week to drink schnapps - to play cards, not to drink.
The famous Stanglwirt “grew around a pile of dung,” says the owner. Photo: Picture Alliance
The manager of the hotel/adventure hotel Stanglwirt in Kitzbühel Maria Magdalena Hauser Photo: Picture Alliance
“30. Weißwurstparty” at the Biohotel Stanglwirt in Going Photo: Picture Alliance
Senior boss Balthasar Hauser, as a pioneer and visionary, recognized the emerging tennis boom in the wake of Steffi Graf and Boris Becker earlier than anyone else, built eight courts and thus attracted sports celebrities, in whose wake the beautiful and the rich would come. But he always saw himself as a farmer who preached sustainability even when no one knew the word. Hauser bought the old wood from neighbors who tore down their barns and stables to line his tavern rooms. He replaced steel girders with wooden beams and cement with lime mortar in his hotel, equipped the rooms with pine because this wood has been proven to stabilize the heart rhythm, built the first biomass power plant far and wide, installed heat pumps 20 years ago and covered the roof of his spa with greenery Guests can see a meadow full of grazing sheep below them when looking at the Wilder Kaiser.
“Basically we are a farm with an integrated luxury hotel,” says Balthasar’s daughter Maria, “we grew up around a dung heap, and our cows are standing exactly where they have been for 400 years.” In the restaurant of the old inn you can actually see through glass fronts into the cowshed, in some hotel corridors there is a distinct smell of manure, and the whey from the cheese dairy is used for baths in the wellness area. The bar in the main building, where you can treat yourself to a Roederer Cristal Rosé for 1080 euros, is in the same place as the old threshing floor and is therefore architecturally modeled on it with an open beam - with the small difference that you can see through the large windows does not look at cows, but at the riding arena with the Lipizzaners from the in-house stud farm.
“Basically we are a farm with an integrated luxury hotel.”
MARIA MGDALENA HAUSER
“The celebrities don't come to us to be celebrated, but to ground themselves, because the combination of farm and luxury hotel is the best guarantee for quickly finding inner peace,” says Maria, who has a heart so big like a Tyrolean farmhouse cupboard and it's not for nothing that Goethe's famous motto is on her business card: "Whatever is supposed to have an effect on the heart must come from the heart." And then she tells the anecdote about Soraya, who wanted to eat in the restaurant, but did There was only room at the table for two workers in overalls. Do you mind if Soraya sits down with you? asked the landlady. They didn't have it, and so Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiary, Empress of Persia, mingled casually with the people.
The people of Kitzbühel may not have been particularly impressed by this because they have their own ruler, the ruler of the ski mountains: Toni Sailer, the city's most famous son, three-time gold medalist at the 1956 Olympic Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo, five-time winner of the Hahnenkamm Race, then successful singer and actor. He and all other local winter sports heroes will be honored at the valley station of the Hahnenkammbahn in a “Park of Legends” - without any nostalgia, because their empire lives on, more magnificent than ever.
The singer Hansi Hinterseer at the Hahnenkamm race after the second run of the slalom in the finish area Photo: dpa
Today it covers 270 kilometers of pistes, to the north with a view of the sharp-edged peaks of the Wilder Kaiser, which stands out like a huge stone palisade in the Tyrolean sky, to the south with a view of the Großglockner and Großvenediger, the highest and fifth highest mountains in Austria. It is a perfectionist winter world of carefully manicured slopes with maximum comfort. After all, they owe their spoiled customers a lot, for example heated chair lifts and conveyor belts in the snow with the smallest differences in height, so that no one has to laboriously push themselves up the hill.
However, we rarely see ostentatious glamor on the slopes and only occasionally do we see extremely expensive showy skis with silly Swarovski crystals or ski suits made of ocelot. Only occasionally do private bankers discreetly advertise their services on the lift masts, otherwise when it comes to glamorous decadence we have to rely on people like Harry, a veteran ski instructor who can't be shaken by anything, who has been booked as a private companion for a young lady for ten days this winter solely because their parents wanted to know that the child was in good hands. Every now and then a stubborn three-year-old who refuses to take a ski course is given a private instructor for a week, but that's more babysitting than skiing, says Harry, who costs 300 euros a day and is happy about it There is no Ischgl riot, no Schirmbar Remmidemmi and certainly no Imperial Caviar Russians in mink coats in his local ski area.
