Imperial Pomp in the Salzkammergut - Part III
In the very town centre, you will find the Trinkhalle or pump house. Usually, things in England are more expensive than in Austria - here′s an exception: A glass of warm saltwater fresh from the source cost 50 pence in Bath in 2006 (last time I was there), but almost twice the amount in Bad Ischl in 2004. In any case, it tastes awful, but you just have to have one. The Trinkhalle of Bad Ischl also gives a good intro to contemporary spa culture.
Back to the very roots now: The Kaiservilla or Emperor′s Villa with its extensive park is the prime attraction of the town and among the most popular in the entire Salzkammergut. Originally owned by a lawyer from Vienna, it was bought by Archduchess Sophie and given to Emperor Franz-Jospeh I and his fiancée Princess Elisabeth as an engagement gift, i.e. shag shed. As we know today, things didn′t work out that well between the two and by the 1880ies, Empress Elisabeth encouraged her husband to acquire the nearby Villa Felicitas (now Villa Schratt) for his mistress Katharina Schratt.
Check out Where the Emperor Cheated
Alongside with catching STDs from one of his many mistresses and suppressing liberals, hunting was the most important pastime of the emperor. Entering the Neoclassical Kaiservilla, you can tell immediately: Large hunting friezes start the theme, continued by excessive numbers of hunting trophies arranged into ornaments on the walls. Otherwise, the rooms are very plain and echo to habits of Franz-Joseph I: Hunting, work, more hunting. When I was in the Kaiservilla for the first time as a 5-year-old, I was obsessed with seeing the Kaiser′s bedroom - apparently instinctively feeling that hunting chamois can′t be all he had been doing here.
Legend has it that Franz-Joseph used to chase after his prey not caring whether or not his bodyguards could catch up with him. When they suggested to be more careful, the emperor replied: "Die Ischler tun mir nix" ("The Ischlians won′t do me harm" in a rather colloquial way). Another hunting story goes as such: Franz-Joseph tried to shoot a pheasant, but missed it. Upon being asked whether he hit, his bodyguard replied: "His Majesty has pardoned the bird."
Beyond the Kaiservilla itself, there is also the park in a naturally looking English style, pioneered by people like Capability Brown and picked up by Germanic nobility in the 19th century (if you make it to Munich, compare it with the more impressive Englischer Garten there). There is also the Marmorschlössl ("Little Marble Castle") built by Empress Elisabeth and now housing a museum of photography and cameras.