On the South Tyrolean Wine Road, visitors can enjoy total relaxation and recovery – Eppan has officially been a spa
for exactly 140 years. Many aristocrats, artists and writers have stayed in Eppan since that time, discovering its value as a place of recuperation.
The year 2012 sees the hundredth anniversary of the death of the well-known literary figure Karl May, creator of Winnetou, travel writer and author of numerous adventure stories. South Tyrol’s south also has cause to remember him, because Karl May spent many relaxing stays here – the last time in 1911. After the crisis in his marriage experienced by May some years before, at the Hotel Penegal on the Mendel Pass, he left the south of South Tyrol on 22 July 1911 with a last walk around the Montiggl Lake. This last trip is simply described as ‘wonderful’ by Klara Plöhn, May’s second wife, in her diary.
The two lakes and the romantic lakeside castle were at that time in the possession of the nobleman Josef von Zastrow. Nowadays, some 100 years after Karl May’s last stay in South Tyrol, the two bathing lakes (noted for their excellent water quality) are public property. They are visited by numerous locals and visitors who enjoy invigorating walks here in spring and autumn or pleasant bicycle tours, cool off in summer in the fresh water or, in winter, skim over the smooth ice of the lakes on their skates.
FORTRESSES, CASTLES AND RESIDENCES
The tiny village of Montiggl, with its charming location next to forest and lake, has over time helped form the landscape of its pretty surroundings. Nearby Eppan offers an impressive ensemble of historical buildings dating from the Middle Ages and later (influenced by the Tyrolean and Viennese aristocracy), with innumerable fortresses, castles and residences. In addition, many attractive farms and almost untouched hamlets have been preserved almost untouched to the present day.
By the mid-19th Century, the architectural attractions of Eppan, the inspiring landscape and the mild climate were appearing in the travel literature of the time. Worthy of mention is the author Ludwig Steub who, through his literary activities, succeeded in establishing the Bozen expression ‘Sommerfrische’ (summer resort) as a term used throughout the German-speaking world. Eppan and its small surrounding villages are described by Steub as follows: ‘The villages through which we walk are full of town houses with large portals, bow windows and towers, with Romanesque double windows and green shutters, mostly surrounded by joyful gardens from which dark cypresses protrude. The landscape is one of the most beautiful in all Tyrol […]’.
EPPAN BECOMES A CLIMATIC SPA
At the beginning of the 1870 Eppan developed into an officially recognised climatic spa. The area benefited in particular from the first rail passengers using the recently opened railway that now ran through Tyrol. In 1872, a small circle around the active local physician Dr. Jakob Benoni laid the foundations for tourist development in Eppan. An article in the Tyrol and Vorarlberg Messenger of 30 August 1872 praised the efforts to establish a health resort in Eppan with the founding of the ‘Curverein’ (Tourist Association): ‘[…] nowhere else do such aspects as climate, beauty etc. combine to offer so pleasant a stay to visitors who come to the warm south for health reasons, or who wish to find a safe haven from the cares of the year.’ At the meeting of the Association a few weeks later it was announced that the government in Vienna had approved the statutes of the Spa and Beautification Association – Eppan was now officially a ‘climatic spa’.
NEW HOTELS ARE BUILT
The author of the brochure entitled ‘Climatic winter spas; a guide for physicians and laymen’ feared that Eppan ‘threatened to compete with Gries as a climatic spa’ but, in both Gries near Bozen and Eppan, the new spa guests in the Bozen area and the Upper Etsch region announced a new era that had a particularly lasting influence on hotels and wine merchants and which is still noticeable today.
The first tourists were accommodated in two ‘comfortable’ hotels, ‘Zum Rössl’ and ‘Sonne’ in St. Michael or in the ‘Adler’in St. Pauls. The first adverts appeared in well-known travel guides with such slogans as ‘Recommended: 12 pretty, well-appointed guest rooms, excellent cooking, prompt service and low prices’. Daily horsedrawn bus services between Eppan and Bozen also ensured visitors a comfortable arrival and departure. In 1898 a new railway was built to the Upper Etsch region, known locally as the ‘Lepsbahnl’. Together with the new funicular railway up to the Mendel Pass, this increased access possibilities to the Upper Etsch: the turn of the century saw two new hotels opening in Eppan. The Hammerspach residence was converted into the ‘Hotel Eppanerhof’, while a Grand Hotel was opened at the new station and, after three years, was turned into the rather more lucrative ‘Sanatorium Hocheppan’. Here physical and diet treatments could be offered during a recuperative vacation, while health-conscious guests were recommended to take plenty of air and sunshine.
THE EPPAN GRAPE CURE
Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s, the Eppan climatic spa began to offer grape cures, a new treatment for guests that also appealed to many wine lovers. Some two decades after the Second World War, in the 1960s, a new tourist boom began: the Eppan tourism authorities added the suffix ‘on the South Tyrolean Wine Road’ to the name of the municipality in order to attract new visitors. Eppan today particularly attracts guests who wish to relax and enjoy themselves in a historically interesting and delightful landscape – rediscovering a notion of holidays that fits perfectly into the concept of a kinder, more sustainable tourism that is in tune with our era.
For 140 years, now the tourist authorities have therefore been trying to ensure that visitors enjoy the many quiet and contemplative locations in the ‘climatic spa’ of Eppan, offering guests one thing above all others: perfect relaxation!
Author: Martin Hanni
Born in Bozen in 1975, studied history at the University of Innsbruck. He works as freelance cultural journalist and TV editor. Since 2009 he has been director of the literary archive of the South Tyrol Artists’ Federation