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Gebhard Augendopler

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Erde. Feuer. Wasser. Luft.

No one can escape the power and beauty of the four elements.

An austrian business family has transformed the four elements into a unique relaxation hideaway and made four houses named “fire”, “air”, “water” and “king fisher” a living experience of the highest standards. High above the wild, romantic Salza river luxury houses hang on the rock face. Standing in front of the panorama glass wall, the turquoise coloured water thunders by under our feet and entices us to dream of adventure.

In the Styrian Gesäuse, Hermann Berger, who was born into the building trade on his father’s side, has created something exceptional. He translated the forces of nature from the four elements into stylish luxury houses „Four Elements – Living by Berger“, fulfilling every heart’s desire. To escape the hectic everyday life in the big city, we booked into house „Water“ for several days. Generous and well thought out rooms, high quality materials, comfortable furniture and smart style thrill when we first enter the house. However, the absolute highlight is the tremendous natural view through the panorama window – a natural work of art that could not be captured as impressively by any painter in the world. We enjoy a glass of Champagne on the terrace and observe the play of colours in the turquoise-blue-green Salza, cutting its bed through stone 30 metres below us.

Inspired by the thundering river we relax in the whirlpool beside the panorama sauna and relish in the sensation of being surrounded by trees as part of this wonderful natural beauty. In this environment, it is easy to get rid of anything that is weighing you down and to concentrate completely on oneself. The anticipated relaxation is immediate. We go for a short walk to the bank of the Salza and observe the fish dancing in the crystal clear water.
Three of the four houses represent an element – which is reflected in the materials, the colours and the decoration, with the King Fisher house fusing all four. The King Fisher flies with FIRE in his heart through the AIR and creates an EARTH-bound retreat on the WATER. The positioning of the houses provides a high degree of private space and intimacy. Although the recommended restaurants are only a stone’s throw away, we have our delicious dinner delivered to our house, to enjoy every minute in this oasis of peace and tranquillity. My companion has made herself comfortable on the soft sofa in front of the window, while I, sitting on the terrace, lose my thoughts in the meandering river valley. In nature, the four elements are immense forces, which Hermann Berger has skilfully transformed in his FourElements into well-being of the highest standards!

Fotos: Four Elements Living by Berger

Getting back in touch with my inner self

The past few months have been shaped by a particularly challenging situation. Initially I felt I was locked away and could only think of getting out! Therefore, the first travel experience again should be well thought out. My only thought: headfirst into PURELife.

In my world, everything that happens always has a positive side as well. The “isolated year” inspired me to contemplate what is really important to me. And the answer is crystal clear: I am important to me. So my attractive companion and I booked into one of the PURESLeben premium houses in the beautiful Austrian Südsteiermark. Dietmar Silly and his brother Gerald have created a veritable dream hideaway. Twelve old winegrowers‘ houses were removed and lovingly reconstructed on beautiful mountainsides with a breathtaking view. Furnished with a fireplace, panorama sauna, pool and in the style of PURESLeben, the houses are the perfect location to get back in touch with oneself. No hectic distractions, but the force of breathtaking nature enticed us to take romantic strolls. Our Tablets, TV and social networks were immaterial and we instead enjoyed good conversation over a delicious dinner, which was delivered to the house. The comfortable sofa in the bay window quickly became the favourite spot and my mobile was exchanged for an exciting book. We lit the open fire, which could be seen from both the living room and the bath in the neighbouring room, every night. I found myself exploring the course natural wooden wall with my fingertips, as the look of the materials used was fascinating. Charming details and old tools as a decoration inspired me to redesign my own garden shed. Simply the sight of my loved one exchanging her stressful working life for a relaxing and pleasurable time for several days in „Stadl Wuggitz“ confirmed that it had been the right decision to start the new travel period after the pandemic in a „PURESLeben“ house. These PURESLeben houses bring you back to your own SELFat the highest level.

The south Styrian wine route is particularly enchanting during mid-season in spring and autumn. Maybe we can buy the highest level of quality on holiday, but the heart and love that the Silly brothers have put into their houses can only be found. If you love yourself, you should enjoy Pure Life!

