Situated on the southern shore of Lake Maria Worth in Austria, the VivaMayr medical spa was established in 2004 by Harald and Christine Stossier and is nestled in the historic region of Carinthia, south of the picturesque Austrian Alps. You can paddle board, canoe, water-ski and swim in the lake during summer months and take snowy hikes with Nordic walking sticks in winter.
What’s on offer
VivaMayr practises ‘The Cure’, a strict detoxification regime devised by legendary Austrian doctor and digestion expert Franz Xaver Mayr. Based on the principle of fasting to rebalance the body, a minimum week-long stay (three weeks is recommended) cleanses the large and small intestine, liver and kidneys and regenerates the digestive system.
Guests spend a minimum of three days (but often longer) on a restricted 600-calorie a day, soup-based alkaline diet devised specifically for each guest according to their health issues. In addition, you are encouraged to start the day with Epsom salts and take alkalising Base Powder four times a day.
At the restaurant on my first evening, my server Christina patiently explains the art of chewing - I need to eat very slowly and chew each mouthful 40 times to stimulate the digestive enzymes as the digestion process starts in the mouth. Three meals a day are advocated (snacks are not) along with limitless still water, vegetable broth and herbal tea, although you must not drink during meals as fluid dilutes the digestive juices and slows the system down.
There is a heated indoor pool where you can try underwater cycling and the stone tiled relaxation area boasts a wall of floor to ceiling windows from which you can watch herons swoop across the lake. Try the infra-red chairs, Finnish sauna (90 degrees), second sauna (66 degrees), laconium and steam room. Sports scientist Juergen Kahlhammer runs the fitness room, again with spectacular lake views from every angle, where you can experience the wonders of an electro powered exercise vest to increase your strength by stimulating different muscles to their capacity.
Tell us about the treatments?
Ah, the treatments. This is a medical clinic not a beauty spa and is definitely not for the faint-hearted. The entire first floor is an ultra modern white space reminiscent of a private hospital which is devoted to daily consultations and abdominal massages with your assigned physician (I lucked out with the knowledgeable and very amiable Dr Doris Schuscha) as well as detoxifying treatments including deep tissue massage, electrolysis foot baths, Feldenkrais (which improves physical function and reduces pain), hydroxeur herbal baths, oxygen therapy, light therapy, reflexology and colonic irrigation. The clinic also offers vitamin and adrenal infusions, mineral analysis and applied kinesiology tests to establish intolerances and sensitivities (to my surprise, I was diagnosed lactose-intolerant while my poor friend Sarah was deemed lactose, fructose and gluten intolerant!).
I was impressed by two treatments in particular- the first being nasal reflex therapy, which tackles sinusitis, bronchitis, snoring and improves resistance to colds by simply dipping a cotton bud in two aromatherapy oils and placing it in three different positions in each nose cavity. I also loved the soft pack treatment, in which you lie on a waterbed on top of heated mud packs with a heated pack of hay across your abdomen, before being wrapped in many layers and lowered over a steaming bath, creating a liberating floating sensation.
My personal highlight was a QMS Oxygen Facial with Ines in the ground-floor beauty spa, a blissfully relaxing 90-minute anti-ageing treatment comprising two acid peels and a seaweed mask to draw out impurities followed by collagen and hyaluronic acid applications which were blasted into the skin with oxygen to speed up cell renewal. I emerged with skin that felt plumped up, dewy and hydrated with noticeably fewer lines around my eyes and mouth.
The herbal tea bar – well, it is the only bar in the building - features 10 organic digestive-calming infusions. My favourites were Fennel (anti-flatulent for tender stomachs), Melitot (stimulates lymphatic drainage and breaks down blockages) and Rose of Sharon (reduces inflammation and insomnia).
The Nordic walking afternoon, offering phenomenal views of Lake Maria Worth.
The cooking lesson where you can learn the art of alkaline cuisine from VivaMayr’s talented chef (and tuck into the delicious demonstration dishes afterwards.)
Who would like it?
Hollywood stars, supermodels and Russian oligarchs rub shoulders with wealthy Austrian housewives and affluent Brits.
Anyone struggling with obesity or sugar addiction (not even fruit is available at VivaMayr).
Hardy disciplinarians or workaholics – mobile phones, iPads and tablets are banned from the dining room and a 9.30pm curfew is encouraged.
Men (the clientele is generally a 50/50 balance) who dislike traditional frilly wellness/spa destinations. There is nothing frilly about VivaMayr and that’s just the way their fans like it, with 50% of guests rebooking for the following year as they depart.