Thermalbad Vöslau, Thermal Baths with a History
In days long past, kings and emperors were drawn to this fashionable health resort. The personal physician of the musical genius Ludwig van Beethoven, Dr. Malfatti von Monteregio, was the one who discovered the healing powers of the water here. That pure mineral water still bubbles up today from a depth of 660 meters, emerging from its original spring in the middle of the thermal baths complex. The spirit of the fin de siècle is as present here as is that of the Belle Époque. Angelika Hager: “The thermal baths were a gathering spot for the luminaries of Viennese intellectual and artistic life. Arthur Schnitzler, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Alma Mahler-Werfel, all of them came here for a brief respite from the heat of the big city to enjoy summer holidays in this health resort.”
“You swim in pure mineral water here. It is so relaxingly low-key and has the charm of earlier times.”
“The thermal baths were a gathering spot for the luminaries of Viennese intellectual and artistic life. Arthur Schnitzler, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Alma Mahler-Werfel, all of them came here for a brief respite from the heat of the big city to enjoy summer holidays in this health resort.”
From Baden to Vienna and into the Big Media Companies
Hager fled from Baden, the town south of Vienna where she was born. For this young, ambitious woman, it had become too confining, too tranquil, and yes, too idyllic. Vienna lured and enticed this wild spirit. After studying journalism and theater, Angelika Hager found her calling as a journalist. Today she heads up the society section of profil, a major Austrian news magazine, and writes a weekly column called Chaos de luxe for Freizeit-Kurier. The latter has been so successful that it has given rise in the meantime to several books, a series and a TV film. And yet her heart remains passionate, she rarely treats herself to a rest and constantly presses on to the next challenge. Thermalbad Vöslau is one place she does find some peace and quiet, it is her wellspring of revitalization. “As a journalist, you are always hustling to meet tight deadlines. Here I swim in pure mineral water, leave the rat race behind and revel in the charm of an earlier day. I can sit under old trees, in the same shade where so many famous stories unfolded. It is a chance to let go and just think for a change.”
It was Vöslauer, the Austrian mineral water company, which led Hager to this town. “They wanted me to write a book about the health resort and arranged for me to have one of the splendid bathing huts for an entire summer. This place has had a hold on me ever since.” She wrote a novel (Wer jung bleiben will, muss früh damit anfangen = Anyone who wants to stay young has to start doing so early on) draws an arc from summer holidays of old to those of today. “Families once traveled with 48 pieces of luggage and three maids. They ran salons that attracted the cultural elite of the day. I blended this esprit with the present day.”
“Art Should also be Allowed to Hurt Sometimes"
Since 2011, Angelika Hager has also been the director of the summertime literary festival "Schwimmender Salon" (Swimming Salon). As idyllic as the venue of this event series may be, the program is ultimately also selected to pique and provoke. “In literature, in art, I think you have to guide people to places that hurt. Lively, amusing literature is not the only kind that should be presented. You have to have a fan that can be unfolded more fully. We want the festival to remain small and manageable, in keeping with our motto: the best literature with the best presenters in the loveliest setting. Or as the German late-night talk show host Harald Schmidt once noted smugly: Salzburg is Bad Vöslau for the poor. I think he hit the nail on the head.”
The German word “Sommerfrische” conjures up the languid summer holidays of a century ago, a month (or more) in the country as it were. Angelika Hager associates these welcome intervals of rest with contemplation, with idleness: “People are relentlessly bombarded with sound on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or TikTok. But it would be so healing for us all to just lay all our I-phones aside and become aware again of good conversation and just how wonderful it is. People are always so panicked about missing something. They should consciously reject this notion and immerse themselves in the languor of a summer day when fantastic new thoughts can arise.” There is no better place to do this than in the vast Kurpark, where there is still plenty of space for new stories to unfold.