5 reasons for PURESLeben:

  • The Silly family has managed with the premium, superbly located houses to create an unspoilt destination that is unrivalled and consistently places the guest at the heart of their focus
  • The Silly family provides service of the highest level
  • They are synonymous with quality and conduct sustainable management
  • They work with products from their own agricultural sources or acquire food from selected organic, regional partners
  • They are passionate hosts and fulfil your heart’s desire

Fotos: PURESLeben , Günter Standl, Vera Prinz

Georgia

the balcony of europe

In 2008, when i visited Georgia for the first time, i encountered a depressed country without self-confidence. 11 years later i am experiencing a land that is in the process of rediscovering itself and
is allowing color and joy back into its very core.

Due to its location in the Near East, Georgia is referred to as the balcony of Europe. I have always been interested in regions in which different cultures merge and generate mutual synergies. With this in mind, I travelled in 2008 to the country between the Black Sea, the Greater and Lesser Caucasus and the volcanic Armenian highland. After my tour across the once thriving and fer- tile but then grey country I decided, due to the depressing attitude of the people, never to revisit Georgia.

Fortunately I abandoned my intention and this year in June flew once again to Tiflis (Tbilisi), the capital of Georgia. The city was founded in the 5th century and flourished in the Middle Ages to become one of the richest cities of its time due to intersecting trade routes. The hot sulphur springs are just one of the special features of this constantly changing city. Stricken by a number of occupations by different nations, Tiflis does not have its own clear identity. The population only seems to have recognized now that their plurality is the city’s wealth. Tradition meets youth culture, previous depression and fear gives way to the youth’s hunger to structure their lives in a more gratifying way. Restaurants with specialties of the country and bars, offering Georgian pressed wine, border the centre.

But the thing that pleases me most is the fact that the people in Tiflis are laughing again and have an open approach to tourists. Do I think Tiflis is a beautiful city? It is definitely becoming one. The people are doing their very best; the offer for tourists is being constantly extended. The city council is trying to create architectural highlights and the creative heads in the city are opening charming boutiques offering exciting fashion. Tiflis is changing and this development is extremely positive for the city and the country as a whole.

I chose the five-star Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace as the place to retreat and revive my body and soul during my city visit– an excellent choice. If I am visiting lively, exciting cities I want to have a ”home“, where I can reload my batteries. The very tastefully designed hotel also offers culinary delicacies in its own Ati restaurant and a beautiful stylish spa for relaxing. From my room I can see most of the old town and I enjoy my cigar on the hotel roof terrace in pleasant summer temperatures. With a delicious gin & tonic in my hand I am already looking forward to continuing my journey of discovery the next day, full of energy. ”Tiflis, I am happy to be able to stand on this balcony of Europe.“

Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace

The hotel offers a stunning view of old Tbilisi and boasts 220 well- appointed rooms and suites in soft-pastel colors that are easy on the eye. The hotel has the largest ballroom, meeting facilities and everything in between, ready to host business meetings or social gatherings. Settle in for a meal or enjoy a cocktail at the dining points. Grab a cold beer and cheer for your favorite sports team while enjoying stadium-like food at the Craft House. After a full day of work or exploration, treat yourself to views of the city and delicious cuisine on the roof top restaurant.

Photos Copyrights: Sheraton

Sri Lanka

More than tee and Ayurveda!

Sri Lanka is shaped like an outstretched palm! I made up my mind to get to know the country by reading this palm. When I travel, I always want to combine enjoyment with adventure. This applies to the selection of the country I am going to visit, to the accommodation I choose right through to the means of transport and my activities. There should be a little bit of everything included. That is why I chose Sri Lanka as a destination to discover. The country is internationally famous for its cultivated tea plantations and purifying Ayurveda treatments, but the island to the southeast of India has so much more to offer and that is what I wanted to discover.

I booked my accommodation at Uga Escapes to be able to experience a broad cross section of the country in 12 days. This hotel group is owned by an industrial family that got into construction and infrastructure after producing safes and then security installations; they have been operating five beautiful hotels distributed over the entire island since 2012.
During the drive from the capital, Colombo, to the north central province Anuradhapura in the middle of the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka tiredness begins to take over after the long flight. However, the driver is so skilful at rocking the vehicle through the traffic that I soon sink into a dreamlike state and only blink cheerfully into the sunlight when I arrive at the oasis of Ulagalla.

