With its picturesque baroque church and handful of residents, the village of Scheffau lies at the junction of Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein. On its outskirts, a winding road – surrounded by green pastures and grazing cows – leads to the Alpenloge hotel that Anja Engelke and Michael Schott opened in 2019.
The inn was built on the foundations of a former school dating from the 1930s Engelke and Schott were careful to keep the character of the historic site alive by installing traditional wooden shingles and green shutters. The project took more than two years to complete and is a labour of love for two people who are not only new to the
village but also to the hospitality business. To furnish the hotel, Engelke and Schott visited factories from Austria to Italy to find manufacturers who shared their philosophy for well-made design.
They returned with Schramm beds from Germany, Fredericia chairs from Denmark, Serax tableware from Belgium, Gong lamps from the UK, Horgenglarus chairs from Switzerland and a 1930s vintage Pathé radio from France. Engelke and Schott are bosts: cooks, receptionists and concierges (their Labrador Sophie plays guard dog). They want guests to feel at home when they arrive and greet them with a glass of Secco from the nearby Rebhof winery. They prepare breakfast, serve dinner and live nextdoor in a former retreat for nuns. Guests can pour themselves a whisky and take a seat in front of the tiled stove or hop into the sauna and look’out across the fields. Or they can join excursions foraging for herbs. Konfekt sat down with Engelke and Schott on the terrace of their property to hear about the joys – and travails – of building their business.
What was it that inspired you to move here and open Alpenloge?
ANJA ENGELKE: Our move came from a desire for change. We met seven years ago. Michael was a photographer and I was a sociologist; meeting late in life gave us the chance to start a new together. We didn’t want to think about retiring; we were seeking a new challenge. The idea of opening a hotel evolved. It was really this place that brought us to our decision. We came across the derelict old school that stood here on a walk and thought it was in a wonderful location. We searched the entire Allgäu for a property but ended up coming back to this one. We’re located on a plateau with panoramic views and Lake Constance is nearby. Growing up in Kiel by the coast, that was important to me.
MICHAEL SCHOTT: This region is home for me: I’m from nearby Lindau. I had spent the past go years in Hamburg and fled from the fast-paced life of the city: When you’ve been away for so long, you see everything
with fresh eyes. This hotel brings everything that we had gleaned on our travels together.
What sets the Alpenloge apart?
Saying that we want our guests to feel at home, as though they’re staying with friends, may be a cliché, but that’s what the Alpenloge stands for. Our goal is to bring people together. We’ve become friends with some of our visitors. Michael recently went on a sailing trip with some clients who had prexiously stayed here. We want our guests to be able to shift down a gear. It’s quiet and peaceful here, you can climb to the top of the Hirschberg and just switch off.
Or you can watch red kites circling in the sky and rejoice in the little spectacles of nature. We have stunning starry skies; you feel far away from the world and yet you’re at the crossroads of four countries.
What approach did you take towards designing the hotel?
MS: We rebuilt what we found. We installed wooden shingles and wanted it to resemble the old school as much as possible, while adding a terrace and some modern touches
We aimed to retain as much regional character as possible. It saddens us when that is lost. We furnished Alpenloge with pieces made in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France and the UK. I love colour so we ended up using 28 different shades throughout the house. It gives you a different atmosphere when the walls aren’t white. We take care of everything from the décor to the flower arrangements.
We happened upon an antiquarian shop in Vienna and discovered century-old handpainted school boards that were once used to teach nature studies. It suited our theme and fitted the building beautifully, so we bought most of the collection. Tell us more about your food concept.
All of our food is regional. We have a great butcher in the village, as well as a dairy shop and chocolatier. Michael picked up, fresh char from the market this morning. Breakfast is important to us. We chose not to offer a buffet because it’s wasteful and brings a sense of restlessness, whereas we want the Alpenloge to be a place of tranquillity. Our dishes are refined with flowers and herbs from the garden. Guests can select their dinner preferences in the morning so that our chef knows how many tables to cater for. We love Middle Eastern cuisine and are inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes. We’re planning to host barbecue evenings on the terrace where everyone can come together-if they’d like to.
What’s special about the village‘
Our village is alive and authentic. Traditions and customs, such as the annual Almabtrieb in autumn [when cattle are driven down from their Alpine pastures] are still celebrated here. You don’t get lost here; you come here with purpose. This place sometimes reminds me of Asterix and Obelix’s Gaulish village: it’s an overlooked corner of the world that’s idyllic and charming. The size of our hotel suits the size of the town. We don’t want to be an island, we want to be part of the life of the village.