The Belle Époque and construction of the Hotel Union
It is the height of the Belle Époque and Dobbiaco is a favoured holiday destination for the elite of Vienna. Among the many illustrious guests choosing it for their holiday was the composer Gustav Mahler who wrote two symphonies and his famous piece Das Lied von der Erde right here. In those days there was a direct rail link between Dobbiaco and Vienna, the Südbahnlinie, built in 1871 connecting Austria and the Adige valley via Val Pusteria.
In this era of major social and cultural changes, the first Hotel Union opened its doors in 1900. It is likely that the then owner was in direct contact with the management of the railway line in Vienna from whom he obtained the permit to build so close to the station, not a usual situation at the time. The same year saw an electric power station built which fed the hotel, rendering the building ultramodern and competitive.
The name Union, chosen by the owner and the only hotel so-named in the whole of Alto Adige, is reminiscent of the hotels in Northern Europe and the United States usually built right next to a railway station, the name also referring to the hotel's social function. Indeed the Hotel Union soon became a favourite meeting place, bringing together people from diverse origins and cultures all sharing a common desire to experience, first-hand and in comfort, the spectacular natural landscape of the Pale Mountains.
Little remains today of that first building, but the photographic records of the day demonstrate the mixed architectural style chosen by the owner. This style blends the Anglo-Saxon world with traditional German elements as the angular Erker tower and more rustic style features like the wooden balconies and hotel sign. Browsing a leaflet from that era we soon see how, right from its inception, the hotel provided top quality facilities and services with therapeutic treatments, health-giving baths, a spacious dining room with both large and small tables, a café on the veranda, a musical salon and a room for conversation, an annex with some private apartments, a garage for cars and its own stable.
Hotel guests could also enjoy fresh running water, something we take for granted today, but in those days a rare luxury, coming directly from a private spring and delivered via a two-kilometre-long pipeline which still exists today.
At that time the hotel was run by the Ranges family who took personal care of the rooms and the entertainment for guests in the elegant lounge.