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Though it traces its roots all the way back to the 15th century, this resort, one of Europe's leading spas, gained renown only in the 19th century, when VIPs from emperors on down to impecunious philosophers flocked to the area to "take the cure." Today Bad Gastein retains much of its time-burnished allure. The stunning setting—a mountain torrent, the Gasteiner Ache, rushes through the
town—adds to the attraction. Most attempts at rejuvenating this turn-of-the-last-century jewel have met with failure, and everyone can be thankful for it. The old buildings still dominate the townscape, giving it a wonderful feeling of solidity and charm. The baths themselves, however, are state-of-the-art, as evidenced by the massive Felsentherme Gastein and the nearby Thermalkurhaus.A special tradition in Bad Gastein is the old pagan Perchtenlaufen processions in January of every fourth year (the next is scheduled for 2014): people wearing big masks and making lots of noise chase the winter away, bringing good blessings for the new year.
Filzmoos, one of the most romantic villages in Austria, is still a well-kept secret. Though skiing in the nearby Dachstein mountains is excellent...