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You could get nostalgic looking at old postcards of Schenna. In the 1950s, it was still a dreamy farmers village with only a few guesthouses for the first holidaymakers. In some cases, guests could already rent a room in a farmers house. Tourism was at its beginnings. However, year after year new friends arrived, and slowly, Schenna became the small little holiday village not far away from Merano.
One of the first people who understood the signs of a new era was mister Mair. He built the 1st bed and breakfast in "Schönna" – as it was spelled in those days. In these more than 60 years, lots of things have changed. Only one thing remained the same: the passion for our profession.
By the way, you can read the detailed history of the Hohenwart Hotel in our chronicle!
What is it like to look back after 60 years, how does it feel?
Mr. Mair sen. smiles. Sometimes, when his wife and himself walk over the site, they can't believe how everything has developed. "We were really lucky, regarding our health and everything else. But it is important to react quickly when a chance arises." In the beginning, we had a site of 8,600 ft². Today, the site comprises almost 1 hectare. One wish remains: "I hope that my children get on well together and continue what we have built up."
The beginning was more than modest, but also very brave. And actually, everything was due to NATO's. In 1951 maneuvers by NATO took place. Franz Mair was then part of the army, and due to his knowledge of the area, he was employed as a chauffeur. He drove around South Tyrol. He lived in hotels at Stilfser Joch, in Sulden, in Cortina… he was waiting around a lot, and so he had plenty of time to think.
"I often thought: Why shouldn't we be able to have some tourism in Schenna as well?" Once he returned home his mother supported him and his plans. Franz Mair inherited 8,600 ft² of building ground and the wood for the attic construction from his older brother, who stayed on the farm. He needed a loan and applied to the Raiffeisenkasse Schenna bank, but the bank did not provide him with the requested loan. "Later on, when I was elected to the Advisory Board of the bank, I asked them the reason for the refusal. They told me: "You were not married at the time, so we thought why would you need a house? If you were to buy a field we would have given you the money!"
They believed: Goods (fields) have to be used, not houses – since houses do not contribute to income. (If you look at the later development in Schenna it is hard to believe that people thought this way.)
However, on the 20th of August 1957, Hohenwart was the 1st B&B that was opened in Schenna. A medical congress took place in Meran. Thanks to the intervention of an acquaintance, a participant and his wife were to get a room at Hohenwart. "I was sitting there and was waiting. It was Sunday and I was wearing my traditional costume. And while I was waiting, many thoughts came up to my head. What will the future be like? Up to now I had a beautiful life and was off every Sunday. And now I have this house – and at that point, I was still single. I had 2 helpers: my cousin and another woman, they were my team so to speak. I welcomed my 1st guests – and the next morning I made them breakfast." His smile gains a sense of reflectiveness… Mr. Mair puts his hands on the table, and when looking at his hands you can tell that these hands are well able to work. The farmer's son and a degree holder of an agricultural school at the Benedictines in Bozen-Gries participated at the waiters' course afterward.
And there was plenty to be done… the attic was extended during the following winter and 6 more beds were added to the existing 18 beds. The house was not heated during winter time… as you couldn't "heat the whole house for just 1 person!" The number of requests increased and Hohenwart was gladly recommended by its guests. Mr. Mair was "a jack of all trades".
3 years later he finally married Mrs. Anna Hölzl from Schennerhof. (During the wedding the guests presented a small play. One of them played Franz welcoming a guest at Hohenwart: Welcome, this is the house, down there you see Meran, over there Schenna Castle and the 200 girls with broken hearts!) "Once the wife came into the house, business increased quickly. She cooked, I served, and later on, we opened the Cafe, something that I had already planned for a long time."
The most beautiful experience?
"I had many beautiful experiences, but the most beautiful of course was to finally have a wife. Then we had children, Christine, Sepp, and Hanni, this was probably the most beautiful experience." After returning from a short trip, Mr. Mair saw a red stadia on the neighbor's ground. "I quickly went to the owner and asked him what was happening. I felt very disappointed since the owner had always promised to sell this land to me. Finally, I managed to acquire half of the land and 6 months later the construction works started. "The big change occurred in 1967, when we extended our B&B from 22 to 85 beds. It took almost 2 years until we were able to manage these new dimensions." Numerous administrative aspects had to be solved before we could start with the construction of the main building before the first guests visited us in August 1979.
Despite all the stress (and success) át the hotel, we had to make sure to have enough time for the children: "Twice a day we ate together and had time to talk to each other. Because family is the most important thing in life." The children had their own room where they could be by themselves and didn't get disturbed; we always clearly separated job and private life for the sake of our children. Mr. Mair laughs: "It can't our out if the children get served by the waiter."
Mr. Mair was part of the Tourism Association since 1959, which was then called "Beautification Association". Many innovations were down to his initiative. Some things have been seen with great skepticism: for example, when Hohenwart was the 1st house to offer a breakfast buffet, some locals thought "Is this really necessary? The tourists will even eat us up!" Not much later this offer was standard practice. The secret to success? Luck, obviously. "And the many loyal regular guests. You have to be careful with money." Even when we stayed in a good hotel during our holidays, we took the opportunity to observe interesting things and then introduced them to Hohenwart.