But then he takes us to “Sonnbühel”, a rustic ski hut in the middle of the ski area, a Sylt “Zanzibar” in the snow, and finally Kitzbühel brilliantly fulfills all of its clichés. This is mainly due to Ivan, who took over the hut nine years ago. Ivan is half South Tyrolean, half Hamburger, was a ski racer in the Italian national team, once came eighth in the Hahnenkamm race, then a multi-restaurateur in Italy and Austria, now completely focused on the “Sonnbühel”, just like Rosi on the other side of the mountain with the “Sonnbergstuben” makes. But Ivan is different, a filou, charmer, jack of all trades at a very young age of 60 with an extroverted girlfriend the same age as his daughter, not easy, not easy at all, constantly “on” and “off,” said Ivan and sighed.
Ivan gave his hut an Italian ambience, switched the music to upscale Italian hits from Adriano Celentano to Paolo Conte, recruited the staff exclusively in Italy, trimmed the wine and menu to the highest standards and initially had nothing but trouble. “The pasta always came back because it was too hard for the guests, but now I have trained it and everyone wants it al dente,” says Ivan with a sardonic, melancholic smile. Lobster, caviar, foie gras, scorpion fish, turbot, wagyu, plus an encyclopedic wine and sparkling wine list with many bottles in sizes from magnum to Methuselah have long been the standard - and the large bottles sell like the beer at the Oktoberfest, we can tell ourselves that convince. Ivan, however, forgoes the celebrity poetry album on the wall. “I don’t need that, I don’t want to show off,” he says, and we believe his word.
The ski area covers 270 kilometers of slopes. Photo: Picture Alliance
His guests willingly do this for him, half of whom are not skiers at all, but rather have themselves brought over from the summit station of the Hahnenkammbahn by snowmobile - which, of course, is covered in advertising for Giorgio Armani. Wearing sunglasses the size of motorcycle helmet visors, the ladies are an astonishing array of all those marvels of plastic surgery, the flawless sisters of Frankenstein's monster. The gentlemen prefer to talk about their latest automobile purchases and generously let those in the immediate vicinity participate, which seems to be a human pattern in “Sonnbühel”: the fraternization of the guests with the staff is a bit too clumsy, the wheel-breaking in the tourist area Italian is a bit too embarrassing, assessing people on the sun terrace is a bit too blasé, greeting old acquaintances is a bit too shrill, ordering the really large Dom Pérignon-Pulle is a bit too patronizing, you just show what you have, or even just what you would like to be.
Ivan is always in the middle of things, knows everyone, chats with everyone, despises no one and has an ice-filled champagne cooler placed on every table, because if you don't drink anything, you have no business with him. And anyone who isn't dancing on Ivan's tables on Friday evening, when the Hahnenkamm gondola runs until eleven in the evening, is definitely out of place. We drive into the valley a little earlier, always down the Streif, the route of the Hahnenkamm race, but defused to suit families, heading straight to the “Huberbräu”, the Grüner Veltliner is already waiting, the little man's Dom Pérignon, not bad either. The crucified people of Golgotha are right, we say to ourselves and hum “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” with them.
Kitzbühel Tourism, telephone: 0043/5356/6660, www.kitzbuehel.com. Highly recommended is the Hotel Seebichl with its design collection, Seebichlweg 37, A-6370 Kitzbühel, telephone: 0043/5356/62525, www.hotel-seebichl.at, double rooms from 180 euros.
From the “Glamorous Snow” series
previously published: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Gstaad
Glamorous snow (2) Celebrities, princes, privateers Glamorous snow (1) A ski paradise is struggling for its future