The Germans love a well-engineered machine. From vast public transportation systems to a simple pen in your hand, efficiency, ease, and dependability are sources of pride. The hotel industry is no different, at least in Stuttgart, home of such tributes to engineering as the Porsche and Mercedes Benz museums. Take a walk through the local luxury brand hotels like Le Méridien or the Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin, and you’ll quickly notice the same elements, as the tightly uniformed staff go through tightly uniformed actions each day for guests who expect no less. If you’re in town for business, this is probably what you want. But if you’re looking for something beyond, check into the Wald Hotel.
Situated on a wood hilltop overlooking the valley that cups Stuttgart’s city center, the Wald Hotel draws most of its spirit from the thickly green landscapes of the wider Baden-Württemberg region. The acres of forest that embrace the hotel don’t just provide miles of walking trails but symbolically indicate a more organic approach to hospitality.
The Wald Hotel wears its love of nature on its sleeve, or at least on its outside wall, where a large red neon finch covers one side. Inside, nature motifs continue in the lobby, subtly in the carpets and furniture, but more strikingly in the impressive artwork of Christa Winter, which displays intriguing interpretations of feathers, twigs, and birds. Checking into the hotel, the staff also reveals a looser, more human style than seen in large corporate hotels, with genuine warmth and smiles.
For rooms, guests can choose between four levels of rooms—standard, classic, comfort or superior—in the older or newer wing. The former may have a bit more historic charm, but the newer area, where I stayed, offers a bit more space and airiness. The room itself are pleasant enough with a very comfortable bed capped with a white leather headboard, wood floor, and lace curtains. But the more memorable feature remains the back balcony overlooking a spacious lawn and forest wall. It’s probably the best place to enjoy a cold lager from the downstairs bar.
The hotel gym offers yet another chance to return to nature, no so much by climbing onto the cardio crunching machinery, but by stripping down to your birthday suit and slipping into the attached wet and dry saunas. The latter requires stepping through the outdoor patio, which feels especially delightful (or especially awful) to return to after your pores are gaped wide by the steam. Kudos to the hotel for letting guests pour water on the rocks, a joy too often prohibited by many other spas, health clubs, and hotels. Should any guest desire a more well-earned sweat, the Wald Hotel sits next to a large sports complex with a track, climbing wall, ice skating rink, and yet more forest trails.
More of Baden-Württemberg can be discovered in the hotel’s restaurant Finch. The region’s cuisine, called “Swabian,” is rich in creams, sauces and broths, giving rise to locals being called “wet eaters” (Nass-Esser). Granted, the somewhat modernized, foodie versions served at Finch are not grandma’s recipe, but nonetheless delicious, from the ubiquitous Flaedlesuppe, –beafy broth with strips of pancakes–to the spätzle and schnitzel. The fabulous accompanying wines don’t hurt either.
In summer, when humidity fills Stuttgart’s valley, the hotel achieves even more popularity as the people head to the hills for a breath of cool fresh air. For those seeking the same freshness in service in accommodation, the Wald offers it year-round. The hotel’s veneer may shine as much as the famous boutique brands in town, but the roots reach deeper.
Mike Dunphy stayed as a guest of the Wald Hotel
All photos by Mike Dunphy