Austria seems to be the place where, in the words of Judy Garland, the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. Even though time moves a little slower here, this trip couldn’t have gone by any quicker, as we have less than a week left in our new mountain home.
But, I’m not ready to get teary-eyed just yet. I still have more exploring to do, and our group has a few more exciting excursions planned for this weekend. But, one excursion that pleasantly surprised me was our group’s day-trip to the small town of Bad Ishl to visit the Kaiservilla: the former Habsburg monarchy’s summer villa. Before I arrived, I expected Bad Ishl to be a tiny tourist town filled with expensive day spas and overpriced Habsburg merchandise, but there is far more to be found in this curious town.
Bad Ishl is fed by a mineral-rich river that runs throughout the town, making it the perfect spot for spas. The former Hapsburg monarchy must have been well aware of this, as they decided to build their summer villa overlooking Bad Ishl’s roaring river. Now, this villa not only serves as an architectural beauty, but a historical wonder.
While pictures sadly are not permitted inside, the palace house’s numerous historical treasures that far transcend the Hapsburg legacy. Once you get past Franz Joseph’s ridiculous amount of mounted hunting trophies (seriously the man had over two-thousand kills in his lifetime), nestled in the various corners of the villa are historical marvels like the former Empress Elisabeth’s (Sissi) death mask, the cushion that supported her head as she was drawing her last breaths, and the most jaw-dropping of all, the desk where Franz Joseph signed the declaration of war on Serbia, the desk where World War I entered into the world’s narrative. Standing just inches away from an object that impacted billions of lives is something that I would never have imagined experiencing in my lifetime. It was an equally humbling and enlightening moment to have something as simple as a desk remind me how one person’s choice can affect the lives of billions.
While Habsburg memorabilia is inescapable in any Austrian town, Bad Ishl holds its own without the former monarchy’s presence in it. The quiet but active city streets are littered with quaint shops and cafés, and you can’t escape the beautiful view of the roaring river with the mountains still towering over top of you. Between enjoying some decadent desserts and taking in the scenery, I never felt more at peace with my surroundings.
I didn’t think Bad Ishl could have gotten anymore magnificent, until we were greeted with a vibrant double rainbow arching above the train station that seemed to beckon us back home to Salzburg. I don’t often buy into omens, but I choose to think of that fleeting display of nature’s grandeur as an event foreshadowing the magnificent beauty still to come in our remaining days in Austria: the place over the rainbow.
Check out the @msmutravels Instagram for tomorrow’s installment of #TownieTuesday and make sure to check back this week to see how our final days unwind!