For over 20 years, designer and author Barbara Becker has lived in sunny Florida, where she has also spent the longs months of lockdown. And yet, Austria’s borders had only just been opened when she traveled to her favorite hotel in the Alps: MalisGarten in the unique Zillertal. We spoke with her about this place that dreams are made of – the ZillerSeason’s ecological resort that offers the finest sustainable and regional 5-star luxury vacation.
ZillerSeasons: What is so fascinating for you about the Zillertal and the ZillerSeasons?
Since I was a child, I have loved mountains, fields, forests, and meadows – for me, this is the most unadulterated form of vacation and is associated with so many wonderful memories. Whenever I can, I spend time in the mountains, which are especially beautiful in early summer. I walked through the fields in the Zillertal and discovered ribwort and other herbs and hiked high into the mountains. It was truly magnificent. The Alpine meadow here looked just as you would imagine except here, you can find more than just simply dandelions and buttercups.
ZillerSeasons: Do your children share this enthusiasm for mountain meadows?
Absolutely! I often vacationed in the Alps with my children. We hiked in summer and skied in winter. All in all, this makes me happy and nostalgic in a positive way when I’m at the ZillerSeasons. Here it’s about immersing yourself in a unique world of smells and sounds: the smell of apple blossoms in the spring, the roaring of the “Laimacher Wasserfall” waterfall, and the ringing of the cowbells in the pastures. I simply love it and regularly come here.
ZillerSeasons: Are you familiar with herbs?
I learned about herbs as a child, and this time a friend from Berlin accompanied me and was astonished at how well I was able to distinguish between medicinal herbs and weeds. You can find arnica, euphrasia, tormentil, yarrow, and of course tons of nettles, ferns, and moss. This time, we discovered the first wild strawberries on the edge of the trail when walking up the mountain, and I can’t wait to be able to pick raspberries, blueberries, or mushrooms in late summer. When I see all this variety, I feel right at home. Spending a vacation here is like coming home and dropping anchor in a sea of wonderful childhood memories while recharging your batteries in the pure nature of the mountains.
ZillerSeasons: Hotel manager Christina Binder has planted her own herb garden on the hotel grounds. Do you two experts chat with one another about your knowledge and experience?
I especially look forward to this every time, and this time, Christina and I spoke for a long time about the medicinal herbs that play an important role at the ZillerSeasons from the spa and bar to the restaurant. Christina has arranged her own herb room in the spa area of MalisGarten, where she makes herbal distillates that are just as effective as essential oils. She is also happy to explain to guests how this is done: the herbs are first heated in a large, closed, copper cauldron and distilled. The essential oils are transported and released via the rising steam. The herbal ingredients are bound in water and can be used as a refreshing spray, for aromatherapy, or as a bath salt. Her teas made from dried mountain herbs are also a true miracle cure, and they are something I simply can’t do without.
ZillerSeasons: Can normal hotel guests enjoy such an experience?
That’s the beauty about staying at this hotel: you can go on a hike with the accompaniment of an expert and gather your own herbs with professional guidance. The guide will explain everything to you, because in the ZillerSeasons, old healing wisdom is preserved and used here daily. This time I had the pleasure of experiencing a massage with herbal oils, which was unbelievably relaxing. If you would like to vacation especially close to nature on an alpine slope, I recommend a chalet at the HochLeger or 1 of the 3 hip treehouses, which are located at an elevation of 1000 m. Here there is a swimming biotope and even hay beds as was the custom in bygone days. Of course, I sleep particularly well at MalisGarten, because the hotel is built out of a variety of untreated types of wood including pine and walnut. Pine has a blood pressure-lowering effect and guarantees an especially restful sleep.
ZillerSeasons: You are known for once hugging a tree in a large city. Do you also do that here in the mountain forest in the Zillertal?
Of course. I choose an especially beautiful specimen, stand still, and inhale the strength of this tree. Nowadays, fewer people think I am crazy (haha). “Waldbaden” or “forest bathing” (involving breathing in the essential oils released into the air from trees and taking in the sights and sounds of the forest) has been a trend for a long time, because people know how much strength nature gives back to us. If the branches are inviting and are not hanging too high, I even venture to climb high into a tree just like when I was a child.