The Old Ladies
Bad Gastein has been a place for holidays long before the time of mass-tourism. In the 19th and early 20th century aristocrats (even kings and emperors) spent time here, as well as artists and many people who were rich although not famous.
Reading a biography of Winston Churchill I discovered that his first trip abroad was a holiday with his family in Bad Gastein when he was seven years old.
This glorious past has left its sign in several hotels and villas that have the typical flair of the Belle Epoque.
Mystery Church near Klammstein
Mystery Church near Klammstein (in the natural cave, see Gastein Valley above).
It is one of the most important caves of Hohe Tauern and the largest of the Salzburger Central Alps (guided tours Tue – Sun 100 ATS). You will recall R.R.Tolkien’s Lonely Mountain visiting the cave – steep ladders, sounds of the dripping water, sharp shadows etc. Even the cave’s host looks like one of the Bilbo's Companions…
Some History, Part II
Also Bad Gastein developed, probably thanks to the fact that authors of the Romantic wave, in the early 19th century, discovered the charms of the Alps, so the high peaks, the deep narrow valleys and the waterfalls became an attraction. Wildbad Gastein had many illustrious visitors, among them the Emperor Franz Josef, the Empress Elisabeth (the famous "Sissi") who wrote four poems about this place, Prince Bismarck, Johann Strauss, Franz Schubert. King Wilhelm IX of Prussia (later the first Emperor of Germany) spent many holidays here. He was so fond of Bad Gastein that he appointed painters to capture the beauty of the landscapes he liked most.The flow of visitors increased when a railway was built. The Hohen Tauern Railway was completed in 1909, but Bad Gastein could be reached already in 1905. Several public buildings and hotels were built at that time, and their style is rather homogeneous, also because most of them were designed by just two architects: Josef Wassiken, from Salzburg, and the Italian Angelo Comini.
In the early 20th century the list of famous guests included King Georg of Saxony, Lord Balfour, King Karol I of Romania, Sigmund Freud, Arthur Conan Doyle, Arturo Toscanini, Somerset Maugham, Mrs Roosevelt. Then there was the "anschluss" (the annexation of Austria to the 3rd Reich) in 1938, and then the war. In the last months of the II World War Bad Gastein was used as an emergency headquarter for the government.
After the war Bad Gastein resumed its business, and the increasing popularity of skiing gave a new turn to tourism in this area.
Not far from Badgastein is an easy hiking trail around the Hüttenkogel mountain which is 2,231m above sea level.
This is a short but highly rewarding walk with impressive views around the Hohen Tauern National Park which encompasses one of the most beautiful areas in this part of the Alps.
Gedanken auf den Alpen
The title of my page is the title of a walz by Johann Strauss, who composed it during a stay in the nice old little town of Bad Gastein
In those times the name of the town was actually Wildbad Gastein.
Strauss was just one of the many famous guests who spent some time here, enjoyed the beutiful surroundings but especially took advantage of the thermal waters.
Now many tourist flock here in winter for skiing, but I assure you that also in summer this lovely place has much to offer. The beauty of this valley makes visitors understand why several artists came here for inspration.
I created this page after spending my summer holidays in Bad Gastein in 2004. I have been on holiday here again in July 2007, so I updated my tips and added new information and pictures.