Holiday Flings

It’s quite lonely in the Ulten Valley – but very elitist nonetheless. In the early 1900s, Thomas and Heinrich Mann relax during their spa holidays in the villa of Dr. von Hartungen. Franz Kafka enjoys the remoteness of the area between Meran and Ortler, as do Christian Morgenstern and Rudolf Steiner. High society in the high mountains. In retrospect, the first traces of this development where already in place half a century earlier.

Otto von Bismarck is just 25-years-old the first time he comes to Mitterbad in the Ulten Valley. Not only is he charmed by the mineral baths, but also by the beautiful Josepha, daughter of Joseph Holzner, who runs the baths at Mitterbad and prevents a German-South Tyrolean love affair. As a pious Catholic, he refuses to give his daughter’s hand to the future Imperial Chancellor, himself a Protestant. A decision as clear as the water of the Ulten Valley. But despite the father’s wishes and their own later marriages, Josepha and Otto remain closely connected for the rest of their lives. How else could her trips to Berlin, which happened to coincide with gaps in Bismarck’s busy schedule, be explained. Josepha dies early, at the age of 38. A wreath of red roses adorns her grave: “My unforgotten Josepha. O.v.B.”

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