Four hotels – four favourite spots. With her four retreats, hotel owner Helena Ramsbacher hasn’t just created four beautiful holiday destinations, she’s also made four very personal lifelong dreams a reality – and her homes. This interview provides some personal insights.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade – or a hotel: for hotel owner Helena Ramsbacher, it’s a whole garden full of lemon trees that she finds captivating at her heritage hotel Lemongarden on the island of Brač. It’s a unique sanctuary consisting of 300-year-old Dalmatian stone buildings, lovingly renovated down to the smallest detail, an abundantly blossoming garden and two adorable donkeys.
Q – Lifestylehotels: Helena, your hotels are more than just hotels for you. Is that right?
Helena Ramsbacher: Absolutely. All four of them are actually extensions of my living rooms. If that’s the kind of thing you like, we share our residences with guests and friends. I don’t just run our hotels, I actually live in them as well. Mostly at Hotel das Tyrol in Vienna, but over the course of the year I’ll definitely also spend two months at Hotel Lemongarden on the island of Brač. The result is that our hotels are also the total opposite of huge resorts. I place great value on personal touches and attention to detail.
Hotel Das Tyrol, Vienna, Austria
Q – So you could say your job is much more than just a profession. How did you end up working in tourism?
I grew up in a hotel in Carinthia and loved it from a very young age. Basic training in tourism seemed like the logical next step. After seats on the board at the Austrian Hotelier Association, I then went into politics and ended up in Vienna, but at some point, this career path just wasn’t compatible with my family anymore. Moving back to Carinthia certainly wasn’t an option for me. And so DAS TYROL in the centre of Vienna was my first hotel, followed by HOTEL LEMONGARDEN in Croatia.
Hotel Lemongarden, Brač, Croatia
Q- Now there are four establishments: one up a mountain, another by a lake, one in the centre of a city and one right by the sea. How did you come to be located in so many different places?
Zue First came the favourite spots, then came the hotels. They’re all places that I have a very strong connection with. For example, the tiny village of Sutivan on the island of Brač. It’s a simply wonderful place. Imagine a flourishing village with stone buildings dating back between 300 and 500 years, right by the sea. We harvest lemons and olives there that we turn into small delicacies. We also have two donkeys, Toni and Anton.
Q – That sounds like a tip from someone who knows.
Oh indeed! I love being there in May and October. That’s when there are only 40 guests plus the locals, and the beach is wide and empty. We have such a lovely relationship with the people who live there. And I even find just getting there on our boat across the turquoise blue sea immensely relaxing. I get the same feeling when I look out from the terrace at Hotel Knappenhof across the forest and the mountains, or when I see the view from Schloss Seefels across the Wörthersee lake. I ask myself every time: what more could my heart possibly desire?
Q – For you, slowing down isn’t just a matter of what you do (or don’t do), it’s mostly about where you are. Is that right?
Definitely. Our DAS TYROL hotel is located in the centre of Vienna, right on the often busy Mariahilferstrasse. And then you open the doors and it’s like being in a different world. It feels like being at home. There’s no rushing about. That’s partly down to the small number of guests, to the atmosphere, but it’s also down to our fully committed staff. I always say, anything you do with heart and passion will be good. And when you add on the fact that the holiday accommodation is in the most beautiful places – I would almost call them power places – the slow-down happens all on its own.