This past weekend a girl from my German class and I took a day to visit the town of Hallstatt, which is considered one of the most picturesque villages in Europe. It sits on the edge of the Hallstättersee on one side and on the edge of sheer mountains on the other. We traveled south by train from Linz for about two hours or so and then took a ferry across the lake to the village on the other side. Luckily, we had excellent weather (I actually got a pretty bad sunburn there) considering that the past week and a half or so had been rainy and miserable.
From across the lake, Hallstatt doesn’t even look real. I almost felt like I stepped into some sort of fairy tale. When you are gently floating across the lake towards the village, you can see houses and shops of almost every color, and the steeple of the town church dominates the top of the line of buildings. Upon arrival you could probably walk around the entire town in about 2 hours, depending on how many places you wanted to see. The streets are narrow and winding with small ivy grown allies around every corner. The architecture of the buildings is old and graceful. If you walk further away from the shore of the lake, you end up heading up the side of the mountain. Here there were more personal residences and hotels with winding stone steps and beautifully overgrown gardens.
One of the things Hallstatt is known for, besides its otherworldly beauty and its amazing hiking trails, is its salt mines. There is a large deposit of salt in the area, and this allowed permanent settlement to appear in the area at a very early point in history. The mine is up in the mountain above and behind the town, and you can choose to hike up or take a lift. Even though we didn’t get a chance to visit the mine while we were there, others have told me it would definitely be something to check out if you are ever there.
After wandering around the village for a couple hours or so and admiring the scenery, taking lots of pictures, and visiting the small shops, we had a quick lunch. Then, we got to walk high up on the hill in order to take some pictures of the village overlooking the lake. Afterwards, we went back down to the shore and found a place to rent a paddleboat for the economical price of 5.50 Euro an hour (per person). So, we got to go out on the lake and all the way to the other side, and it was great! By the time we got back it was mid-afternoon already, so we went around the other side of the town and admired the view of the lake and the mountains until it was time to take the ferry back to catch our train.
We had a little bit of a misadventure trying to get back to Linz. We got back on the train, but at one point that was way before the stop where we had to change trains, the train just stopped. Then, one of the train officials came around and said that there was a problem and we would have to get out and wait for busses to take us to the train station. The first two busses that were there when got there had just filled up, so we had to wait 45 minutes or so for the next one to come around. And when it finally did, it was standing room only. We eventually got to the train station where we could catch a train directly to Linz, but we almost missed it! The conductor of the train was leaning out the window and yelling at us to hurry up as we ran for it, and thankfully he let us get on in time! Once we got on this train, we thought we were in the clear, but once again the train stopped and there was an announcement that there was a problem at one of the stations on the way, but we were only held up for about a half an hour or so. So, instead of taking two hours to get back it took three and a half, but it was worth every delay. If you ever get the chance to go to Austria, VISIT HALLSTATT!!! You won’t ever regret it.