Taking It Slow

A new Austrian retreat gives patients a true taste of wellness.

It is dinnertime at Viva Mayr, Altaussee, and I sit alone eating a piece of stale bread. I chew slowly and thoroughly, ensuring each of my 40 bites liquefies the food before swallowing it down. My meal comprises no more than this tiny spelt morsel and a clear broth served in a china teacup. Several tables away, another guest—or patient, as we are known here—spears a boiled mini potato and takes a bite, beginning her own chewing odyssey. We lock eyes, nodding at each other as we chew, chew, chew. Finally she swallows, sighing as she sets her cutlery down on the white linen tablecloth. Behind her, Lake Altaussee sparkles.

The small Alpine village of Altaussee, located roughly 50 miles east of Salzburg, Austria, is the newest home of what Austrians call the “Mayr cure.” Developed in the early 1900s by the Viennese doctor Franz Xaver Mayr, the program—a cleanse with stringent, and sometimes tedious, practices—claims to cure any number of ailments, from arthritis to obesity, through improved digestion. The first Viva Mayr wellness center debuted in 2004 in the nearby town of Maria Wörth, offering patients a holistic approach to Mayr’s theories that combines exercise, detoxification, and medical treatments.

In April, Viva Mayr, Altaussee, opened with a more luxurious approach to the clinical style of its Maria Wörth predecessor. Set on the shores of Lake Altaussee, the 60-room retreat is housed in a modernist chalet where guest rooms and examination rooms are equally comforting, featuring blond wood floors, modern furnishings, and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the mountains. A lounge, a swimming pool, and a 6,500-


square-foot spa also provide pampering.

Still, Viva Mayr’s new facility remains devoted to its founding father’s principles. Patients begin each day with a drink from Altaussee’s saltwater springs. A tasty morning tipple it is not: The mineral-rich concoction is an unpalatable substitute for coffee that encourages highly accelerated digestion. Much of the remainder of the day is spent in the 16,000-square-foot medical center under the care of doctors who prescribe customized treatments based on each patient’s intolerances, ailments, and health goals. All patients are also educated in Mayr’s rules for healthy digestion, which prohibit beverages during meals and dictate that each bite of food be chewed at least 40 times before swallowing. 

“Our body gives us honest feedback, but we must train our self-awareness to recognize those whispers,” says Dr. Sepp Fegerl, medical director at Viva Mayr, Altaussee. “If we only notice the final cry for help, we don’t treat ourselves with the necessary respect.” 

Following my consultation, Dr. Fegerl tells me that my body whispers of high stress and overworked adrenals. My customized program calls for daily 50-minute massages, oxygen therapies, vitamin infusions, and—perhaps most challenging—slow eating. By week’s end, however, each laborious chew feels like a tiny milestone in my journey to wellness. Five pounds lighter and stress free, I realize I have never eaten better. 

Viva Mayr, Altaussee, +43.3622.71450, vivamayr.com

More Destinations