Or to be more formal, Hotel Stefanie, Vienna. I can thoroughly recommend it.
You know how things slowly move in some direction, and because it’s all gradual, you hardly notice the change [for the worse]? And then something comes back to you and you remember all that was lost.
That’s what it was like for me when Daughter and I stayed at the Stefanie in October. She’d stayed before and was hell-bent on returning, so we even shifted our stay by one day in order that they could accommodate us. I thought I understood why she wanted this, but it was only as we got there that I properly grasped what she’d discovered, and what I’d lost, decades ago.
I’ve had more recent ‘favourite’ hotels, by which I mean they have been places I’ve come back to for various reasons, including cost. But a hotel like the Stefanie I’ve not stayed at since I was a child. Not that we were well off, but we were lucky and I got to stay in some good hotels, and I clearly built my expectations from those occasions.
Hotel Stefanie is not enormous, nor is it small. It’s just right, in a Goldilocks kind of way. It employs a lot of staff, and it is they who make the place. They are professionals, whether helping people out of taxis and looking after their luggage like it was their baby, or bringing a tea-tray to your room. Or anything else. Remembering your room number. Offering you a clean knife at breakfast.
The decor is quietly classic, but the rooms have obviously been up-dated to what you need today. And it smells like a hotel. I mean that in the nicest possible way. Smells lead to powerful memories, and can move you anywhere, anytime. In my case it was straight back to childhood, the good bit.
The rooms. We’d booked two singles, in order to snore in peace and – erm – quiet. They had three rooms for us to look at. The head of reception knew we’d definitely want one of them, but wanted to give us the opportunity to look at two more before deciding. The rooms are not all identical, and we could soon see which second room would be best. It was a thoughtful offer, I felt.
The first day it rained hard, and someone had not packed her umbrella. By watching other guests as I waited in the foyer, I learned that they have umbrellas you can borrow. And when you bring it back, dripping wet, they take it off you, giving it a good professional shake.
Breakfast is rather pleasant. Polite service, coupled with the ubiquitous buffet where you can choose what you like. Continental quality bread, for instance. And … champagne, although we never tried that.
It’s so old style that you even hand your key in when you go out. Annoying if you are only popping out for five minutes, but it is gratifying to see them reach for your key before you’ve uttered a word.
On departure I was too exhausted to take the underground to the railway station. I asked for a taxi, which was ordered with a minimum of fuss, and the same lovely man who greeted me on the first day, saw me and my suitcase into the vehicle when it arrived.
I have no particular reason to return to Vienna soon. But I’d happily go back just to stay at the Stefanie. Time travel like this is a treat. Revisiting the mid-twentieth century, while still having access to wifi.
Heartfelt thanks to all of you who work at Hotel Stefanie.