Breaking Bad Ischl … crystal clear waters and meth-od in the madness of a gung ho emperor holidaying in this happy-go-lucky Salzkammergut town

Usually, the view from high up on a mountain would most certainly have my undivided attention. Yet, whilst standing nearly 900 metres above sea level on the mountain of Katrin in the middle of Austria’s beautiful Salzkammergut region, I couldn’t help but dwell more on the sign outside the mountain’s cable car station instead. This was not because the sign was the only thing I could actually see from that vantage point as the mist was rolling down Katrin mountain at the time, obscuring any panoramic view of the surrounding mountain range…

Salzkammergut, Bad Ischl, Katrin Klettersteig sign

… but because I was rather intrigued by the sign’s suggested ‘do’s and don’ts’ on climbing the peak.

Clearly there are some climbers out there who think attaching their climbing clamps to their thighs (right) is the most sensible thing to do. I'm sure the threat of toxic fumes passing from their backside as a result of doing this erroneous act (as warned by the sign), should discourage them

Clearly there are some climbers out there who think attaching their climbing clamps to their thighs (right) is the most sensible thing to do. I’m sure the threat of toxic fumes passing from their backside as a result of doing this erroneous act (as warned by the sign), should discourage them

What the view should have looked like from Katrin cable car station

What the view should have looked like from Katrin cable car station

...and what I could actually see

…and what I could actually see

Hallstätter See to the left? Traun See to the right? I couldn't see anything thanks to the mist

Hallstätter See to the left? Traun See to the right? I couldn’t see anything thanks to the mist

Salzkammergut, Bad Ischl, Katrin cable car through mist at top

For my own safety I decided to abandon any further ascent up mount Katrin and took the cable car back down to Bad Ischl instead.

Below the mist line I could finally see the handsome town of Bad Ischl

Below the mist line I could finally see the handsome town of Bad Ischl

Now, I’m sure I am not the first English-writing blogger to play on the German word for ‘bath town’ and concoct a tenuous link with the American TV drama Breaking Bad in an attempt to be witty and clever. Whilst walking around Bad Ischl however, it wasn’t just the town’s name that lent itself naturally to such a connection with the world of Walter White.

Heisenberg symbols were dotted all around Bad Ischl, usually by pedestrian crossings

Heisenberg symbols were dotted all around Bad Ischl, usually by pedestrian crossings

Inside Bad Ischl station, was it just coincidence that the typeface used was similar to the opening titles of Breaking Bad?

Inside Bad Ischl station, was it just coincidence that the typeface used was similar to the opening titles of Breaking Bad?

Look! A digger breaking Bad Ischl soil. Hawh hawh! (and yes, I did take this photo in the town)

Look! A digger breaking Bad Ischl soil. Hawh hawh! (and yes, I did take this photo in the town)

Bad Breaking Bad associations aside, I didn’t see any evidence of this charming Austrian spa town being the location for a large international crystal meth factory. Yet, there were signs that maybe a milder recreational substance had a strong influence on the town.

2015 was not so much the Summer of Love but the Summer of Garden Festivals for Bad Ischl. Amongst several specially designed horticultural features for the town's festival, was this one

2015 was not so much the Summer of Love but the Summer of Garden Festivals for Bad Ischl. Amongst several specially designed horticultural features for the town’s festival, was this one

Salzkammergut, Bad Ischl, garden festival beetle car Flower Power, close up

Stoned, or just a little wooden? Traditional Bad Ischl 'residents' welcoming visitors inside the town's tourist information centre

Stoned, or just a little wooden? Traditional Bad Ischl ‘residents’ welcoming visitors inside the town’s tourist information centre

As with the original Flower Power generation, there was a strong holistic and bohemian air in Bad Ischl, particularly in and around the delightfully named 'Happiness Alley' where this spiritual stone took centre stage

As with the original Flower Power generation, there was a strong holistic and bohemian air in Bad Ischl, particularly in and around the delightfully named ‘Happiness Alley’ where this spiritual stone took centre stage

No one walked around Bad Ischl with flowers in their hair, but the banks along the crystal clear River Traun running through the town were lined with lushous flower boxes (although this box was in desperate need of some dead heading)

