MCoA - Upper Austria My Corner of Austria

My Corner of Austria: Mairi Bunce in Bad Ischl, (Bezirk Gmünden, Oberösterreich)

Mairi and her family moved to Bad Ischl in the Salzkammergut in 2021, having previously been based in Vienna.

Kaiservilla, Bad Ischl
Bad Ischl and the River Traun
Panorama of Bad Ischl

What brought you to your corner of Austria?

I first moved to Vienna in 2014, but after two kids and spending the first year of the pandemic in an apartment where you couldn’t see the sky without craning your neck out of the window, we were feeling brave enough to make a big change. We’d been talking about moving to the Salzkammergut for a while and we had some connections to the area through our friends. The pieces finally lined up with work and we were able to move in February 2021.

What tradition or custom is typical for your corner of Austria?

There are so many different traditions to get to grips with here. And it’s any excuse to break out the Tracht – up to and including ‘it’s Friday!’

My favourite custom so far has been Liachtbratl Montag at the beginning of October. It originally marked the first day that employees had to work by artificial light, but it’s morphed into a celebration of everyone in town who has a milestone birthday that year. If you’re turning 50, 60, 70 and so on, you’re escorted by brass band to a special church service (octogenarians and older get to ride in a horse-drawn carriage). After church, everyone’s friends line the streets to give the Geburtstagskinder flowers and Lebkuchen hearts. It’s the most joyous parade I’ve ever seen.

Speaking of birthdays, Ischl also goes big to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Franz Josef I in August. This is only fair, since he spent all but two of his birthdays in the town. Lots of people travel here in period costumes and a vintage steam train makes the trip from Vienna for the day.

What would you recommend to a visitor who was visiting to see and do?

If you’re feeling energetic, it’s fun to get a view of Bad Ischl from higher up. Siriuskogl is a small hill within the town boundaries. There are different sensory activities for kids to explore while you walk up and a nice restaurant at the top so you can recover with a Spritzer and a great view of the centre of town.

If that’s not adventurous enough, taking the Katrin Seilbahn to 1,300m is great fun – as long as you’re not afraid of heights. The gondolas only seat four people and the track is really steep. But if you can keep your eyes open, you can see the Traunsee, Wolfgangsee, and the occasional mountain goat on the way up.

Staying on the flat, it’s fun to walk along the Esplanade, look at the colourful villas, and take in some of the locations where the first Sissi film was shot in the 50s. In summer, there’s usually something going on there at the weekend too – from flea markets to food festivals, to pottery fairs, to family fun days.

Where do you recommend for going to eat or having a drink?

With small kids tagging along, I’m not that well versed when it comes to the nice restaurants in town. But we’re experts on coffee and cake!

Café Zauner is famous for their cakes and their Zaunerstollen, which is a bit like sliceable, nutty, extra sweet digestive biscuit. I’m also a big fan of the much newer Rührwerk bakery. Their Hapsburger custard tarts are incredible and their Schinken Kipferl is a very acceptable substitute for a British sausage roll.

And you can’t spend a day in Ischl without stopping at Giovanni’s in the Kurpark. Their ice cream is exceptional and in winter they convert to frying Krapfen, which they’ll fill with your favourite jam, chocolate, or Kirsch liqueur while you wait.

How can your corner of Austria be reached (by car or public transport)?

Bad Ischl is pretty easy to get to by public transport. It has a train and bus station and, if you change at Attnang-Puchheim, you can get here from Vienna in a little over 3 hours. From the centre of Salzburg, it’s much quicker to come by bus – about 80 minutes. By car, just come off the A1 at Gmunden and follow the signs.

Does anyone famous come from your corner of Austria?

Although no one internationally famous was born in the town, everyone came on holiday here. The Hapsburgs spent their summers here even before Franz and Sisi were given the Kaiservilla as a wedding gift. Many famous composers also had a villa here – Johann Strauss, Oscar Strauss, Franz Lehar, Johannes Brahms, and Anton Bruckner to name a few. The writer Stefan Zweig also visited with his parents.

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Mairi is a freelance writer and editor who also runs English classes for kids in the Salzkammergut. You can find her as @MairiBunce on Twitter.

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