Perched on top of Monsberg hill in the centre of old Salzburg, Schloss Monstein offers a unique experience for the visitor to this Austrian city. Despite its grand exterior - the Schloss is after all a castle - it's pleasantly intimate, with each of its 24 guest rooms decorated with a charming eye to detail.
Given the level of luxury, it's surprising to learn that the castle once served as a monastery and was an austere home to several priests before being turned to a venue of leisure.
You catch a glimpse of the imposing structure almost as soon as you arrive in the old town. Stand on the pedestrian bridge by the Salzach River, and you can see some of the hotel's pointed roof to your right, on top of the rocky hill.
Most tourists reach the hotel, which is surrounded by forest, by the Monsberg elevator, a trip that costs about ¤3.60 (Bt160), the same elevator that takes visitors to the modern art museum. While waiting for the lift, you can admire two large art pieces on left and right walls, finished with tiny mosaic pieces.
On arrival at the top, spend a few minutes on the patio and take in the city below before setting off on the 10minute walk through the Monsberg forests to the castle. Walking along the trail in October is refreshing and the leaves turning yellow and red add to the pleasure.
The castle gradually appears among the trees and seems to be full of hidden secrets. The lobby is small and it comes as a surprise to find that the elevator descends rather than ascends to many of the bedrooms. Corridors are small, often affording less than a metre of space between two doors.
Those travelling in groups will soon discover that each room has a different interior, designed specifi¬cally to fit the physical structure. Views vary too, with some windows overlooking the forest, others the river and yet others offering a vista of the city.
Room shape permitting, some guests are offered a large sitting area where they can enjoy the bas¬ket of fruits. In the attic, the bedroom is separated from the sitting area by a small wall.
Despite the differences, guests are assured of equality when it comes to bathroom amenities and the huge plasma TV, sauna, and gym. Schloss Monstein is the per¬fect place for an amazing honeymoon, a romantic getaway, and for tourists who want to enjoy the lux¬ury services amid the natural environment. One reminder: as the hotel is nestled in the forests and located up on a hill, it is cold. It was just four degrees Celsius degree when I woke on an October morning, when the weather elsewhere in Europe was around 10 degrees.
SCHLOSS MONSTEIN AT A GLANCE
High points: Outstanding view, secluded and romantic atmosphere, different interior designs for each room
Low points: Rather small inside, with several corners
Pay for it: Room rates start at 350 euro
Find it: Salzburg 5020, Monchsberg Park 26, Austria
Browse it: www.Monchstein.at