No one walked around Bad Ischl with flowers in their hair, but the banks along the crystal clear River Traun running through the town were lined with lushous flower boxes (although this box was in desperate need of some dead heading)

Salzkammergut, Bad Ischl, Schropferplatz view from bridge

Salzkammergut, Bad Ischl, Schropferplatz from bridge, statue Gewidmet von Amalie Drouot Linz 1899

Celebrating the river's historical importance to the town, once used to transport salt from the local mines out and bring grain and other foods in

Celebrating the river’s historical importance to the town, once used to transport salt from the local mines out and bring grain and other foods in

Salzkammergut, Bad Ischl, Traunreiter close up

One of Bad Ischl's pretty shopping streets used by local traffic only

One of Bad Ischl’s pretty shopping streets used by local traffic only

A traditional Austrian tourist attraction outside the tourist information centre

A traditional Austrian tourist attraction outside the tourist information centre

I felt I was going nowhere when I took a ride in this carriage

I felt I was going nowhere when I took a ride in this carriage

Horses were not the only creatures spotted around the town.

Not one...

Not one…

Not two...

Not two…

...but at least three lions can be found roaming around Bad Ischl

…but at least three lions can be found roaming around Bad Ischl

It wasn’t just a pride of lions that was a surprise find in the town either.

I travelled all the way from London to the Salzkammergut for a taste of traditional Austrian culture, only to come across a set of British red telephone boxes!

I travelled all the way from London to the Salzkammergut for a taste of traditional Austrian culture, only to come across a set of British red telephone boxes!

Strange and unique though it maybe, it is not the town’s quirkiness that has put Bad Ischl on the map. Nearly two hundred years ago, Princess Sophie of Bavaria came to the town to bathe in its waters in the hope of curing her infertility. Within two years of her visit she had given birth to a son who was to become Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. Years later, the Princess bought a property in the town to give to her first born as an engagement present. The Kaiservilla became Emperor Franz Joseph’s annual summer retreat for over sixty years. As well as entertaining the finest members of Europe’s aristocracy there, it is believed that the Emperor officially declared war on Serbia at the Kaiservilla after his nephew and heir-apparent Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist, an act that started a chain of events and alliances culminating in World War I.

The picturesque Kaiservilla, Bad Ischl

The picturesque Kaiservilla, Bad Ischl

At first glance it seems ironic that such a tranquil, peaceful place was arguably the setting for an event that eventually led to World War I

At first glance it seems ironic that such a tranquil, peaceful place was arguably the setting for an event that eventually led to World War I

Although the Kaiservilla is rather grand inside…

The Kaiservilla's Entrance Hall where many balls and state dinners were held

The Kaiservilla’s Entrance Hall where many balls and state dinners were held

Mementoes from the Emperor's family on display in the Dining Room, including this ball gown worn by the Emperor's wife Elizabeth (who apparently loathed the Kaiservilla and rarely visited it)

Mementoes from the Emperor’s family on display in the Dining Room, including this ball gown worn by the Emperor’s wife Elizabeth (who apparently loathed the Kaiservilla and rarely visited it)

The Kaiservilla's Small Dining Room where intimate family meals were held. All the objects and finery in this room are original and were used by the Emperor and his family

The Kaiservilla’s Small Dining Room where intimate family meals were held. All the objects and finery in this room are original and were used by the Emperor and his family

…it doesn’t take long whilst walking around the estate to realise that actually the Kaiservilla was probably the most suitable place to declare war on a nation. Emperor Franz Joseph I was a prolific huntsman and the Kaiservilla is strewed with his hunting ‘trophies’.

