Monday 31 October 2011

Bad Hofgastein

Alpentherme Spa Facility-Bad Hofgastein, Austria
These are the views of Alpentherme , the present day avatar of the Hot Spring Clinic built in the valley by piping the Hot Springs Water from Bad Gastein to Bad Hof Gastein.
Reception Hall Alpentherme Spa,Bad Hofgastein, Austria
The climb from the plains to the hills of Bad Gastein is very steep. We were panting and huffing most of the time when the walk/climb was up hill. Now if one was suffering from Arthritis or Rheumatism the climb on foot/horse/carriage  into the mountains with the hot springs would have been excruciatingly painful. 
Alpentherme-Water Treatment, Bad Hofgastein, Austria
 The Duke of Venice realised this on his very first visit  ,and along with the Archbishop of Salzburg planned and constructed a pipeline from Bad Gastein to Bad Hofgastein in the valley ,such that the temperature and Radon Gas percentage of the Hot Springs water was strictly maintained. 
Sauna-Alpentherme, Bad Hofgastein, Austria
Do you know the percentage of Radon in the air shoots just before an earthquake, and the Richter scale reading of the earthquake is directly proportional to the percentage of radon gas in the air. In fact earthquakes are predicted by measuring the Radon percentage in the air.
River in the Gasteiner Valley, Austria
The valley is a typical Alpine Valley with Pine Covered Hills on both sides and a river flowing down the middle. There was a school with about 200 students and a Pizzeria where a Mother daughter team cooked up an excellent lunch for us of Pizzas of various combinations. 
Meadows ith Cows in Gasteiner Valley
Hofgastein is a village in the eastern Alps and no chance of anybody speaking English. But sign language, the earliest form of communication humans ever used, still works wonders and we got exactly what we asked without any mistake. The Pizzas were better than Pizza Hut or Dominos, all ingredients being local and fresh.

Facilities At Alpentherme, Bad Hofgastein, Austria
The Alpentherme facility with the original Hot Spring water with Radon Gas has become a top destination for people looking to enjoy a top of the class spa experience and is a special attraction for skiers after spending the whole day in the snow skiing down the alpine slopes.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Bad Gastein- Water of life

Our guide told us that the statue was part of the First Hydroelectric Power Plant built in Bad Gastein. I still feel either he did not understand the question or we did not understand his answer.
Try imagining a world  and a life where there is no treatment for simple diseases which we today treat without a second thought. Do you know Mozart died from Asthama at the age of 35. If he had lived another 25 years how many more of his genius compositions would we have had with us today. At that time the cure for disease was bleeding. Mozart's doctors just bled him and made him all the more weak till he just succumbed to the disease or the treatment we will never know. Another treatment was water treatment and Bad Gastein because of its hot springs became famous for water treatment.
Outside was the public bath where we gathered our breath. Near the Common Bath was a statue of a lady taking a shower and we presumed that it was so. 

The signboard outside the only surviving old Water Treatment Clinic. Our German speaking guide took out the keys and opened the creaking gate and invited us to enter and have a look. It was extremely hot and humid and we had to bend almost double to walk in. The good wife had no such problem and briskly and brightly entered and examined all the nooks and crannies taking photographs with her new Nokia. I rushed out because of claustrophobia,heat and humidity.

The baths were always located adjascent to a Church. We have a picture of the church close to which the Bath and the clinic were located.                Bad Gasteins one and only Casino where we spent an enjoyable and colorful evening. However the crowd was only a tenth of what is there during the Skiing season.

Salzburg -Sound Of Music City

One more of the innumerable  statues, paintings and structures of the old city . Each has its own story from the period it was made and installed, and the inscriptions give a fairly good idea about the goings on at the time. I once saw a statue of Henry  Havelock (next to and below Nelson) in Trafalgar Square and was amused and surprised that he was honored for his role in suppressing the Indian Mutiny of 1857.


At one time or the other we have all seen this house and let us see if you can remember/ recognise it. This is  the house, lake and the swan where Sound of  Music was filmed decades ago and made the city all the more known and popular. We were informed that the Swan and its family was the same which was in the Sound of Music.
Besides Sound of Music , Salzburg is also famous for its Stiegl beer which was first brewed in the 1400s. The same brewery still stands next to the latest present day ultramodern brewing facility on the outskirts of Salzburg.

