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HOTEL BEETHOVEN, VIENNA

By Andrew L. Urban.

Ludwig is the name of the family who bought this once busy brothel in the once disreputable district of Vienna's 16th century food and vintage stall Naschmarkt, but old Ludwig shares the musical association with old Mozart, since the hotel is in Papagenogasse, named after Mozart's famous character from the Magic Flute. These swirling musical connections and references are given beautiful expression by the superb Bösendorfer grand that now lives in the bright, glass walled mezzanine lounge, where it is played every Sunday in the hotel's free concerts for guests.

(On our most recent stay at the Beethoven, young Japanese concert pianist Hiroko Sasaki stepped in at the last minute when the regular pianist fell ill and delivered a sensational one hour program of Chopin, Mozart and of course Beethoven.)

That same piano has been in the Ludwig family for a couple of generations, and its current owner, Barbara Ludwig played on it when practicing in her mother's house. Barbara now runs the Beethoven, one of the few remaining premium hotels in Vienna still run by Viennese families. Another is the grand old Sacher a short walk away.

Indeed, the Beethoven is within walking distance of the beautiful Vienna Opera House, the museum quarter, the spectacular building where the Spanish Horses perform their precision routines, and the city’s extensive pedestrian mall, Kärtner strasse, where designer boutiques sit side by side with souvenir shops, all leading to Vienna’s glorious St Stephen’s church. And a hundred eateries.

There are several excellent hotels in Vienna, says Barbara, but mostly they are international brands, well run but without the family dedication or the unique Viennese spirit. The latter is vital, she says, to help create that special environment that makes the place unique.

Another feature that makes the Beethoven unique is the extraordinary contraption in room 507 that calls itself a shower. Its semi circular rings embrace the showeree and spout fine spurts of water from every side, while the top shower heads deliver the rain-like waterfall. It is housed in a large space that occupies more than half the bathroom and has ample shock value. (The shower is an English piece of eccentricity, though, made by Catchpole and Rye; it is, of course part of their Cage Range.)

This is the item in room 507 that guests will definitely remember, a guiding principle that fired the imagination of English interior designer David Carter, who was persuaded to tackle the renovations over six years ago (in 2010) when Barbara's family acquired the stuffy old building that had been turned into a hotel in the 1970s.

During our interview, Barbara has an idea: she is going to call 507 the Sigmund Freud room. All the rooms are dedicated to a famous character, and this seems an apt idea, given the erotically charged shower.

Another room is dedicated to the Secession artists like Klimt, Hoffman and Moser, but Carter has withdrawn (this was his first hotel adventure) and Barbara is now working with Raimund Bruhnmoir, who completed the work on the hotel's new 6th floor, with its raked ceilings and striking colour schemes.

Having renovated and revolutionised the 5th and 6th floors, Barbara set out on an ambitious plan to give the rest of the hotel (now 47 rooms up from the original 36) the treatment, closing down from December 2016 to April 2017. She wrote what is called the positioning paper as a guide for Raimund, drawing on her personal taste, her experience in the hotel industry since a humble reception clerk at the Marriott, and a stint in marketing and as a photo agency operator. And the Bösendorfer is not the only item from the Ludwig family home, making it a showcase for fascinating items from the private home of an art loving Viennese family.

She has always aimed to attract guests who share her passion for individuality, culinary excellence and love of travel. And unforgettable showers.

Published February 16, 2017.



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