As soon as one walks into the Kaiservilla, one is faced with Emperor Franz Joseph's collection of hunting scalps

As soon as one walks into the Kaiservilla, one is faced with Emperor Franz Joseph’s collection of hunting scalps

Every scalp is marked with the animal's fateful date and location

Every scalp is marked with the animal’s fateful date and location

The Emperor's hunting trophies line almost every wall in the Kaiservilla

The Emperor’s hunting trophies line almost every wall in the Kaiservilla

Most aristocratic families usually line the walls of their staircases with family portraits. Emperor Franz Joseph lined his private staircase with his greatest hunts, including the head of a bear he shot in Russia whilst as a guest to the Czar, and an albino chamois (just below the eagle) he shot in Jaffa whilst on a state visit to the opening of the Suez Canal

Most aristocratic families usually line the walls of their staircases with family portraits. Emperor Franz Joseph lined his private staircase with his greatest hunts, including the head of a bear he shot in Russia whilst as a guest to the Czar, and an albino chamois (just below the eagle) he shot in Jaffa whilst on a state visit to the opening of the Suez Canal

In the aptly named Hunting Room are the remains of the 2000th chamois shot by the Emperor (centre, next to a portrait of the Emperor's son, Crown Prince Rudolf) and the skulls of two stags whose anklers became tangled during a duel

In the aptly named Hunting Room are the remains of the 2000th chamois shot by the Emperor (centre, next to a portrait of the Emperor’s son, Crown Prince Rudolf) and the skulls of two stags whose anklers became tangled during a duel

The animals were never able to unlock themselves... so the Emperor shot them both

The animals were never able to unlock themselves… so the Emperor shot them both

I don't know who looks more proud

I don’t know who looks more proud

Useful information

Bad Ischl makes for a fascinating day trip from Salzburg. There are several guided tour packages available in Salzburg, but it is just as easy – and cheaper – to go under your own steam.

Trains via Salzburg go to Bad Ischl daily, but some routes are not direct. The 150 bus service is more regular, strangely faster (if direct) and reliable. The buses on this route are more like coaches and are very clean and comfortable. The journey – travelling through some of the most beautiful areas around Salzburg – takes around an hour-and-twenty minutes direct and terminates outside Bad Ischl’s main train station. The bus can be boarded outside Salzburg’s main train station or at Mirabellplatz. Tickets can be bought online, at either station or on the bus and cost around €10.50 (2016) one way. Timetables and ticket prices can be found on the Salzburg public transport website here.

There are around eight coin-operated lockers in Bad Ischl station should you wish to leave any luggage there whilst taking a few hours to explore the town.

The Katrin cable car is open year round, only closing if the weather is extremely bad. There is an occasional bus from Bad Ischl station to the cable car ground station, but it can easily be reached by foot via the town. It is very well sign posted and takes around half an hour. Ticket prices for the cable car are quite steep but then all cable cars in Austria are. More information can be found on the official Katrin cable car website here, and a handy PDF copy of their brochure in English can be found here.

Entrance to the Kaiservilla is via a timed tour only, available daily during the summer months, but only on a couple of days in the week during the winter. Booking in advance is not essential. Note that the tours are in German only, but don’t be put off if you are not a German speaker. Non-German speaking visitors are handed a small guidebook in their own language and are given a head start from the tour group. Time your entry into a room just right between the earlier tour leaving and the later tour arriving, and the room becomes exclusively yours – albeit for a short time – to wonder around at your leisure and take snaps of without others getting in the way. Absolute bliss! Opening times and ticket prices can be found here.

TLT x


Dachstein Salzkammergut, Krippenstein Dachstein Shark, people beside sharkDachstein-Krippenstein … ice caves, 5fingers and the Dachstein Shark


Just over half the skulls in Hallstatt's Beinhaus (around 600) have been decorated, named and dated, a tradition that began in the eighteenth century

Hallstatt … salt mines, stunning lakeside views and the not-as-eerie-as-one-might-think Austrian ‘Bone House’ in the heart of the Salzkammergut


The streets are alive with the sight of art work: Salzburg Kunstprojekte Salzburg der Salzburg Foundation, Salzburg Art Project, 2007, Wurst Group, Sphaera, Stephan Balkenhol, Kapitelplatz, frontSalzburg‘s fascinating ‘Walk of Modern Art’

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1 Response to Breaking Bad Ischl … crystal clear waters and meth-od in the madness of a gung ho emperor holidaying in this happy-go-lucky Salzkammergut town

  1. Anne Guy says:

    Loved the painted lions and the colourful houses though not too keen on the interior design….how many coat hooks can a house need..?!

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