Austrian spa bedazzles with Seuss-like setting

BLUMAU, Austria -- Anyone who has ever wondered what it might be like to live in one of Dr. Seuss' fantastical worlds can step into such a setting at the Rogner-Bad Blumau resort and spa.

Sitting on the edge of the village here in southeastern Austria, "the world's largest habitable work of art," as the resort is billed, the property opened in May 1997. Juxtaposed against a serene wooded backdrop are a cluster of buildings bejeweled in a jumble of colors and textures with windows of all shapes and sizes and topped with gold onion domes.

The project was designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who is best known for the Hundertwasser Haus, a one-of-a-kind apartment house in Vienna, complete with his signature onion domes, curious use of shapes and colors and lack of straight lines.

Rogner-Bad Blumau doesn't exactly melt into the landscape, and one has to wonder what local residents think of their new neighbor, but people staying here will be amazed by the artistic detail given to every wall, pillar and window -- no carbon copies here.

Living in Who-ville -- the town of Seuss' "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" -- takes a little getting used to, but once I adjusted to being surrounded by funky architecture in Crayola colors and the rolling walkways (I don't think the resort would have passed U.S. building codes), staying in this fairy-tale setting turned into a refreshing experience. If you need a break from crazy patterns and colors, the large bedrooms are noticeably void of splashy decor, instead bordering on spartan.

It does help that I was able to spend most of my time here wandering around in a bathrobe and slippers. In fact, along the sloping, snaking hallways, I met with guests of various ages, shapes and sizes strolling to and from the spa and thermal baths in terry-cloth robes. The only area of Rogner-Bad Blumau where guests are required to don their everyday costumes is the main dining room.

The spa, or wellness center, offers an array of treatments for the mind and spirit, including everything from a shiatsu massage to musical meditation therapy, which is highly recommended. The 100,000-year-old thermal baths, which lured the resort's creators here in the first place, are the Bad Blumau's crowning feature.

The maze of indoor and outdoor pools is fitted with jets that sporadically shoot out geysers of water in different corners of the pools. The scene of adults' chasing the rush of water around the pool, while snowflakes flutter down from a black sky, is right out of a storybook.

Fact sheet:

Address: 8283 Blumau 100, Styria, Austria.
Phone: (011) 43-33 835- 1000; Rogner International (011) 43-18 022-341.
Fax: (011) 43-33 835-1009100.
E-mail: [email protected]
Sample rates: Doubles from $110. Breakfast included.
Location: In the Styria countryside, about 45 minutes' drive from Graz; 90 minutes from Vienna. Some guests find the resort too secluded; others welcome the quiet.
Built: 1997.
Rooms: 247 doubles; 24 apartments.
Raves: Very friendly and helpful staff; interesting spa treatments and meditation options, beautifully designed thermal pools.
Rants: The mainly Austrian cuisine tends to be heavy on sauces and salt. Slanting floors and winding passages are challenging for those who are not always steady on their feet.

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