In 1912, Humanist and Gentleman Dr. Eduard Ortner made his dream come true of an English manor house on Wolfgangsee. From the beginning, his goal was to design a meeting place for aristocrats and the bourgeois upper class, from the garden concept to the interior of the villa with its Art Nouveau apartments, the small but elegant salon, and the 12 magnificent Art Nouveau stoves which are still in use. Even during the Empire, Wolfgangsee, bordered by mountains and high forests, was an attraction for an upscale summer resort, also appreciated by artists and free spirits. Then, the Landhaus zu Appesbach offered splendid isolation for quietly engaging in essential things, but without sacrificing comfort. This charm has been preserved even today. Guests feel less like being in a hotel than visiting aristocratic friends.
It is characteristic for the Landhaus that it was the scene not of one, but of two chapters in one of the greatest 20th century love stories. It is the story of Edward VIII, who gave up a kingdom for the love of a woman (while Richard III wanted to trade his for a horse). Edward Prince of Wales, successor to the British throne and Emperor of India to-be, was the Prince Charming of the 1920s and early 30s.
At 40, the idolized bachelor still had not found a princess when it hit him hard, and he fell head over heels in love with Wallis Simpson, an American. Unfortunately, Wallis did not fit the common notions of what a future Queen should be like. Not only was she a commoner and an American, but also a divorcee and - to make things worse - in her second marriage. But a divorced woman was everything but befitting the monarch who would also be the head of the Anglican Church. Until the 1950s, divorcees were not even allowed to set foot in the Royal Enclosure at the Ascot Races. How in 1936 could the King have married a divorced woman?
Edward would not be deterred by this. In November 1936, he told Prime Minister Baldwin that he would marry Wallis as soon as she would be legally divorced. After that, it was either the heart or the crown. On December 10, 1936, Edward VIII gave an address over the radio and continued to live as the Duke of Windsor. "But you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love." And where did the Duke of Windsor go after his abdication? Among other places, to the Landhaus zu Appesbach, where he lived from March 29th to May 3rd, 1937, writing soulful love letters to his Walls (…it will be so much easier once we are WE - WE for Wallis and Edward). One of the letters hangs in the Windsor Suite of the Landhaus which has remained almost unaltered. Here, guests will hang their coats and trousers in the same white lacquered wardrobe, sleep in the same bed and step into the same sunken basin of the Roman bath - surely a special kind of bathing experience. A photo shows the Duke of Windsor sitting on the balustrade of the patio. The wall is still there, too, although the ground has risen over the years - with crushed rock, gravel, stone and most recently wood - and dangling your feet lazily from the wall is no longer possible.
That is one chapter of the Landhaus love story: the Duke's Appesbach Blues. Yes, the Blues can be beautifully celebrated here as well. When Wallis's divorce finally became absolute, Edward boarded the Orient Express in Salzburg and embraced his sweetheart in Paris. The other chapter had been written earlier and only came to light in 1987 after an auction at Sotheby's in Geneva. Among the jewellery of the late Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, is a ruby pendant with the inscription, September 22, 1935 David - Wallis St. Wolfgang. Indeed, David, as Edward was also called, and Wallis spent their first romantic holiday at the Landhaus zu Appesbach - of course in strict discretion. And this is where Edward's wish matured to make Wallis his wife.
Edward was at the Landhaus as successor to the throne and as abdicated King. But the Landhaus also had a reigning King as a guest: In 1950 and 1953, King Leopold of Belgium and Princess Lilian de Rethy and their children were here a few times. At the end of World War II, King Leopold had been interned as a prisoner of war in Strobl on Wolfgangsee (where German actor Theo Lingen was mayor). On May 7, 1945 the King was liberated by American troops under Colpnel Wilson and accommodated at Auhof next to the Landhaus.
The Landhaus also brought a bit of light into the darkest part of our history when it gave refuge to people persecuted by the regime. Even to this day, the ivy-clad facades, the wonderful stands of trees including the ancient oak, and the peaceful intimate atmosphere are protecting guests from the worries of this world.
