When we had planned our stay at Bad Gastein we thought that Easter would be a good time for a little timeout. We didn’t know then how urgently we really would need a break.
So our plan for our short Easter holiday in Bad Gastein was to do mainly … nothing! And beyond the seven mountains among the seven dwarves…
… we found the perfect hideaway, the Hotel “Miramonte“: A former “Kurhotel” (spa hotel) build at the turn of the century, this hotel was renovated very thoughtfully by keeping a lot of old elements from the interior of the 60s and carefully combining them with new accessories. What came out is a relaxed, hip place with a dash of retro chic, a pinch of coolness, a bit of alpine stone-pine. This, together with the familiar atmosphere made us immediately feel comfortable here. We took place on the sundeck with an amazing view on the old town of Bad Gastein, we let ourself drop on one of the deck chairs, ordered a coffee… and we had fully arrived there. No annoying boss, no deadlines, no musts.
Somehow it felt like being dropped off by a time machine about 100-150 years ago…
… When the European aristocracy came to Bad Gastein, hidden at the end of the Gastein valley in the Austrian Alps and the place to be, the “Monte Carlo of the Alps”, where Wilhelm I. as well as Franz Joseph I., Wilhelm von Humboldt or Heinrich Mann enjoyed the radon containing thermal waters in the “Badeschloss” (bathing castle) .
These times are gone, obviously. What stays is the charm of these days and the charm of decay. If you know a bit about the zeitgeist of the turn of the century, if you’ve read Kafka, Thomas Mann, Musil or Joseph Roth you probably know what I’m talking about. Euphoria and angst about the future lay so close together and flowed into an atmosphere somewhere between decadence, weltschmerz and renewal. Living on the edge, not knowing what will happen, only knowing that things for sure will change – ‘Fin de siècle’ … Am I disgressing? I don’t think so. I can see a lot of similarities to recent times.
And perhaps this is one of the reasons why nowadays a crowd of creatives is trying to reanimate this abandoned place, building something new on and with the remains of the past, translating the vibe of the old Bad Gastein into today’s language.
Of course, we couldn’t do absolutely nothing. So, besides the spa package at the hotel we had booked, besides enjoying great breakfasts with Wiesensaft (more about this soon…) and dinners at the Miramonte restaurant, besides testing ourself through the gin collection of the bar, besides listening to the sound of the Gastein waterfall and strolling through the – not quite bustling – town, we also made two small trips. One up, and one down.
We let the cable car drive us up to the Stubnerkogl at 2250 m, one of the local mountains, where we were welcomed by a stunning snow covered alpine scenery and cold winds. So we wrapped our scarf a bit tighter, put on our cap, brought ourselfs into a safe position where we were likely not to be overrun by ambitioned skiers and enjoyed the views on the Hohe Tauern range, for example the Ankogel and Goldberg group, and last but not least the Großglockner, Austrians highest mountain (3798 m).
On the other warm and sunny morning we followed the traces of the Prussian King and German Kaiser and went on a walk down the valley along the “Kaiser-Wilhelm-Promenade” to Bad Hofgastein. On this walk through forests and meadows we could enjoy the nature just awakening from the winter, we watched and listened to waterfalls, savoured the views the path offered.
Although we could have stayed here much longer – wrapped in a blanket on the sundeck – like Hans Castorp in Thomas Mann’s “Zauberberg” we had to leave the magic mountains, depart into everyday life again (although not into WWI), but in a recreated state of mind. Maybe it was the radon…