GASTEIN, in the duchy of Salzburg, Austria, a side valley of the Pongau or Upper Salzach, about 25 m. long and 1 m. broad, renowned for its mineral springs. It has an elevation of between 3000 and 3500 ft. Behind it, to the S., tower the mountains Mallnitz or Nassfeld-Tauern (7907 ft.) and Ankogel (10,673 ft.), and from the right and left of these mountains two smaller ranges run northwards forming its two side walls. The river Ache traverses the valley, and near Wildbad-Gastein forms two magnificent waterfalls, the upper, the Kesselfall (196 ft.), and the lower, the Bärenfall (296 ft.). Near these falls is the Schleierfall (250 ft.), formed by the stream which drains the Bockhart-see. The valley is also traversed by the so-called Tauern railway (opened up to Wildbad-Gastein in September 1905), which goes to Mallnitz, piercing the Tauern range by a tunnel 9260 yds. in length. The principal villages of the valley are Hof-Gastein, Wildbad-Gastein and Böckstein.
Hof-Gastein, pop. (1900) 840, the capital of the valley, is also a watering-place, the thermal waters being conveyed here from Wildbad-Gastein by a conduit 5 m. long, constructed in 1828 by the emperor Francis I. of Austria. Hof-Gastein was, after Salzburg, the richest place in the duchy, owing to its gold and silver mines, which were already worked during the Roman period. During the 16th century these mines were yielding annually 1180 lb of gold and 9500 lb of silver, but since the 17th century they have been much neglected and many of them are now covered by glaciers.
Wildbad-Gastein, commonly called Bad-Gastein, one of the most celebrated watering-places in Europe, is picturesquely situated in the narrow valley of the Gasteiner Ache, at an altitude of 3480 ft. The thermal springs, which issue from the granite mountains, have a temperature of 77°-120° F., and yield about 880,000 gallons of water daily. The water contains only 0.35 to 1000 of mineral ingredients and is used for bathing purposes. The springs are resorted to in cases of nervous affections, senile and general debility, skin diseases, gout and rheumatism. Wildbad-Gastein is annually visited by over 8500 guests. The springs were known as early as the 7th century, but first came into fame by a successful visit paid to them by Duke Frederick of Austria in 1436. Gastein was a favourite resort of William I. of Prussia and of the Austrian imperial family, and it was here that, on the 14th of August 1865, was signed the agreement known as the Gastein Convention, which by dividing the administration of the conquered provinces of Schleswig and Holstein between Austria and Prussia postponed for a while the outbreak of war between the two powers. It was also here (August-September 1879) that Prince Bismarck negotiated with Count Julius Andrássy the Austro-German treaty, which resulted in the formation of the Triple Alliance.
See Pröll, Gastein, Its Springs and Climate (Vienna, 5th ed., 1893).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)