Morning wakeup at InterContinental Resort Berchtesgaden is akin to being above the world. You are on top of a small mountain in Germany’s only alpine national park, Berchtesgaden.
If you are facing west, say in duplex suite 347, named Watzmann, you are indeed looking out at that mountain, all of 2,713 metres to its peak, snow-capped even in Summer. And between, if you are as lucky as we were, the valley will be shrouded in early-morning clouds. Add finishing touches that include a clear blue sky and you feel in heaven.
We had arrived at the 138-room resort the previous night after a two-hour drive from Munich (next time I shall fly into nearby Salzburg). Because of meticulous environmental planning you barely see the horseshoe-shaped resort until the car climbs to the front door. Inside the building, which is give-or-take three floors – you will see, soon, what I mean by this – you immediately sense space, the locale, a sense of fun and oodles of style. In front of you as you enter you look through a lounge area with, even in summer, a central real-look log fire under a ceiling-hanging canopy. Beyond is the neat grass of the centre of the horseshow. Either side of this vista, back near you, are walls seven metres high formed of natural rough-cut Stainzergneiss stone. Hanging overhead are three giant – well, three metres high – cream fabric lampshades.
Floors are polished hardwood, from this forested area. Colors are neutral, or orange. The only lasting burst of arrogant color is an over-green oil landscape in the Presidential Suite, but there are also sometimes colorful masks hanging in the main lobby, or little sculptures on 1.5-metre posts, all graduation projects from the nearby wood-carving school, which apparently is renowned.
We were offered a choice of cold herbal teas from named carafes. 347 is one of the highly desirable two-floor suites set alternately, with normal rooms, on the inside facets of the horseshoe arms on the top floor of the building. The total 154 sq metres consists of a main floor office with big desk, a day bed and a half-bathroom. You climb 18 polished wood stairs to an upper level rising from the building’s roof. Here you have double-width, as this part extends over your neighbour who only has the normal room mentioned above. Facing outwards, your upper level has an airy parlor with easy-work gas-fuelled fire and a spacious bedroom with pale calf leather headboard: these two adjacent rooms look out to your private rooftop garden, all 100 sq metres of it. In all you have three Philips flatscreens, plus a minibar and hot beverage gear. Next to the bedroom is a walk-in closet with safe, and then comes the toilet. Facing inwards is the Dolomite limestone-clad bathroom, with oval tub, big shower area, electric towel rail, two sinks and Molton Brown. It is very sexy – you can see across the horseshoe into others’ rooftop bathrooms, just – and very sensible (bathroom blinds are electronically closed).
I got online instantly, using InterContinental’s worldwide broadband connector (public areas are wireless). I rushed down to the basement level, looking out into wildflower pastures below the lobby, to try the 24-hour gym and the two swimming pools, one indoors and lined with mother-of-pearl tiles and the other indoor-outdoor, and beautifully hot. Then it was cocktail time, for me a glass of wine, which produced a carafe and delicate Schott glass, and for my companion the one Bavarian whisky out of the 400 beautifully listed and described in the leather-bound menu in Rocks American Bar.
Le Ciel, the finest restaurant, was fully booked by a Toyota party, so we made eyes at the glass-walled in-cellar winery dining area, but since that seats up to 14 it would have been a bit over-the-top for two. We tried the white asparagus menu on the terrace outside the 360-degrees all-day dining, and honestly I ate so much of the delicious bread, from a baker back down in town, I barely needed anything else.
The breakfast buffet has terribly-addictive yoghurt and more breads than you thought existed, and freshest juice and great coffee. Yes, after a good night’s sleep I was hungry, and also ready to go. While my companion did two rounds of the nine-hole golf course (oh so steep, he exclaimed with joy, pointing out that it is a ski slope by winder) I borrowed one of the hotel bikes – Scott Scale Concept 40, naturally, for a place with such style – and pedalled furiously up, for a full 135 minutes nonstop, to Ahornbüchsenkopf, a full 1,600 metres above sea level. The chief concierge, Alexander Koenig, who came from the Side in Hamburg, later told me he had a full spectrum of similar rides for my next visit.
But it was time for the spa, run by Peter Droessel, whom many say is the best in Germany – he came here from Brenner’s Park, Baden-Baden. There is a big La Prairie center, and Clarissa Albert, a most beautiful person born in Colombia, gave me truly memorable care. There is also, being Germany, a massive sauna area but I really do not like sweating it out with masses of nude people, regardless of gender. I went for another swim instead.
There are so many wow features. A satellite copy of your favorite newspaper back home is ‘no trouble’, my maid from Hong Kong was Miss Speed personified, and yet she still had time to replace details. The books in the library beckon for many hours’ reading, the wild flowers around are simply glorious. I liked seeing local Bavarian artistocrats in dirndls and lederhosen at Sunday brunch, and the way that General Manager Tom Bauer bowed deeply and kissed my hand when we were first introduced, in the elevator (I also liked having well-signed and immaculately clean fire staircases as alternatives to the elevators). This place has style.