Of course the omnipresent Salzburg fortress can be seen from every where in Salzburg. It is set on a high daunting hill top but there is a small train going to the top from the center of the old city.
The train back to Bad Gastein again took 1hour 20 minutes and we refreshed  from the tiring day with the help of the Hot Coffee and Snacks served by a stewardess ,pushing an aircraft like snack trolley on the train. She completed the length of the train by the time the train reached Bad Gastein in 1 hour 20 minutes

Friday 28 October 2011

Salzburg -Sculptres and Architecture

Artistic Sculptures from the Roman Era to the latest times dot the  Old City of Salzburg. Once inside the walls of the old city one is transported into a another world of another time. The imposing buildings of the Church and also other old government buildings loom large above you . The quality of the detailed  sculptures and paintings makes one wonder how could all this be done in that time when computers and machines were out of imagination. It is indeed wonderful. What remains when empires collapse into dust are the architectural wonders created in the era and studying them closely can give one a taste and flavor of the kind of life which existed in that period. Our own Taj Mahal , Red Fort etc are themselves prime examples. 
So are the sculptres and the architecturally wonderful buildings of Salzburg. However there was no concept of toilets in old  Austrian buildings. Old paintings show people doing  the thing in the living room or in the open. 

Thursday 27 October 2011

Salzburg River-A Thrilling River Cruise

Amadeus on the Salzburg River, Austria

The Amadeus River Cruiser on the River of Salzburg. It has  350 HP Twin jet engines to sail against the fast current of the Salzach. The captain gives a running commentary but only in German.The cruise was pretty much in demand and we had to wait for 3 hours for our turn. We used the time to go to Mozart House and Doppler house where there were tourists from all countries lining up to get photographed in front of the tourist place. However Mozart was  better known than Doppler and although it surprised me my son   Akshay commented  that artists are  always  more popular than scientists. In India , everybody knows Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore but what about Aryabhatt who got zero for giving us zero. We cruised on the Salzach in the Amadeus for one and a half hours from one end of Salzburg River  to the other and then back, trying to figure out  the running commentary in German. All we could make out were the names of the places and the year when the buildings were built. It was fun especially when the captain made the Amadeus waltz in the middle of the river of Salzburg(by playing with the engines and the steering) to the loudly played tune of one of Mozart's famous compilations and the passengers gave a round of applause before disembarking.  Indeed ,a good pilot, can make a cruise doubly enjoyable and the place a top destination.

Amadeus Coming in to Dock on the River of Salzburg
Please note the beautiful large houses on the bank of the Salzburg River. Some of them are reportedly available for sale for approx US$ 2 Million or thereabouts. 

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Salzburg -The City

Salzburg; meaning  "Salt Castle" is the second most important city of Austria and derived its name from the Salt laden boats  which were carrying salt from the salt mines down the Salzach river. "Old Town" (Altstadt) has internationally renowned baroque architecture    and one of the best-preserved city centers north of the Alps. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The city is noted for its Alpine  setting. Salzburg was the birthplace of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In the mid-20th century, the city was the setting for parts of the American musical and film The Sound of Music. It is also the birth place of Doppler ,the famous scientist who  we all know for   the Doppler Effect studied in Class VIII by all of us .

The Train  to Salzburg. We got a discount  on our Gastein  Tourist Card . The journey took  an hour and we landed in  Salzburg. The train was going up to Munich. Salzburg Railway Station had an old time feel  but was undergoing modernization. Salzburg was connected to the international railway only in 2004. Breakfast at Burger King just outside the station, included a purple colored blueberry flavored hot tea which was heartily enjoyed by my wife.

On the right  is  Maria church, the starting point for city tours. There is a big market in front of the church every Thursday which is a 400 years old tradition. The guide while passing by the Main Prison informed us that it was the cheapest accomodation in Salzburg and you really don't have to do much to get in there.

The house where WA Mozart was born. At the age of 4 he was performing in Empress Maria Theresa court and under her patronage the prodigy Wolfgang became the acclaimed  WA Mozart on whose name we get Chocolate Balls in duty free shops and the Salzburg Airport is named after him. Later  he shifted to Vienna and performed/composed  there till his death from Asthma at age 57.

The house in Salzburg where William Doppler was born.It is almost adjoining the house of WA Mozart. Doppler effect can be felt when the pitch increases/reduces when sound source like Car/Engine is approaching or receding.Doppler effect is also used to measure speeds of stars and galalxies through red/blue shift.

Hotel Salzburger on the bank of the Salza river. We were surprised to see the Indian Flag flying atop the Hotel. Later on we came to know that the Indian President was visiting Salzburg and could havebeen staying/visiting the Salzburger.

The Salzach River with the twin towers on either side.On one side is the old city with the Church and the Fort. The river front here is filled with tourists from all parts of the world and you can get a glimpse of various cultures ,African, Middle East, Pakistan and India, the Japanese groups in a straight line behind the tour guide ,you name it ,you can see it.

