faycuthbertson | |
Horsedrawn in the Lungau
Horsedrawn heaven

On the lookout for an affordable holiday home in the mountains? Try Austria for a modern fairytale unfolding in a charming eco-aware village. The Lungau ski region in Austria is a rustic wonderland, a Snow White country of rushing rivers, fir-tree clad hills and mountains, sleepy villages and undiscovered hamlets.

Years ago, Jodi Venner traveled to the pretty Alpine village of St Martin. There she fell in love with the local ski instructor and carpenter Herbi Bliem. They married, had two children and are now building what will be Austria’s first energy self-sufficient eco-holiday resort, once all 10 timber-frame chalets are sold, the pond is dug and the chickens are laying fresh eggs for breakfast each morning.

They already built a chocolate-box style wooden chalet in the village, a 70-minute drive south of Salzburg airport, the prototype for the chalets nearby.This ambitious project, built on just one hectare of land, has taken EURO700,000 (�500,000) of Herbi and Jodi’s money, plus two years of their lives. “When everyone else has a power cut, we will be bright as stars, ” says Jodie, from Northampton.

Within an hour of Salzburg, you are on empty roads, cruising through a rich green landscape dotted with freshly painted houses in two-tone toffee and vanilla and caramel and cream, all built in the traditional Austrian style.

Little has changed in the Alpine hinterland over the centuries and the Austrians like it that way. You won’t find a Legoland of “luxury apartments” here � just welcoming locals, probably in national dress, wanting to protect their environment. Everything is very clean, too. Even the fruit and veg in the shops are highly polished.

But in the triangle of villages where Jodi and Herbi’s nest of H�lzern Chalets is being planned, there is something special going on.

Owners of the three-bedroom properties in St Martins will have their water fed by a spring, a heating and power system generated by plant oils, 200 days of sunshine a year, 200 miles of cross-country trails on their doorstep, more than 300 miles of biking trails and home-made cheese and hams made by the local villagers.

The resort will be more than carbon neutral i n that it will generate its own energy. Use of artificial materials will be avoided as much as possible. The main structure will comprise local larch and pine and will be insulated with sheep’s wool.

The first phase of five chalets has already sold and all the buyers are British.

Retired lawyer Peter Taylor, 52, and his wife Clare are one of the first to have bought into the resort. “We have holidayed in France and Austria’s Tirol but we decided to look at different areas where things would be quieter with no lift queues and where property would be less expensive than France, ” said Peter.

For him and his wife and their five children, the H�lzern scheme ticked all the boxes.

“I had never set foot in the region before and first went to look at the development in September, ” Peter explained. “I liked the idea of a place where the owners of the company building the chalets would be there on hand to maintain them.

“I was also very impressed with Jodi’s enthusiasm for the region, her willingness to manage the project and, through her own tourism contacts, get people to come and rent the place when we are not there. It is also easy to get to from the UK, being so close to Salzburg. And the fact that is it is also a self-sufficient development came as a bonus.

The eco element is extremely impressive.” Peter and Clare, who live in Haslemere in Surrey, have bought the chalet mainly for use by their cash-poor children, who range in age from 13 to 24.

“The reason for buying the chalet is to enable our children to go out and use it as much as they are able in their early adult lives when they are short of cash. They’ll have somewhere to stay that they do not have to pay for.” For Peter and Clare, the property’s main attraction is that it lies in a quiet village surrounded by unspoilt scenery with year-round holiday potential.

Peter also liked the idea of buying a second home that did not hike up the prices locally.

“People buying into areas tends to push prices up, so if you find something exclusive like a holiday resort you are not taking away a property from someone else.” They hope to be taking their first holiday there at the end of March and are already booking in for a family Christmas in 2008.

THE LITTLE resort is far better suited to young families than teenagers seeking high-octane activities. The nearest nightclub is 30 minutes drive away in Obertauern.

As well as being mother to two daughters, Jessie, 12, and Florence, 10, Jodi, 42, is also a high mountain guide, ski instructor and on good terms with the local mayor � which was a necessary element in securing permission to build their resort.

Husband Herbi, who has been overseeing the construction, will also be responsible for the solid wooden interiors, handmade furniture and installing old Viennese brick floors that will feature in the chalets, which come fullyfurnished, measure 110 square metres and cost .320,000 (�230,000) in the first phase. They will rise to .336,000 (�242,000) in the second phase, due for completion next winter.

There are also plans to build a reception, sauna, gym and sun terrace. Jodi hopes owners will mix with the locals, who will be available to provide hot goulash stews to be ready in the oven when homeowners arrive for their winter or summer holidays. And with the Austrian tourist office reporting the biggest snowfalls in 30 years, everyone is looking forward to a white Christmas.

FACTFILE: The chalets are being sold on the proviso owners make them available for rental � a benefit that saves the purchaser 20 per cent VAT. For more information email sales@off-grid.net

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

Leave a Reply