ULAGALLA

I am taken to a beautiful 150-year-old manor and welcomed with a ceremony intended to bring me joy and happiness. 25 luxury villas, extending over approximately 23 hectares and covering 200 m2 respectively, entice you to go on a journey of discovery in this true haven. Each single house has its own pool and breath-taking flora and fauna on the doorstep, emphasising Uga Escapes‘ position as forerunner in sustainable luxury tourism on Sri Lanka. Electro carts and bicycles are the mode of transport on the grounds. I am enraptured as the colourful bird life in the harvested rice fields immediately diverts my thoughts from my stressful everyday life. Although WLAN and the mobile network still work in this natural paradise, I quickly put my telephone away to be able to enjoy all things unspoilt by human hand. In the high trees I spy flying foxes sleeping upside down; they will be going in search of insects at twilight. Iguanas, peacocks, turtles and a family of monkeys swinging through the trees bring a contented smile to my face. The 3 days I spend walking, cycling and reading in this idyll go by far too quickly. However, the next point on my agenda waits, as my holiday does not only consist of relaxation, but also activities to challenge my body.

UGA BAY RESORT

On the East coast of the island I check into the family friendly Uga Bay Resort. As the very new hotel has been constructed in a semi-circular shape, each studio has a view of the inner garden and of the ocean. There is a coral reef offshore from the bay. A dream for snorkelers and shell collectors. When walking on the beach I do not only see young people happily splashing about in the water trying to impress each other with their antics, but people of all age groups; the positive effect of the cooling water and the gentle waves is clearly tangible.

A collection of fishing boats attracts my attention and an old fisher addresses me and invites me to watch the sharing of the catch and the trading with the fresh fish the next morning. A magnificent spectacle that has to be experienced. In the afternoon the sky suddenly darkens above the palm grove, indicating that a storm is brewing, to such an extent that you could believe it is the end of the world. However, the storm changes course to the open sea and the backdrop of colours from the dark grey sky above the rough ocean in front of the yellow beach provides me with the best photo of my travels.

CHENA HUTS BY UGA ESCAPES

My next accommodation „Chena Huts“ (by Uga Escapes) in the southeast of the island makes me aware of the impressive wildlife Sri Lanka has to offer. Even on the drive there, a large bull elephant decides to stand in the middle of the road, blocking all traffic. Waving the flies from his sides with a broken off branch, he stands in the shade of a large tree and waits for the astonished drivers to throw fruit at his feet so he can grant them passage unscathed. The luxury bungalows at Chena Huts are situated adjacent to Yala National Park. Discreetly and sensitively interwoven into the bush and tree landscape, this area offers everything that good taste desires. On the terrace of the main house, I relish the excellent dishes, served by friendly and competent staff. My glance is drawn to a family of buffalos trotting by in front of the sea and two peacocks competing for the attention of the grey peahen. One more moment in which I simply want to press the „pause “button. This happens repeatedly during the next two days while we are on safari through the nature reserve with the jeep. For example, when we drive past the alligator mother, who is protecting her young in her mouth from the all-eating enemy, or when we park beside a bush in which a powerful eagle is observing his lunch that is hissing on the ground. These moments make one feel so small and grateful to be able to experience this natural spectacle.

UGA RESIDENCE

I spend the final days of my 12-day Sri Lanka tour in the Uga Residence, at the centre of Colombo. While the city pulsates in chaos and numerous Tuk Tuks skilfully wind through the traffic like bees in their hive, I swim a few lengths in the elegant pool, bordered by arched walkways. The evening street food tour, which the hotel organised for me, again ignites my spirit for adventure. I am lead to parts of the city that I would never have dared to discover alone. I also sample specialities that were prepared at small, mobile burners on the street. The people are happy and show a huge level of affection if you are interested in their culture, their country and their life. However, the greatest joy above all these wonderful experiences on the hand-shaped island is mine. The welcome ceremony at my first accommodation did actually bring me joy and happiness!

More info on the street food tour under: www.pepper.life/experience/colombos-street-food/

Uga Escapes – five distinctive Boutique-Hotels on Sri Lanka: Ulagalla, Jungle Beach, Uga Bay, Residence and the latest member Chena Huts. From a Safari holiday in the jungle or the cultural treasures of past dynasties, snorkelling and spas on the tropical beach to exquisite days spent at the residence in the heart of Colombo – Uga Escapes opens the door to a very special trip through Sri Lanka. The carefully selected locations make the hotels the ideal starting point for discovering all the country has to offer. The lotus flower in the logo is the symbol for the philosophy of this very individual hideaway: Giving guests an authentic travel experience and at the same time contributing to the protection of the island’s rich heritage. Biological construction material, solar and water treatment plants, the use of clay and glass instead of plastic and biological vegetable cultivation are only a few of Uga Escapes’ standards.

www.ugaescapes.com