From December 20-22, we ventured to the Austrian countryside to find the Christmas spirit in the Austrian town of Bad Gastein, situated in the region of Salzburg. Just a 4-hour drive from Vienna, in the midst of the Austrian alps, we were hoping for snow. You are right when you think that snow was not going to happen for us. However, we stayed at a gorgeous resort called Hotel Valley Grüner Baum and were spoiled just like royals back in the day. It was exactly what we needed right before all the Christmas festivities in Austria and North Carolina. On our adventures outside of the resort, we expected to find a cute old town with sweet Christmas markets, happy villagers, and lots of Christmas decorations. But we didn’t find any of that.
It seems Bad Gastein, while a necessary luxury stop for the aristocratic families of yesterday, is closer to a ghost town today. In the three days of wandering around, we found exactly one cafe which was open – thankfully we warmed up to coffee and tea at Cafe Schuh! Now, taken over by an Italian, we overheard white-haired Viennese ladies pondering over the fact that it has lost all its charm. To us, it still seemed nice, and coffee and tea were more than fine.
We made us on our way to hike the surrounding area and experienced breathtaking views over the Bad Gastein Valley. Many of the hotels have long since been abandoned, taken over by a real estate magnate some years ago and then left to collect dust after his passing. It’s both romantic and spooky in the same fell swoop to see so many old palace hotels with great interior and furniture on the inside but the doors locked on the outside. Couldn’t you imagine just waltzing through the hotel halls and soaking in all the Austrian mountain Christmas spirit?
As per usual, we found some notable advertising and chocolates — what’s more to like in a small Austrian town! There’s even a bust of Kaiser Wilhelm I, said to inhabit Bad Gastein in several summer and winter months during his reign of Prussia back in the 19th century. History buffs would love that.
So, why is this travel article called Royal Remembrance or Ghost Town? While back in the day, the Habsburg Family as well as royal families and important persons roamed the area skiing, enjoying the thermal pools and healing centers, nowadays, the town is quite sad to look at. Most houses have fences in front of them, because the outside walls are crumbling. In the photos below you can see my favorite hotel, abandoned of course. Walls are crumbling, the insides look like ghosts roam the halls. What used to be so royal is now just a ghost town.
The question remains: Isn’t it the investor’s obligation to keep the beautiful old and historical houses from falling apart?
Text: Melanie Pfeffer & Yaël Ossowski // Photography: Melanie Pfeffer