An out-of-town house experience with all the comforts of modern living.

I’ll be the first to admit it. City kids always look a little out of place on a rolling hillside. It’s something about the all-in-black look and the impractical shoes that immediately gives us away. But nature beckons, and for those without out-of-town friends or a country house of their own, this usually means a weekend at a thermal spa, hotel style, with restaurants for every meal.

We wanted something different. Could we get a simple, quiet weekend away?

While there are many mountainside chalets on offer in the Alpine Republic, they often come with temperamental heating and overzealous hosts intruding on the getaway experience. We stumbled on Pures Leben. It was remote, well designed, run by a winemaking family and had a private pool and sauna. We were sold.

The Road to Wellville

Part of our goal was to absorb as much country goodness we could, be as private and isolated as possible, while retaining all the little luxuries weekends away were made for.

Tesla
We thought an emission-free car was the right chariot to take us to our spa-cum-country house. The Tesla still looks out of place – but then again so did we. // © Ali Rabbani

To stay private, we decided against the train (otherwise a great option). We opted for the next best thing: a Tesla. The choice combined my affinity for e-mobility with the deliciously odd juxtaposition of fleeing to the remote countryside with the Model S P90D, a black urban limousine. As we glided along on autopilot – hands firmly on the wheel of course – we reveled in our environmentally friendly choice, and our chance to be  “alone and still well provided for.”

We were skeptical that our navi would make sense of South Styria, since it wasn’t near, well, anything really. We entered N46° 40’ 16.0” E15° 19’ 51.6” into our navigation system… Et puis voilà! We arrived around 17:00 on a Friday, to be greeted by a friendly man, who eyed the car appreciatively and said the words every weekender wants to hear: Welcome! Food is in the kitchen.

The luxury of simplicity

While I’ve never owned a country house myself, I’ve been invited to several, and this felt like that: a friend’s place borrowed for the weekend. In addition to the home-cooked Styrian version of spaghetti Bolognese and salad in the fridge, we discovered an entire cupboard full of vino from Weingut Silly, the family that owns the Pures Leben houses. They harvest the grapes just outside the window, so guests can – quite literally – drink in the landscape.

Pures Leben housing
Premium houses all feature their own pool and panoramic sauna so you can savor the landscape while you enjoy the spa. // © Pures Leben

The Lieschnegg house is made for couples, with kitchen, bath and bedroom on the first floor and a “wellness gallery” upstairs, essentially a daybed with a stone garden beside it and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the pool and vineyards.

We decided to begin there with a sundowner glass of “Mama Thresi” Lieblingswein, a fruity white cuvée that passed muster. As the sunset brought a chill, we eyed the swaying branches from our comfy perch.

We then scheduled our weekend. “A sauna, chill a bit, another sauna, then dinner.” This was going to be exhausting.

The glassed-in sauna is fantastic. It heats up in no time (about 30 minutes) and only requires one button to turn on. We opted for an intense Finnish session, 90°C with a spoonful of eucalyptus water. After two rounds, we were ravenous and traded our bathrobes for leisure wear (ok, pajamas) and heated up the pasta and a Leberknödel soup, a clear broth with liver Spätzle added.

As for music, we used our phones. This was one small disappointment (a very First World problem): there was no sound system available to hook up to. It seemed like the sort of place for a Bluetooth speaker, if not a full-blown outdoor/indoor setup.

So far, quite positive and we reminded ourselves that this weekend is about tuning out, connecting with nature, or as their brochure says, “the luxury of simplicity.”

A day in the life

The following morning we awoke to the twitter of birds. Ironically, that’s also my phone’s alarm tone, so I sat bolt upright and then grinned. There is perhaps nothing better than waking up for work and then realizing you have a full day of indulgence before you.

The magical food elves had brought us fresh rolls and we eventually made friends with the fully automatic coffee machine. Everything from the bread and marmalade to the milk and natural apple juice was regional, hell, probably within 500 meters.  After breakfast we set out on a walk, but soon u-turned back to our sanctuary. There’s only so much nature we could take in at once.

The rest of the day was spent reading, discussing pop culture and politics and taking sauna sessions. The sun shone brightly, but it was still too chilly to swim. The pools are filled from April onward and in summer it must be heavenly to lie in the sun overlooking the vine-covered hillsides. For now a bath had to suffice, with some refreshing citrusy salts. The entire house had that smell in fact, delicious, light and sweet.

Dinner arrived as we were half napping up in the gallery. Cordial and discrete, the woman who brought it set things up and vanished.  A perfect balance: the services of a hotel with the personal touch of a country house. As we sat down to juicy fried chicken and the freshest mushroom soup I have ever tasted, we could easily imagine staying four days or even a week as Pures Leben suggests.

There are recommended outings to the legendary Zotter chocolate factory or Franz ­Gsellmann’s Weltmaschine. They offer Vespas to rent, e-bikes and even a donkey tour to the Slovenian border. And if that’s not obscure enough, try a ride in hot air balloon. We would have happily tried one of the massages and body treatments, which we discovered alongside special amenities for parents and dog owners.

After breakfast we were reluctant to leave if it hadn’t been for the three-hour Tesla ride ahead of us. Maybe being from the city didn’t make us incompatible with the countryside after all. Yes, I was still wearing impractical shoes, but I had gone hiking just the same. Also, something about driving through forests with the sun beaming through the trees is magical. With only the whhrrr of rubber tires and the wind breaking the silence, we felt more in tune with nature than the tractors we were passing in the fields.

All in all, we may have been misfits, but we admitted it, and if you’re looking to up your country cred without having to milk a cow, this might be just the ticket.

Where we went

Pures Leben has “Premium” houses and “Lager” houses. Ours was a premium house and we can certainly recommend the outdoor, glassed-in sauna, pool and relaxation area. But there are a number of choices, so check them out for yourself.

puresleben.at