Hallstatt, Austria – Roadtrip – Summer 2015

Hallstatt is a small town located on the shore of a lake surrounded by mountains, in a remote and inaccessible location, away from the highways.

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Hallstatt is a small town located on the shore of a lake surrounded by mountains, in a remote and inaccessible location, away from the highways. The only way to reach the town is through a single-lane tunnel. However, until the beginning of the 19th century, getting to the town was even more challenging; it could only be reached by lake or via a very narrow mountain trail. The population of this small Austrian town does not exceed a thousand people. Hallstatt and its surroundings are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Colorful houses, narrow winding streets sharply ascending the mountains, majestic slopes of the Dachstein mountain range, the azure waters of Lake Hallstatt reflecting the clouds, white swans on the waves, and the sparkling slopes in the setting sun – all of these await you in this charming town.

The central square, Marktplatz, the 13th-century Rudolfs Tower, rows of neat multi-storey houses, the Catholic Church of St. Mary dating back to the mid-15th century, a small chapel of St. Michael next to a tiny parish cemetery, in the basement of which lies the local charnel house. Let’s talk about this last one separately. The thing is, land is scarce in Hallstatt, and there is hardly any place to bury the deceased. Due to such a shortage, a tradition emerged in the late 18th century: ten years after death, the bones of the deceased were exhumed, dried to an ivory color, and placed in a charnel house, similar to what was done in the Czech Sedlec or, for example, in the catacombs of Paris. Some skulls were decorated with various ornaments and painted with dates of life. This freed up space for new burials, and in Hallstatt, it gave rise to a charnel house, which has become a separate attraction for tourists today.

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In Hallstatt, people began mining salt over 4,000 years ago. One of the mines, which is open for tours, is accessed by a funicular. Hallstatt’s salt mines are among the oldest in the world, dating back 3,000 years. There, you can find one of the most magnificent observation decks I have ever seen before.

It is better to stay somewhere nearby and visit Hallstatt for just one day, as the prices here are significantly higher, and the choices are not abundant. If you still want to fully immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the town, you should book a hotel in advance, as many people are eager to stay here. The town is very popular among Chinese tourists because there is an exact replica of Hallstatt in the Huizhou district, Guangdong province, China. The creation of this town was sponsored by a Chinese billionaire who invested 940 million US dollars in the project. To recreate the Salzkammergut lake, which surrounds the Austrian town, the Chinese even altered the landscape of the chosen area. At first, this greatly upset the residents of the Austrian Hallstatt, but over time, it turned out to be beneficial for the town as the number of Chinese tourists increased 20-fold. This fact, of course, does not facilitate a complete immersion and pleasant visit to the town, but like when visiting other European landmarks, it is important to have the skill to abstract and immerse oneself in the atmosphere despite everything.

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