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.
The oldest part of Bad Gastein is the one near the waterfall and to the North of it, which means a bit downhill, towards the valley.
Evidence of it is the fact that the oldest churches are there. Now also the Congress Centre and the Casino are there, as well as most hotels.
The modern part, where most of the permanent inhabitants live, is the one South of the railway station. Here is where you can find the supermarkets, the school, the foot-ball ground, the Police station and several doctors' surgeries.
Visit Gastein Valley. First town, Dorfgastein lies on the lowest “step” of the valley (836m, 2743ft.). This is a quiet little summer and winter sports resort with an open-air swimming pool heated by solar energy. Its tranquil ambience attracting many visitors who shun the more commercial neighbor towns. This small town does not use street addresses – each house has an individual name. A Gastein ski pass is valid for all cable cars and lifts in the Gastein Valley, and the ski bus is free.
Bad Hofgastein (870m, 2854 ft.) long the main town in the valley, is an old established spa and winter sports resort. It’s smaller than Bad Gastein, but almost as charming. At the center of town stands the church, surrounded by the pedestrian zone, beautiful stores, hotels and restaurants.
The various sanatoria and treatment facilities are supplied with water from the radioactive springs in Bad Gastein. There no public facilities here as in Bad Gastein; local hotels have built full spa facilities on their premises instead. A footpath affording extensive views leads past Café Gramskar to Bad Gastein (2 ½ - 3 hrs).
Late Gothic St. Nicholaskirche, dating from 1389, with a central Gothic pillared aisle and valuable frescoes, the serpentine pulpit (15th century) is the province’s oldest.
It has also original Paracelsus’ monument on the backyard. Bad Gastein is one of parts of Austria which boast Paracelsus connections. He was impressed by the curative properties of the local spa waters. Paracelsus also lived in Villach as a young man (his father practiced medicine here from 1502 to 1532), studied the respiratory ailments of Tyrolean silver-miners and died in Salzburg in 1541.
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).
Fondest memory: 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…
Bad Gastein owes its status as one of Europe's leading spa resorts to two factors: firstly, there are the 17 thermal springs, emerging 1,000 meters above sea level at the foot of the Graukogel, with a temperature of between 45 and 51degreesCelsius and a volume of 5 million liters per day - then, there are the Thermal Galleries in Böckstein, a former gold mine which is now the setting for rest cures in a super-heated.
And the secret of its success:
radon, an inert gas producing mildly radioactive emissions. Because of its ultra short decay period ( 30 minutes) and its inherent inert-gas characteristic of not forming a chemical bond with any other elements, it only resides in the body for a short period of time, during which, however, it has a healing, regenerative effect on tissue, whilst stimulating the metabolic processes.
Fondest memory: The waters of the Gastein Thermal Springs and the air of the Thermal Galleries are the only natural radon occurrences of this intensity in Central Europe! It has even been bottled as mineral water and exported throughout the world.
The most unusual spa is the healing mine in Böckstein; it’s an abandoned gold mine with very special air.
Bad Gastein (Badgastein) is a world-famous spa resort that still retains all the flair of the Belle Èpoque. Located at an elevation of 840 – 1100 m (2757 – 3610 ft.), its emblem is the waterfall that flows directly through the center of town. It is not only Austria’s premier spa, but one of the great spa towns in Europe. It offers a wide range of sporting and leisure activities that are complimented by its celebrated thermal springs.
The local tourist industry began when Frederick, duke of Styria, came here in the 15th century for treatment of gangrenous wound. The duke was healed and word spread. Large spa hotels were built as early as the 19th century. Royalty and aristocrats flocked here to “take the water”. The thermal bath facilities as well as 170 hotels in the valley have a thermal spring connection. The radioactive water is used in both bathing and drinking cures for various complaints.
Fondest memory: Yes, there are a few public drinking fountains where you can taste the water!
Bad Gastein lies on the north slope of the Tauern massif in one of the most scenic spots in the Austrian Alps. It is spread across steep hillsides split by the waters of tumbling Gaistener Ache. Numerous hotels adorn the steep slopes formed by the cascading waterfall.
Fondest memory: Bad Gastein is also known internationally as a ski resort and has been the host of world championship alpine events and the famous Silberkrug Race. The name of the Silberkrug Race comes from the heraldic sign of Bad Gastein, which has the Silberkrug (silver jug) on a blue ground.
The ancient customs of the Gastein Valley have also remained alive as they have throughout the Hohe Tauern region.
The largest of the ski areas begins on the Stubnerkogel mountain above Bad Gastein and is more-or-less lift-linked, via the small Angertal Ski center, to the skiing on the Schlossalm above Bad Hofgastein. The highest ski area is the small sector above Sport Gastein which has a base at 1600 metres and a snow-sure top lift at 2685 metres on the Kreuzkogel mountain.
The off-piste trails here are particularly highly regarded. And after a hard day skiing the 250 KM (170 miles ) of trails on the Gastein Valley Pass, it's possible to bathe in the open-air, rock swimming pool complex serviced by the hot natural springs!
I can't speak of a fondest memory, more memorable memory. At the time we were in Austria there was very bad weather in the first days of our holiday. Several roads were difficult to drive on. River Salzach was almost flooding and in Mittersill the town really flooded.
On our way to Badgastein the road was full of mud that came down the mountain. They cleaned the road for the traffic coming into the valley.
A house was almost thorn down by the mudstream. I was very impressed by this force of nature.
The second photo is of the river Salzach, which is not in Gasteinertal but going past it. It was responsible for flooding Mittersill.
Favorite thing: There are 3 churches in Bad Gastein. St. Preims kirche (Parish Church ) the 19th century with Adelahrt Altar, 'Schmerzensmann von Guggenbichler', the precious rock-crystal ostensorium is 5 min. walk down from the waterfall.
Bad Gastein streets, steep slopes and fairy tale location create a beautiful town to explore.
Fondest memory: Bad Gastein Wasserfall (Waterfall) - one of the province's most beautiful falls - and also the emblem of Bad Gastein.
Favorite thing: At the head of the valley, on the upper “step”, nestles the old town of Böckstein, 1131 m (3711ft.) There is a footpath from Bad Gastein to Böckstein (1 ½ hr).