Monday 24 October 2011

Bad Gastein-Holiday destination for the Rich and Powerful

Gastein derived from the Indo Celtic word Gastuna which means a white/grey stream of water. Bad of course ,as in Hindi, means a body of water, a spring, or spa. The hot springs in the  area  had remarkable healing effects and soon the area became famous for the curative effects of the hot springs and started drawing people in search of cures. The Emperor of Austria  Franz in the 1800s and the Archbishop of Salzburg contributed through land donations and royal funds to develop the area and soon Bathing Houses sprung up along the river flowing through the centre of the city.  The Kings and  Emperors  of Europe  started coming to Gastein to take the water treatment  and then meetings and conferences between kings and emperors taking place in  Bas Gastein . At that time Austria was the biggest empire in which the sun never set. Bad Gastein became the holiday destination for Europe’s rich, powerful and the famous.

The picture on the left shows how the water treatment was taken in those times. It was required to spend at least 90 to 100 hours in the water to complete the treatment. The ailments for which the treatment was effective were rheumatism, arthritis, various skin ailments, blood pressure etc.  In the 15th century a new branch of medicine called  Balneology was developed which dealt with treatment of disorders by the use of water and hot springs. The hot waters of Gastein with the Radon Gas were perfectly suited for balneology and on the left is an illustration of patients undergoing treatment. Please note the waterfall in the picture.Water

In the 1950s effective  Medical Treatments started coming up for the disorders which Balneology was treating and Bad Gastein started losing its visitors and importance. To take care of the issue  Bad Gastein was developed into a Ski Resort and the Cable Cars, Chairlifts were installed along with artificial snow making infrastructure and today bad Gastein is one of the top Ski Resorts with "After Ski Nightclubs , Discotheques, Restaurants ,Pubs” and the Bathing Houses (like Bellevue Mondi” also, were converted into luxury hotels and resorts.

The Wasserfall (Waterfall) through the centre of the city  . It is the same as shown in the old painting in which patients are taking the water treatment of Bad Gastein.

Stubnerkogel Hilltop

Base Station,Stubnerkogelbahn, Bad Gastein, Austria
The new  Stubnerkogel Lift consists of two sections and runs from Bad Gastein directly up to the Stubnerkogel. It is a beautiful sight with Orange coloured cable cars gently moving up to the top against the back drop of green grass on the lower slopes of the Eastern Alps.The base station of the cable car system is located next to the Railway station. 

Machinery of Stubnerkogelbahn Bad Gastein Austria
Machinery of the  Stubnerkogelbahn at Bad Gastein
This lift is the key installation in Gastein’s core ski area of Stubnerkogel – Angertal – Schlossalm, covering a length of 2,600 m and a vertical rise of 1,136 m. The cable cars move at a speed of 6M/sec or 22 Km/hr.Depending on the demand and number of tourists the Cable Cars seen in the background are introduced or removed from the operating system.
Ski Chairlift at Bad Gastein
Chairlift at Bad Gastein
There is a chairlift also which winds its way up the slopes to Stubnerkogel mountain top. It works mostly in winter when the skiing season is at its peak with skiers repeatedly going up to the top in chairlifts and cables cars and skiing down at speeds depending on the individual skill.
Restaurant at Stubnerkogel Summit Bad Gastein Austria
Stubnerkogel Mountain Summit Restaurant
There is a restaurant at the summit of the mountain which serves all kinds of food throughout the year. Chilled beer is popular in summer and hot chocolate when there is snow.  In summer ice cream is popular while apple strudel in snow.                                                                     

Snow Capped Mountains from observation deck of Stubnerkogel Summit
Snow Capped Eastern Alps from the Observation Deck
Magnificent view of the snow capped Alps  from the Glocknerblick observation deck on the Stubnerkogel.The observation deck is jutting out of the mountains and supported by chains. It has glass covered holes in the floor so that one can have a view of the depths under the observation deck.

Stubnerkogelbahn station at mountain summit
Stubnerkogelbhan Station at Mountain Summit
The cable car  lift up to the Stubnerkogel has been built at a cost of around €16.5 million. At a length of 2.6 kilometres, the lift is able to carry as many as 2800 people per hour from Bad Gastein to the main ski area.

