Alma in Wiener Neustadt (2015)
   Alma in Wiener Neustadt (2014)
   Alma in Prague (2011)
   Alma in Vienna (2010)
   Alma in Jerusalem (2009)
   Alma in Vienna (2009)
   Alma in Vienna (2008)
   Alma on Semmering (2007)
   Alma in Berlin (2006)
   Alma in Petronell (2005)
   Alma in Los Angeles (2004)
   Alma in Lisbon (2003)
   Alma in Venice (2002)
   Alma in Vienna (1996-2001)

Location - Panorama
   Locations 1996-2015
   2014-2015 Wiener Neustadt
   2013 Vienna
   2011 Prague
   2009 Jerusalem
   2008-2012 Vienna
   2007 Semmering
   2006 Berlin
   2005 Petronell
   2004 Los Angeles
   2003 Lisbon
   2002 Venice
   1996-2001 Purkersdorf

   Martinický Palác (Prague)
   The Russian Compound (Jerusalem)
   k.k. Post- und Telegrafenamt (Vienna)
   Kurhaus Semmering (Semmering)
   Crown Prince's Palace (Berlin)
   Castle Petronell (Petronell)
   Los Angeles Theatre (Los Angeles)
   Convento dos Inglesinhos (Lisbon)
   Palazzo Zenobio (Venice)
   Sanatorium Purkersdorf (Vienna)

Kurhaus Semmering
Semmering 88 / 2680 Semmering

> Slideshow "Kurhaus"

Austria's „Magic Mountain“
The Kurhaus Sanatorium on the mountain of Semmering

The Semmering (el. 965 m.) is a mountain pass in the Eastern Northern Limestone Alps connecting Lower Austria and Styria between which it forms a natural border. When the famous Semmering Railway was completed in 1854, the first mountain railway in Europe, it brought many tourists from Vienna to here. The aristocracy as well as artists of the literature and the fine arts (Oskar Kokoschka, Adolf Loos, Peter Altenberg or Karl Kraus, Sigmund Freud, Arthur Schnitzler, the Rothschilds). Those people served as reputation for a good holiday resort and magnets for more tourists. In 1998 the Semmering Railway was added to the list of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Kurhaus Semmering
The Kurhaus on the Wolfsbergkogel

In around 1900, the hotels on the Semmering were among the leading grands hôtels of the Alps, and hosted high-class visitors from throughout the Habsburg empire. The leading hotels - the Panhans, Südbahnhotel and Erzherzog Johann - were joined in 1909 by a fourth exceptional luxury hotel, the Semmeringer Kurhaus, a sanatorium which was known as a high-class hotel offering particular tranquillity and discretion.

Kurhaus Semmering Kurhaus Semmering
Hotel guests on the terrace
  The breakfast room

Director Max Reinhardt stayed here, as did author Arthur Schnitzler, who drafted his famous "Liebelei" at the sanatorium, and other eminent guests included Anton Wildgans, Raoul Auernheimer, Jakob Wassermann, Otto Brahm, Gerhard Hauptmann, Ernst Lothar and Alma Mahler's third husband, the writer Franz Werfel, who declared himself "saddened" by the sight of dead game.

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The famous Jugendstil dining room
  The original dining room today

Josef Kainz, the most famous actors in German speaking culture, spent the final weeks of his life here in the summer of 1910, before returning to Vienna in August, where he died on 20 September in the Sanatorium Löw. (This was where, six months later, Gustav Mahler, was also to die.)

In the First World War, the "Physical-Dietetic Mountain Convalescent Home" (Kurhaus) served as an exclusive convalescent home for officers right up to Field Marshall Conrad von Hötzendorf, whom even Austria's last Emperor Karl paid a visit there.

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The staircase, 2007
  The staircase, 1909

Alma Mahler-Werfel also regularly visited the Kurhaus, and sent her daughter Anna there in 1929 when she was suffering from jaundice. This led to Anna's marriage to publisher Paul von Zsolnay, who had caused a sensation with Franz Werfel's novel "Verdi" and spent several weeks on holiday at the Kurhaus.


