Geo: 47.5573, 13.647
We left Flaurling prepared for rain but had nothing but bright, sunny skies for our ride to Hallstatt. Outside of Salzburg, we encountered a lot of traffic, having to lane-split for nearly 13km before we could bypass the city in favor of the country roads. After that, it was a wonderful excursion through the pristine valleys and around several azure alpine lakes of the Salzkammergut, the area from Salzburg south towards Italy. We found our lodging for the coming week nestled against the side of a narrow road cut into a sheer wall of rock at the edge of beautiful Lake Hallstatt. After unloading our gear, we walked into the village where a festival was taking place. We enjoyed cheese-filled sausages and pastries for lunch with wine and beer, all accompanied by traditional Tyrolean music. We spent the next few days exploring the wonderful village, and several other quaint towns, more rolling countryside, and lakes in the surrounding area.
On Wednesday the 19th we braved the threatening skies and took a ride north to the magical city of Salzburg, about 75km away. We spent the better part of the day taking advantage of one of those “hop-on, hop-off” bus
tours that ran us all around the old town and out to some of the palaces and museums in the outskirts. With all the traffic in the city, it was a great way to see a lot of territory without dealing with parking and repeatedly putting on gear. The “old town” area, with its squares, cathedrals, castles, and museums, also incorporated shopping and fashion districts in its beautiful old buildings, some dating back to the 1300s. Highlights included Mozart's birthplace and residence, the old Festival Hall, Fortress Hohensalzburg on a hill overlooking the city, Leopoldskron Palace and lake (home of the Von Trapp family in Sound of Music), and Hellbrunn Palace.
With a real threat of rain on Thursday, Guenther and Debbie decided to visit Hallstatt's famous Salzwelten, the oldest salt mine in the world. The tour included a quick funicular ride up the mountain, picturesque hike further up to the mine entrance, 300+ meter trek into the heart of the mine. Two wooden slides as long as 68 meters sent them down even deeper. Dating back to pre-historic times, the original miners used animal bones to extract the precious commodity, "white gold" long before the Bronze Age. The oldest
relic found to date is a 7000-year-old skeleton. Additionally, over 1500 tombs of previous miners and citizens of the area have been unearthed, in addition to the world's oldest wooden staircase. After a great tour, they boarded a very long and narrow wooden mine train that took everyone back to the surface through the four-foot wide tunnels. Today the area's three huge salt mines still produce over 300,000 tons of salt a year.
Friday was another “iffy” weather day, so the group made the short 20km drive up to Bad Ischl to check out market day in the town square. A multitude of food and sundry vendors were in attendance. Many of the locals were decked out in traditional Tyrolean clothing, including some of the children. It was another enjoyable, relaxing day, and our last one in Austria.
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