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Bad Gastein Friday 27th May

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We were so lucky. As you could see from the photos, the Grossglockner tour occurred on a glorious, warm, sunny day. Overlooking the glacier we heard thunder, then late in the afternoon it clouded over and became quite horrible, cold and heavy rain, which kept up all night. 

The Order of the Dead Chickens

It stopped while we waited for a connecting bus halfway to Bad Gastein but otherwise it has rained the whole day.  The trip to Bad Gastein was a short one but required a train-bus change. Oddly we went back on the bus past some stations we had already passed on the train, but it was the quickest way there. What a bargain. For €9 you get a two hour trip through the country. We sat up the front, next to the driver, so got the full windscreen view and we belted along tiny roads, following a quite vigorous river. Its like Sydney…you pay a pittance for a ferry ride, as a form of public transport that anywhere else would be an expensive tour.

The breakfast room at Alpenrose was jam-packed today, and we shared our table with a humourless woman who unusually for an Austrian made no attempt other than the bare minimum hello/goodbye. There were a lot of Japanese today.

I think somehow Zell am See is some sort of Muslim centre. We walked past three different places with Arabic menus…the first time I have seen that in Austria. Such an odd, out of the way place for a specific group to collect.

Ironically, this was a GOOD dog. You should see what they do to bad dogs....

So, we arrived in Bad Gastein. Its hard to comprehend the layout of the place. The town is built on two vertical valley walls facing each other, houses, hotels, chalets and so on dug into the rock or perched one above the other. In between runs a raging cataract. In our room with the double-windows closed it sounds like a plane idling, or a diesel train going past. Where as Krimml was very ho hum – large, yes, finesse no – the cascading waterfalls through Bad Gastein look like they have been photoshopped, with little side-falls merging back in, houses perched dangerously close to the edge. On a sunny day its supposed to be stunning. It was impressive on a cloudy, gloomy day, but the color was grey rather than the turquoise glory I have read about.

The waterfall through the middle of Bad Gastein

The bus driver, in retrospect, was hinting we should get off at the first stop at Bad Gastein. We stayed on to go to the station, and as the bus took off spotted the information centre right next to the departing stop. It was a killer hill to the station – every street in Bad Gastein is a heart-breaker – and then we had to trudge all the way back to the previous stop.

But it worked out ok. Sylvia took a fancy to a Pension as we staggered by, and we were back a few minutes later and took a night there. It was one of those perfect serendipity moments. Villa Hubertus is a five story mansion, owned and operated as a B&B by a chatty old lady. She had been away, only back yesterday, so the place is almost empty, although there’s a few odd couples (and I do mean odd) hanging around.

The view from the balcony, Day 1

The balcony looks out onto the valley and the waterfall. Its great. Walking up the stairs we had one of those “only in Austria” moments. The walls of the staircase are decorated with the corpses of hundreds of hunting victims. Rows and rows of deer heads and antlers, hens, squirrels, owls for God’s sake….who shoots owls? Sometimes they are simply mounted, other times a bit artistically…three black hens, for example, splayed out like a coat of arms in a triangular wheel pattern. A deer with a crucifix jammed in its head. What does that mean?  (Religion gives me a headache?) I assume the dog heads were a treasured hunting dog, rather than, say, the next door neighbour’s annoying pooch.





Deck the halls with loads of dead things….

We dumped our stuff and headed off. Lunch, sort out the train ticket to Ljubljana and then off to the ThermalBad.

Bad Gastein is famous for its heated waters which are slightly radioactive. So they say. Now if you are going to read this to the end you’ll need some help to get through the next bit. I’ll set you up with something to help you through.

Think of an old, Austrian couple. The man is fat, smokes and smells of it, face burned red and the rest of his body untanned and blubbery. His wife is skinny, but wrinkled, also a smoker with a hacking cough. Pretty standard round here. Ok. They are both naked, and their toes and fingers, and other extremities, are blue with cold and bad circulation. Got the picture? Hang on to it, you’ll need it.

There are 6-7 different pools at the thermal baths. All different sizes and shapes, different functions. For example, one has submerged deck-chair shaped seating through which the usual spa jets pump through. Another has a powerful waterfall that hammers you with a huge volume of water. They go off at intervals, and people move around trying one gimmick after the other. It’s ok. It’s easy to scoff, but if you go with it it is quite enjoyable. I should mention the outside pools steam away at 32 degrees, and the scenery includes spectacular snowy peaks, parts of the town, a steep green meadow and a chairlift.

It’s spread over a few different levels. But the top level is a variety of saunas, steam rooms, cold plunge pools and more. But that area is FKK.

For the uninitiated, FKK stands for something like Freikorperkultur…not quite right but I always mispronounce it. But what is means is…no clothing. To participate, you do so as a nudist. Sauna, spa bath, showers…men and women, all mixed in together. In quite close proximity.

We asked, twice, and the staff were obviously quite puzzled. Surely it was quite clear? So, we took a deep breath and off we went.

Don’t think about it, Sylvia and me gamboling amongst the FKKers. Think about the old man and the old woman. He’s hairy, and has misshapen toes. She could do with a wax.

Honestly, it was great. Confronting, shocking, way outside our comfort zone, but definitely a memorable afternoon.

The first room was a “Salt Cave”. Dug into the mountain, it was a salty-steam room so steamy you could not see 20 cm ahead. Given we didn’t know the lay of the land we staggered in, found a wall and paused. I came dangerously close to a fleshy collision. ( Old man…hairy ears). A voice from somewhere indicated there were seats, and we found them and sat down. WET BOTTOMS on a wet seat SOMEONE ELSE had NAKEDLY SAT ON. But no doubt vapourised clean. I hope. Colored lights played off at random intervals, dispersing through the steam, and every so often a roar of steam flushed through the room. We came back later and went further into the cave. It was key-shaped, with a huge stone centrally placed. But the second time we sat below the shot-of-steam, and I cannot believe such an incredibly intense blast of steam didn’t parboil us alive. It was fantastic.

From there we went to a plunge-pool. An old woman tut-tutted us for dropping in…you are supposed to lower yourself gracefully, which, given the 12 degree temperature, was hard task.

There were also in-between showers. There were a dozen or so, all offering different functions. The one we chose sprayed us with icy water, which was a little surprising.

On to a scented sauna, then a milder steam room, then a serious, hot sauna. Each time we went back to either the plunge pool or the showers. At the end of the row of showers was another option…two buckets on a rope. Sylvia doused herself and again it was freezing water. I gave her the gift of pulling the rope for me at a time of her choosing, and she took quite a lot of enjoyment from dumping 20 litres of icy water over me. We got tut-tutted again for laughing uproariously at this.

And then on to the final sauna, upstairs. Upstairs..and out into the open. Where you could see the view…the mountains, the hotels, the chairlift…and I expect the view could look back at you. Aah, who cares?

The last sauna, another cave dug into the rock, was extremely hot, and from there we went and sat in the small heated pool and recovered.

While we were in the sauna some bumbling idiot came in and out, fluffing around, forgetting to take off his glasses and so on, enraging the woman who seemed impervious to the heat by his opening and closing the door too many times.

He set up near us, and fussily arranged his towel. (You can slide your arse onto the same wet bench as anyone in the steam room, but in the sauna you need to underlay your bum and feet with a towel.) He turned to straighten his towel, and his gigantic, naked arse swung around dangerously close to my face. I would have been interested to see a recording of my body language at that point.

Tomorrow will be a different challenge. Ljubljana, with not a lot of research.

The old woman has a belly-button that sticks out.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

May 27, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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