In her memoirs "And the Bridge is Love",
Alma writes:

"I sent Anna, who returned sick from Paris in the previous spring, to convalesce on the Semmering. It so happened that Paul von Zsolnay also travelled up to the Semmering Kurhaus. Subsequently, Zsolnay came to Vienna and asked me for Anna's hand in marriage.

Zsolnay's father was thoroughly opposed to the marriage. This led to ugly scenes and marriage contracts, but now Anna sits virtuously, filled to the brim with protest, in her beautiful palace. If only she could find some true happiness there!"

Left: Franz Werfel and Paul von Zsolnay

Letter from the Kurhaus dated 11 June 1929 to Alma's son-in-law Paul Zsolnay:

Paul von Zsolnay Esq
Prinz Eugenstrasse 30, Vienna IV

We are in receipt of your esteemed letter dated the 10th inst. and have pleasure in informing you that your valued reservation for a one-bedded south-facing room with a balcony on the mezzanine of our establishment has been duly noted for the 27th inst. for approximately 3-4 weeks, and that, dear sir, you can certainly expect to find that your room meets your requirements upon your arrival here. We are delighted to be able to welcome you and send you kindest regards from the Kurhaus.
Respectfully yours
Kurhaus Semmering

Zsolnay Brief
> Click to enlarge

During the inter-War period, Cardinal Innitzer, Archbishop of Vienna, was a Kurhaus guest, as were star tenor Jan Kiepura with his wife Martha Eggerth, actresses Liane Haid and Renate Müller, pianist Otto Schulhof, and Pauline Horthy, daughter of the Hungarian regent.

Kurhaus Semmering Kardinal Innitzer
The Kurhaus during the inter-War period
  Cardinal Innitzer (2nd from left) with retinue

In December 1938, the Kurhaus was taken over by the Wehrmacht and converted into a "German military convalescent hospital", where leading figures of the Third Reich went to convalesce, including, in December 1943, Field Marshall "Desert Fox" Erwin Rommel, who lived in the aryanized Villa Petschek and personally carried his shoes for repair to local shoemaker Kalancuk. While receiving treatment for an intestinal parasite, he received a visit from the Chief of the German High Command, Wilhelm Keitel, and Walther von Brauchitsch, Commander in Chief of the Army.

Rommel Ärztekongress Kurhaus
Field Marshal Rommel with entourage in front of the Villa Petschek
  Conference of Physicians 1936 at the Kurhaus, participants on the terrace

Following World War II, the Russians occupied the Kurhaus, which had scarcely suffered any damage; the boundary with the British zone ran exactly along the Semmering Pass.

Besides an elegant reading room with a stunning view across to the Sonnwendstein, Kurhaus guests had at their disposal a music room and a billiard and games room, although gambling for large sums was prohibited. In the daytime, patrons would indulge in a game of tennis or golf, but could also enjoy the fresh air and sunbathe, or practise gymnastics in the open air.

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Hall with view of the Sonnwendstein
  The billiard room in the Kurhaus

Architects Franz von Krauss and Josef Tölk were engaged to construct the Kurhaus. Their firm was one of the most successful of the late 19th/early 20th century. They built countless residential houses and villas, as well as theatres such as the Volksoper and the Kammerspiele in Vienna.

The Kurhaus was designed as a reinforced concrete construction and marked the transition from historicism to modernity. The combination of Heimatstil (regional style) elements, palace architecture, decorative Jugendstil and functionalistic architecture brought about a fundamental change of style in the hotel architecture of the Semmering and had exemplary status also beyond the borders of Austria.

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The Kurhaus in winter with the Wolfsbergkogel
  Conference of Physicians 1936 in the dining room

The high-class Kurhaus enjoyed the sunniest position on the Semmering, was specifically positioned to face the south-east, and was secluded from its surroundings by woods.

The very decorative artistic interior ornamentation is related to Josef Hoffmann's geometric Jugendstil and uses elements which allude to the work of Otto Wagner, such as the balustrade and the flower baskets on the staircase. The parts of the building still preserved in their original style include the luxurious dining room with original lighting, mosaics, wall panels, dressers, and Thonet chairs made of stained natural wood.

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Music room
  Smoking room