Stubnerkogelbahn summit 7400ft at Bad Gastein in Austria
Stubnerkogelbahn Summit 7400 Feet, Bad Gastein
The Stubnerkogel lift is one of the eight prize winning summer lifts in the province of Salzburg as it supplements the regional offer for tourists in the form of downhill hiking in summer and downhill skiing in the winter snow. 
Summit Restaurant at Stubnerkogelbahn at Bad Gastein in Austria
 Summit Restaurant, Stubnerkogel, Bad Gastein 
In winter the whole area outside  becomes white with snow.
Cablecars descending at Stubnerkogelbahn, Bad Gastein in Austria
Cable Cars Descending, Stubnerkogelbahn, Bad Gastein

As the Stubnerkogel is exposed to wind, great importance is also given  to  reduce the  vulnerability to wind. This is achieved through reduced height and a change in the position of the supporting pillars - particularly in the sections where the lift enters the stations, higher roller rims, heavier cabins providing better behaviour under windy conditions as well as the use of the latest technology, such as automatic monitoring of the rope position using rope position detectors.

Stubnerkogelbahn Cable cars Bad Gastein
Stubnerkogel Cable Cars, Bad Gastein
The Stubnerkogelbahn is a top attraction of Bad Gastein and contributes towards making Bad Gastein a top destination for hikers and skiers.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Bad Gastein

The Bad Gastein Railway Station at the city centre. As guided by the Jagger Haus Bavarian waitress we went up and up and up almost a 500 ft steep  early morning climb over 500 yards and reached the city center of  Bad Gastein. Being a Sunday the grocery store was closed so we decided to explore the town on foot.

The Stubnerkogel Cableway  Station came into view which takes hikers and skiers  to the Stubnerkogel at a height of   7400 feet. Bad Gastein  itself is at a height  of 3000 ft. feet. The sight of cable cars ascending into the mountains was irresistible and within 15 minutes the tickets(using the Gastein discount card) had been purchased  and we were waiting to get into the next car.

The cable cars seat 6 people ,are very comfortable while giving  a breathtaking view  of the Austrian Alps as they  climb to Stubnerkogel. An Austrian Engineer once travelled in one of the  Indian cable cars and declared upon coming out that one day the Cable car would fall. Six months later it failed and the Indian Air force had to pluck the passengers from the cable car suspended almost 5000 feet above the ground.
The view from inside the cable cars. There is a midway stop for hikers to get out and hike  up or down hill. The Alps are a beautiful sight and suspended from the cable car we had a 360 degree view as we slowly climbed into the mountains As we ascended the vegetation changed from tall pine trees to shrubs to grass and finally bare mountains and in the distance we could see the snow covered mountains.

The  Stubnerkogel  Chairlift which follows the ski slopes and operates only during the Ski Season. Along the way there are poles which spray artificial snow to maintain the  level of snow. When  snow fall takes place and the skiing season is at its peak, the chairlift runs 24 hours taking the avid skiers up into the mountains from where they ski down again and again unmindful of the cold temperature.  Skiing through clumps of trees requires a much higher level of skill as compared to just skiing down a plain slope. Smashing into a  pine tree trunk at 40 Kmph may not be too good for health and comfort.

Flight from Vienna to WA Mozart Airport

DASH 800 of Austrian Airways
DASH -800  Austrian Arrows
The aircraft taking us to Salzburg was Dash 800 a twin engine turbo prop and the passengers could all it into one  bus.  After flying in jets the propeller driven aircraft did not inspire much confidence but there was no choice. The engines started one by one with lot of fluttering noise and soon the plane was speeding down the runway. The take off was smooth and slowly the fear of flying in a small aircraft went away even though there was some turbulence in the morning air .

Inside DASH-800
The flight was of 45 minutes duration with flying time of 30 minutes. Shortly after take off the plane headed into the mountains-eastern Alps of Austria which looked magnificent in the rising sun. Off and on we could see some snow capped mountains and we were wondering whether we would be able to reach the snow and touch and feel it. Hot coffee and cold drinks were served quickly before the captain announced that the plane was landing at WA Mozart airport at Salzburg. 
Barely Visible Alps Between Clouds

The Roast- Fresh Coffee

The Roast-Vienna Airport
The Roast near our departure gate No 44 was serving coffee with freshly roasted and crushed coffee beans and the smell of coffee was refreshing after the disturbed sleep on the flight and the cool temperature of the airport lounge. The crowd at Vienna Airport was about 10% of what we see at our own T3 at IGI, but probably because it was Saturday morning. After a hearty breakfast topped with freshly roasted/crushed coffee we were ready to board the aircraft for Salzburg.
 Austria has a very small population of 18 Million people and it was evident because there was nobody to check our boarding passes. The process was fully automated with machines reading our boarding passes. We boarded a bus which took us to the aircraft parked about 500 M away. The temperature of 7 deg C was slightly chilling. Remember there is no such thing as bad or good weather. We are simply improperly dressed.