Theodor Christomannos

Theodor Christomannos

Today probably the most glittering figure in the history of tourism in Tyrol, Theodor Christomannos, the son of a wealthy Greek merchant family from Vienna, in 1879 accompanied his mother to Gries to take the cure. When she returned home, 16-year old Theodor stayed on alone in Bozen. He completed his schooling at the Franziskaner High School, studied medicine and law, moved to Meran in 1884 and there became a judge, lawyer and enthusiastic mountaineer.

In 1887 he inherited the considerable family fortune, and when a retired minister made available a large sum of money for the building of a road to Sulden, Christomannos took on the project. Fascinated by the perspectives offered by tourism, he raised the missing funds for the construction of the road from the Emperor, the citizens of Meran and from a number of Alpine Club sections. Simultaneously he began planning a large Alpine hotel in Sulden together with the Viennese architect Otto Schmid. In 1893 it opened at the same time as the road, exceeding all expectations.

Christomannos's public and private interests were always intertwined. After his great success in Sulden, he established the Tyrol Alpine Hotel Association, with the aim of "developing the high valleys of Tyrol for the travelling public, in particular by building and running comfortable hotels, maintaining the mountain roads..." In the summer of 1896 the Association opened two more Grand Hotels, in Trafoi and at Lake Karer. He bought the Weisslahnbad in Tiers, took over a hotel at the Falzarego Pass and planned a large Alpine hotel in Cortina.

With legendary energy Christomannos threw himself into the development of tourism. He made progress with the building of the Dolomites Road, campaigned for the Vinschgau railway to be extended to the Engadin, was elected to the Tyrolean regional parliament in 1905 (partly in order to convince others in politics of his ideas for tourism) and praised the attractions of Tyrol in numerous articles and books. In his play Das weite Land (The Distant Land), Arthur Schnitzler portrays the fascinating life of Christomannos and the numerous stories surrounding him through the character of a hotel director.

In August 1910 Christomannos witnessed the fire at the Karersee Hotel, but not its reopening two years later. In January 1911 he died of pneumonia in Meran at the age of 56.