Nestled under a fur blanket in the booth next to us overlooking the silent mountains is a couple murmuring to one another in German. I can’t catch enough to decipher what he’s said, but she giggles happily and hugs him. As if on cue, a waiter emerges from the nearby bar toting two champagne flutes. The content of the exchange is confirmed when they eventually retire, and I catch her admiring the sparkly new diamond on her fourth finger.
The low-key delivery of this life-changing event is in keeping with everything at Schloss Fuschl – every corner of it is luxury, but not showy, the rooms are quite magnificent (bath with a glass panel to see into the room as you recline, huge chaise longue in which to nestle, double golden sinks so that two faces can be washed concurrently), but somehow retiring. It has that elusive quality so few hotels manage of having paid such thorough attention to detail that there is a seamlessness, allowing only for the actual experience of that heavenly area of Austria to imprint itself on your mind.
This I consider to be a true triumph: yes, I want lovely beds and soft linen and cheese platters galore, but if done well, luxury becomes a backdrop, the platter upon which the place itself is served up. And – trust me – Fuschlsee is a place you want dished up daily. The lake is in itself an event – the huge, vast body of water on which the hotel perches has character, moods. One day, it is sprinkled with snow, and looks cheery, almost as if it’s winking at the guests. The next, it is a forbidding pool of swirling grey water. It invites contemplation, and Schloss Fuschl have of course scattered an array of chairs nearby should you be inclined to accept the lake’s bid for attention.
This silent, drowsy, restorative quality to the lake has always been a draw; on its conception in 1450, it was decided that archbishops in need of a bit of downtime would head to Schloss Fuschl to restore themselves. In the 50s, it played host to the frazzled cast of the Sissi film, after which the hotel opened a small Sissi museum in which fans can see set items and some of the real Empress’s items. On our visit, the hotel was crammed with distinguished-looking Europeans keen on mornings spent walking around the lake, afternoons given to swimming and steaming in the hotel pool, and evenings sipping wine under the stars, awestruck by the supreme silence of the huge mountains stretched out along the horizon.
An additional draw at this time of year is the Christmas market, which had just been erected in the courtyard when we visited. We wandered around drinking gluhwein and eating roast chestnuts, before heading for a more substantial meal in the restaurant (decor: all flagstones and flickering candles). If you go during the winter, I’d suggest you follow the crowd and spend your time hiking, resting under blankets while gazing onto the mountains or lake, eating (and drinking) enormously well, and perhaps taking the odd drive – Salzburg and a smattering of other lakes are all within half an hour’s drive away.