The former convalescent home for the employees of the city of Vienna shines in fresh splendor as “The Comodo”.
Image: PION Studio
The old, sophisticated spa town of Bad Gastein is slowly waking up again, a new building towers high above the waterfall, and in an artfully converted spa clinic, the hotel “The Comodo” ensures that everything stays comfortable
Bad Gastein is a phenomenon. On the one hand, the spa town has only a few thousand inhabitants, no more than a larger village. On the other hand, hotels rise up here on the steep streets of the village, which any big city would be happy about – with a view that could not be more sublime and unique. Anyone who dreams of the idyll of a remote mountain village in the city, but misses the scale of the city in normal mountain villages, is in good hands in the magnificent buildings of this little town. The hotels stick like stalagmites on the slope, the most imposing, the Grand Hotel de l’Europe, is confusingly similar to Wes Anderson’s Grand Hotel Budapest, unfortunately the hotel rooms were converted into private apartments decades ago. The Belle Époque facades of the large houses are cracked and showing their age, but that is exactly what made the little town in the Hohe Tauern, which has barely 5,000 inhabitants, so incredibly attractive to city dwellers.
Bad Gastein is always slightly foggy, which is mainly due to the mighty waterfall around which the spa town has grown. At a height of 341 meters it releases an irrepressible energy, a constant noise fills the valley. Already Emperor Friedrich III. cured his ailments here almost 600 years ago, the term bath appeared for the first time at that time. Several crowned heads followed his example. In 1863, the later Kaiser Wilhelm came for the first time, and there were to be 20 spa stays – a few of them incognito. The long life of the monarch is also attributed to the regenerative power of the many baths in Bad Gastein. However, the dachshund of the hotelier Carl Straubinger did not survive the proximity to world politics, more precisely the encounter with one of Bismarck’s mastiffs. Even the ringing of the church bells was temporarily stopped so that the Reich Chancellor could switch off. Although the grandeur crumbled as intensely as the importance of Austria, the Shah and the Saudi king could be seen at the waterfall in the 1960s, in the 1970s modernity moved into the spa town with the brutalist conference center designed by Gerhard Garstenauer, and then the place fell into a long slump slumber. A Viennese investor left iconic monuments such as the Badeschloss and the Straubinger Hof to the weeds, mold and pigeons. It was only a few years ago that the state of Salzburg was able to buy back the properties. In the meantime, the Munich Hirmer Group is making sure that the splendor returns to Bad Gastein. A thirteen-story new building necessary for profitability is already in place, and the renovated Straubinger Hof is scheduled to open before the end of the year. On the renderings of the architects responsible, the new center looks very smooth, more like a Berlin investor’s dream than like mountain magic. A South American hotel chain has also discovered the Belle Époque gem and built a branch in this high-rise village.