According to Austrian folklore, the soul of Emperor Charlemagne lays resting beneath the Tyrolean Wilder Kaiser mountain range. The legend states that when the Hohen Grutten stream ceases to run, the mighty power will awaken to fight a great battle and vanquish his enemies.
With warm sunbeams on my shoulders, a glass of Prosecco in one hand and a wriggly eight-month-old baby in the other, I attempt to trace the outline of the Kaiserkopf (Emperor’s head), etched into the majestic Austrian Alps ahead of me.
I notice the mountain stream is still in full flow, and with not even a hint of conflict in the air, it’s safe to say Emperor Charlemagne is still sound asleep.
Thousands of fir trees carpet the mountainsides, where butterflies dart between wild flowers and the climate flits from cool mountain breeze to comfortable warmth, easing muscles tired from baby lifting and carrying.
Run by husband and wife Gunter and Bianca Lampert, the Kaiserhof wellness hotel is a picturesque hideaway that appears to tick along at a gentle pace. With an indoor pool, natural spring, spa and five restaurants, it’s already charmed me.
Since having a baby, the pleasures of peace and pampering have become distant memories from a former life. But for a few days, I’m hoping to reclaim some pre-parenthood rest and relaxation.
With Daddy on babysitting duty and my daughter only a press of a hotel-room-to-spa-intercom away, I seize some mummy time. I start my days with poolside yoga stretches and water exercise classes, and even manage to sneak off for a few hours to relax on a sun lounger with a good book, while gazing out to the snow-capped peaks.
Although my baby, Maya, is too small for the kids club, there are plenty of options and accommodations for little ones.
My daughter is particularly noisy, with a habit of letting out pterodactyl shrieks during mealtimes, which makes eating out fairly unappealing. But, at our request, the hotel easily seat us a safe distance from other diners, and one evening, we even have a meal delivered to our room and set up on our private balcony.
Kaiserhof’s food is impeccable, so you don’t want to risk missing out on meals. Buffet breakfasts are extensive with multiple courses and glasses of fizz, and in the afternoon, a swell of cakes and pastries also appears. Dinner is a fittingly regal six-course affair, although at times it’s a little too overwhelming for a tired child who can only stay put in a high chair for 25 minutes. But even though our meals are rushed, our daughter does calm down in the bar, where live music seems to quell her temper.
During the day, there’s a cosy playroom where activities take place, and an outside playground area with trampoline and swings. But it’s the setting that really makes Kaiserhof a winner for children.
Austrians are a wholesome outdoorsy sort and have made great efforts to set up family-friendly attractions in the area.
Soaring cable cars and monorail mountain trains link the valley below with mountaintop playgrounds, while adventure comes in the form of zip lines, kooky-spooky walks and water explosions.
Buggies can easily be taken on the cable cars, and some walks are even on terrain suited to pushchairs.
With so many concessions for families, our holiday runs smoothly without any tantrums, tears or arguments between Mum and Dad. In the shadow of a sleeping emperor, peace and calm reigns supreme.
Fiona Wootton was a guest of the Wilder Kaiser tourist board. Visit www.wilderkaiser.info/en/. A family apartment at Kaiserhof wellness hotel costs from 160 euros per person, half-board. Under threes stay free. Visit www.kaiserhof-ellmau.at/en. The nearest airports are: Salzburg 70km, Innsbruck 90km, Munich 150km, all offering low-cost flights from London.
THREE TOP CHILD-FRIENDLY ATTRACTIONS
Hexenwasser, Hochsoll: This water wonderland will send kids into fits of giggles. You can walk on it, make it sing and erupt, paddle in it, and even eat at a table with your feet inside it. Visit www.hexenwasser.at
KaiserBad & Ellmis Zauberwelt, Ellmau: This quaint village features in TV show Der Bergdoktor (the Mountain Doctor). There’s an outdoor swimming area plus a theme park. Visit www.kaiserbad.com/en/ and www.ellmi.at/en/
KaiserWelt, Scheffau: After an exhilarating cable car ride, children can get to grips with kid-sized off-road trucks. Alternatively, they can play on a giant trampoline, zip wires through the forest and giant skittles. Visit www.kaiserwelt.at