That, too, is meaningful. And he turned enthusiastic whenever he wrote about his stay at the Landhaus zu Appesbach. In his entry in the guest book, he expressed the hope to be back soon. But when he died in 1955, this wish remained unfulfilled and the novel he started in 1954 about con man Felix Krull also remained unfinished. Many artists like Thomas Mann came to this enchanting Landhaus to seek beauty, tranquillity and inspiration.
At the end of the 1960s, the Schütten family acquired the Landhaus to run it for almost 50 years, sometimes as a family operation, sometimes with employed hotel directors. The Schüttens always tried to care for this wonderful place, to keep its soul intact and to ensure that in spite of modern upgrades and the growing requirements of guests, it maintained the character of a refuge. Still, the Landhaus always kept pace with the spirit of the time. Thus, in the 1960s, it was also touched by Wolfgangsee movies with their sentimental romances, clumsy comedy and rather flat musical background for the masses. When Franz Antel made his last Wolfgangsee movie in 1971 (Außer Rand und Band am Wolfgangsee), he moved into the Landhaus with his crew, including Waltraut Haas and Michael Schanze. One thing that cannot be denied is that these movies honestly tried to create a happy mood.
Only when ARD tried to revive the hit productions of the 50s and 60s with Das Musikhotel am Wolfgangsee in 2008, that effort did not quite succeed. It was a glorious idea to use Landhaus zu Appesbach as a movie location. With a reasonably good script and a half-decent cast, not much would have gone wrong. Unfortunately the script was lousy, as was the lighting, the camera and the cutting. The cast - with popular stars like Patrick Lindner, Semino Rossi, Francine Jordi, Marc Pircher and the brachial comedian Mike Krüger - included only two real actors. One of them, Sascha Hehn, first thought he had fallen for a gag like You're on Candid Camera when he saw the film material. But the Landhaus was able to withstand even that attack against good taste without suffering any damage. The non-movie was shot in two weeks. In his last Wolfgangsee movie, Franz Antel had needed six weeks for the outdoor shootings alone. But perhaps he took so long because he felt so well at the Landhaus.
What a real music hotel should look like was shown by Johnny Schütten - himself a gifted pianist and composer- with his Salon Evenings in the off-season. Artists were invited to the Landhaus. In the evenings they met in the charming small salon to make music together. The other guests could not only enjoy these high-quality performances, but were also able to have conversations with the artists in the informal atmosphere during the day. The well-known mezzo soprano Angelika Kirchschlager, accompanied on the piano by Johnny Schütten, was as delighted by the intimate atmosphere of the salon as her audience. She said songs had been written precisely for such evenings. But it didn't always have to be classical music. Jazz also sounded good in the salon, with its two grand pianos and a drum set played by artists such as Pete York of the Spencer Davis Group or Martin Drews of the Oscar Peterson Combo.
From 1989, Johnny Schütten managed the Landhaus which he always considered an overall work of art that could never be finished. Not a hotel keeper himself, it became increasingly difficult for him to balance the books and still find time for his compositions and other projects. In 2016, with a heavy heart, he sold the Landhaus, but in the knowledge that he had found a buyer who understands, values and preserves this place. Someone who seamlessly continues the history told by the Landhaus zu Appesbach. It tells of aristocrats and upper-class citizens, of artists like stage actor Michael Heltau ("This is an incomparable place with indescribable charm and excellent quality"), of composer György Sándor Ligeti or writer Robert Schneider; of sports stars such as Toni Sailer or David Coulthard, and last but not least of the many regular guests, some of whom are frequenting the Landhaus in the third generation, continuing to seek the beauty, the peace and the magic which this place promises in all seasons, whether in the snow (as at New Year's Eve parties), in bright sun or even in the rain.
Once when it rained at Wolfgangsee for days on end, Johnny Schütten apologized for the poor weather to an English regular. The Englishman, sitting on the patio reading a book, looked up and said: "Don't be sorry! It's not rain, it's liquid sunshine."
Nowhere can this British wisecrack be better understood than at Landhaus zu Appesbach.