After a good night’s rest we were up early as we were both eager to explore Hallstatt. A small picturesque lakefront village with a population of around 800 residents. Hallstatt is a very popular Austrian tourist town. Around 4000 tourists a day visit this quaint small town.
Why is Hallstatt such a popular destination???
~ Hallstatt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as century old timber houses reside on a picture perfect lake.
~ Chinese developers were so taken with the panoramic beauty of the town that they decided to clone it and build their own back in China without telling the Austria government!! They then sold the million dollar houses off as a money making prestige residential estate. Weddings in China are popular in their lake and garden surrounds.
~Chinese tour groups flock to Hallstatt to see the real Hallstatt. All the signage in the town is written in Chinese.
Interesting things we learnt about the area were
~ settlement in Hallstatt dates back to the early Iron Age in Europe 800 -450 BC!!!
~ Hallstatt is well known for its Salt mines. These cable cars take you directly up the mountain to the salt mine.
~ Due to tough times in the 19th century wives of miners were also forced to work. Women salt carriers would overcome the altitude barrier difference of 500 meters twice a day to the salt mines and return heavy loaded with salt rock on their back. Many women did this whilst heavily pregnant and sometimes with a baby. The occasional dummy was drenched in schnapps!!! The last salt carriers were still active around 1890.
We really enjoyed exploring the lake as it is breathtaking. After taking a few photos early in the morning before the tourist buses arrived we hired out an electric boat which cost 20 euro an hour. The trick is to come early as you cannot book a boat – first in first served and you can stay out on the lake as long as you want. You don’t pay until you return. Cash only!! Well we had a great time Rob was James Bond driving Pussy Galore!! Definitely a highlight as the electric boat was so quiet and the lake was serene. It was like we were floating on a mirror and the view every which way was stunning. Elegant swans floated aimless on the lake to add to the ambience of this fairytale adventure. We took one for the team!!! Someone had to do it!!! We were thinking maybe you don’t know what your bucket list is until you are in it!!
Once on land we explored the quaint 1 kilometre timber town full on tourist shops. Flowers were in abundance.
There were many beautiful drinking fountains.
So many pretty spaces to just loose yourself in looking out at the beautiful still mirror like lake.
The town square was stunning and just near here an eye catching waterfall makes its way down the escarpment towards the town centre.
We climbed the steps to visit Hallstatt Catholic Church which sits above the town. The small graveyard looks out on to the serene picturesque lake. Each closely knit grave is a work of art with a lovely arranged garden plot.
Next to the cemetery we found Charnel House where we were ready for our next history lesson. It cost 1-50 euros to visit the bone house. Charnel House was built in the 12th century. It houses 1200 skulls of which 610 are named and show date of death. They are arranged by family name and decorated with flowers resembling their once garden plot. Painting the skulls was seen as a sign of love. Due to the lack of space in the cemetery after 10 – 20 years after burial the bodies were exhumed and placed in the bone house. Painting of the skulls started in 1720AD.
Further on our path we spotted what looked like a snake slithering along the pathway. We climbed to the top of the stairs to view the waterfall and then made our way through the beautiful quiet back pathways of Hallstatt.
What a fabulous day we had surrounded by tall mountain peaks and a stunning serene alpine lake!!!
But there was more to explore just outside the next village in Obertraun. We walked the forest trail to Koppenbruller cave in hope of seeing the water crashing it’s way through the mountain. We were left imagining what the gushing waters would look like rushing under the bridge as it was now summer and all the snow on the peaks had melted. But this was still a beautiful walk to end our day. Back in our 350 year old accommodation we shared a glass of Austrian wine and made a home cooked meal of mushroom risotto. Rob said we got risottoed as we both fell asleep watching TV from the exhaustion of being surrounded by a beautiful alpine landscape.