Time-out. What a wonderful word! Especially if you’re one of those lucky people who love what they do, who live for their vocation and give it everything they got. Whether job, family or even sports. And if that’s the case, then you know exactly what you are inevitably going to need from time to time — a time-out. A time-out from everyday life, stress and the routine that’s slowly starting to creep in. To recharge your batteries, free up the mind and also to change’s your perspective on the world a little, to relaunch your creative mind. And so, I’m here now, sitting comfortably inside a train, looking up to the increasingly taller mountains of SalzburgerLand that are passing by me and looking forward to my time-out over the weekend.
My goal this time around is the Gasteinertal valley. I’ve been here several times before and always love to come back. I love the authenticity of the people, the contrast between the green meadows and the forests and the grey summits of the mountains that are majestically surrounding the valley. And, above all, I love the water. And not only in the thermal baths, which are known around the world for their healing powers. Water can be found everywhere and in any shape here. As a waterfall, that, like a lifeline, crashes right through Bad Gastein, as a river in the form of the Gasteiner Ache river connecting various towns here in the valley, or even as bubbling springs, which can be found in many different sports up in the mountain, liberating exhausted hikers from their thirst. And there is also nothing more relaxing for me than to just take off my shoes, wade through an ice-cold stream and let the freshness of the Alpine waters refresh every last cell of my body.
The Alpentherme and Felsentherme thermal baths — two feel-good wellness havens
The gentle nudge of the train slowly pulls me back into reality. A look outside confirms my first thought — we’re leaving the Salzachtal valley and are turning to the Gasteinertal valley. It’s actually quite close now and I notice myself getting more excited by the second. From the corner of my eye, I can see a billboard on the road referring to the thermal baths here in the valley. Both of them, the Alpentherme in Bad Hofgastein as well as the Felsentherme in Bad Gastein, are very unique and I have already spent many lovely hours in them.
The Alpentherme thermal baths are considered among the most modern of their kind in all of Europe and guarantee to leave none of their guests’ wishes unfulfilled. Treatment visitors, those simply looking for relaxation and families will find everything they could possibly ask for. This is ensured by six experience and health areas spread across 30.000 m² with a unique 360° panorama view, amazing water slides, geysers, peace and wellness oases, the ICE CUBE cocktail bar & lounge made of glass, as well as a sauna world, which not only provides anything a sauna aficionado could ask for, but also impresses with the facility’s very own mountain lake. My personal highlight during my last visit was definitely the multimedia experience dome. Lying in water and watching films at the same time? I doubt you’re going to find that anywhere else! The two thermal bathing lakes, where you are able to swim and bathe during both Summer and Winter alike starting in July 2017, will also be a globally unique experience. More than 150 m³ of fresh thermal water will gush into the 1300 and 370 m² large lakes, allowing for a first-hand experience of the region’s nature, purity and water.
The Felsentherme thermal baths, further back in the valley in Bad Gastein, also score with various different thermal areas. Here you can relax amid fantastic architecture and a calming atmosphere, whilst adventure seekers can experience fun and excitement with the water slide, the water massage loungers, the flow channel and the magical rocky grotto with a thermal waterfall. I am amazed and excited each and every time that I come here. Especially during winter, I feel super comfy in the relax-pool and its consistent 34 degrees. And what a view on the summits! The highlight here is, undoubtedly, the panorama wellness area in the upper floors of the Felsentherme. Not only the many saunas, but also the peace and solitude when surrounded by the Hohe Tauern mountain range, visible from the roof of the sauna area, left me speechless during my very first visit here.
The power of the Gastein thermal waters
Outside, the town of Bad Hofgastein passes by and I slowly start to pack up my things as I ready to get off at Bad Gastein. This is where the world-famous Gastein thermal water emerges from 17 springs, after having completed a long journey through the rock layers of the mountains. And that is, probably, also where it obtains its powers, which have such healing, balancing and even pain-reducing effects on our bodies and the immune system. It’s not without reason that so many people from all over the world come to the Gasteinertal valley every year for wellness treatments, counting on the healing properties of the water and its special and unique mineral contents.
The wet treasure from the depths of the mountains is slightly mineralised and enriched with natural radon. After trickling down at an altitude of around 1,800 metres in the form of rainwater and dropping to a depth of 2,000 metres where it is then strongly heated, the water re-emerges at an elevation of around 1,000 metres in Bad Gastein. The mild, natural radioactivity has exclusively beneficial effects on the body when enjoyed as part of a treatment. The noble gas radon escapes from the thermal water and thus makes its way into the body via the airways and the skin. There, it unfolds its healing properties, before being completely broken down after approximately 3 hours. This stimulates the body’s defence system and the natural warmth encourages circulation. The healing effects are also amplified by the high elevation of the Gastein treatment region. The body adapts to the altitude and more red blood cells are produced, increasing the ability to transport oxygen to the rest of the body. Even Emperor Friedrich III. was aware of this, who, already in the 15th century, came here for retreats. Historic figures like Emperor Franz Joseph I., Empress Sisi, Kaiser Wilhelm I., the Shah of Persia, Chancellor Bismarck, Khrushchev and many others followed his example. The water in the thermal baths of the valley and in the spa areas of the various hotel is, incidentally, de-radonised and can thus be enjoyed without the supervision of a doctor. The beneficial effects of the weakly mineralised water remain, of course.
Slowly, the train is beginning to brake and the friendly conductor already announces the next train station, Bad Gastein, through the loudspeakers. I pack up my things, make sure I haven’t forgotten anything and make my way to the exit. In front of the railcar, I put my suitcase down on the cobblestone, take a look at the mountains and take a deep breath. This is going to be a time-out just the way I like it.