Bad Ischl, Austria – May 2017

We left Krems on Sunday,May 28th and got to Bad Ischl around 1 pm. If one takes the major route, only takes 2 1/2 hours. We decided that we wanted to take the secondary roads and enjoy the countryside. Part of our route was on the “Romantikstrasse”, the Romantic Road, and we took 4 hours to reach our destination. Very worthwhile, we drove through beautiful countryside, less traffic on the side roads and saw farmers cutting their crops. So much fun driving our little Fiat 500 stick shift on the winding roads. Had the top down the whole way. 

Countryside from Krems to Bad Ischl. Robin enjoying the Fiat convertible!
Bad Ischl (Bad means bath) is located between the rivers Traun and Ischl. It was here that Emperor Franz Joseph chose to establish his summer court and where he met his future empress, Sisi. Bad Ischl was and is known for its thermal waters and people used to come here for these “medicinal saline waters”. Legend has it that the Empress could not become pregnant so spent time in the waters. She had two sons who became known as the “salt princes”. Interesting that a lot of the buildings that were built in the Emperors time are yellow in colour. It is said that yellow represents wealth.

An impressive estate was built, the Kaiservilla. It is here that on 28 July 1914 Franz Joseph signed the declaration of war against the Kingdom of Serbia signalling the start of World War 1. 
The area is known as the Salzkammergut, which means “salt chamber estate” and refers to an area where salt (white gold) was mined. The salt was used in trading with other countries and was under the control of the imperial chamber of Vienna, the Habsburgs. 

There are 76 lakes in the Szlakammergut area with small villages dotting the shorelines and rising above them are the Dachstein mountains. The area was named as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1997. The only economic driver in this area is said to be tourism. The population of Bad Ischl is around 14,000.

When we reached our apartment, we were met by the owners, an English couple ( Mike and Jenny). who have lived in this area for over 10 years. The apartment we are renting was their previous holiday home when they still lived in England. Mike had even emailed us prior to our arrival to remind us that stores would be closed when we arrived, so we ensured that we had enough food to get us through till Monday. We have run across some great landlords on this trip!  The apartment is well furnished and very comfortable and only a 10 minute walk into the town, across the Ischl river. Once we get settled in we head into the centre of town as the annual “Weindorf” is taking place. A festival where local wines are featured. There were. numerous booths were you could sample wine or local foods. A bandstand featured a “swing/jazz” band playing, kind of seemed out of place!

Top picture is the view from our apartment, a beautiful building in Bad Ischl in the main park, Claire enjoying wine at the wine festival when we arrived.
I mentioned in a previous blog posting that the residents of Austria wear their traditional clothing on special occasions. We have learnt through speaking to locals, that a movement is on the rise for Austrians to wear their traditional dress on a daily basis. We have definitely seen more people with their traditional dress on and even among young adults, nice to see. 

On Monday the 29th, we head out to the town of Hallstatt, this has been on my “must see” list for quite some time. It is classified as “the world’s prettiest lakeside village”. It is built within a very narrow space between Hallstatter See (Lake) and the Dachstein cliffs, very picturesque,the oldest community in Austria. It is said that the space in the cemetery is so narrow that the bones of the dead were historically dug out after 10 years and placed in a “beinhaus” (ossuary). Salt was mined here for centuries and was said to be the oldest salt mine in the world. So needless to say,this picturesque village is jammed packed with tourists, lots of tour buses,mainly Asians. Once again we are told that a replica village has been built in China. 
Following are several photos from Hallstatt….it’s hard not to take so many pictures. 

We arrived early enough that most tour buses had not yet arrived. A nice walk through the town and time for a coffee before crossing the lake on the local boat that travels back and forth from the train station (other side of lake) to the town. As we are waiting for the boat, a group of Asians are taking pictures in front of the boat dock….Robin decides to “photo bomb” them,and runs up beside the older Asian woman who is getting her picture taken so he can be in the picture as well. They think this is so funny,so do I. They all start taking more pictures and I captured one of them taking pictures of Robin and his new friend!

Robin with his new best friend!

We did about a 1 1/2 hour hike ending up in the small town of Obertraun at the end of the lake. We had our lunch here and we see a paraglider floating down, lots of them around here…..only problem is that he lands in the lake! Luckily there was a small tourist boat that was nearby and they veered course to help the paraglider as did a small dingy from shore. They get the guy and his chute out of the water. Just after this the local water rescue team arrives, makes sure he is o.k. Quite something to see, important thing is that he was o.k. Imagine this happens on occasion, don’t think I will be taking up this sport. I am afraid of heights and not the best swimmer!

Our hike to Obertraun
Back to meet the boat to return to Hallstatt by early afternoon. We make a stop at the local Protestant Church and there is a plaque on the church that tells the story of the Protestant reformation in this area, very interesting. Definitely time to leave…..way too many tour buses in town!

Drive back to Bad Ischl and spend the afternoon discovering this local town. We have had lovely weather while here, most days +27C to +30C.
Decide to take in another hike on our last day in the area. We leave early once again, as the forecast is for hot weather. We arrive in Altausee which is located on a lake by the same name. We take a walk around the lake which takes us about 2 hours. During our walk we come across school children that are out of class with the teachers. Must be the same around the world…not sure what to do with kids at the end of the school year, so take them out so they can burn off some energy. Once again an enjoyable morning in the outdoors. This was such a lovely area as very few tourists around. We think that this town caters to local Europeans, lots of people our walking, hiking and bike riding. 

Head back to Bad Ischl and walk into town to enjoy a pastry at Cafe Zauner, which is along the esplanade by the river. The guide books say that if you do not make a stop at this cafe, you are missing a true highlight of Bad Ischl. The cafe was founded in 1832 and it is said that Emperor Franz Joseph used to visit every day to enjoy the pastries, when he was in Bad Ischl. I have one of their most popular pastries, a light pastry made with whipping cream with lemon flavouring. The waiter assures me that there were no calories in my pastry. Robin choses a chocolate pastry (no surprise there) with strawberries on the top. Both very delicious. Need to leave Austria so that we quit eating their delicious pastries….oh right…just remembered we are headed to France….croissants and pain au chocolat!
As we head back to our apartment, the skies turn black and a storm is coming in. Not surprising considering the very hot weather for the past few days. 
We head off tomorrow morning back to Vienna and a flight to Paris in the afternoon and will stay overnight. On Thursday, we take the train to Rennes in Brittany, our next stop on this trip. 
We have really enjoyed the Salzkammergut area, absolutely beautiful.

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