Hallstatt, Austria, UNESCO World Heritage Site

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September 6th 2017
Published: September 16th 2017
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We left Salzburg by train, after a 7:00AM taxi ride which our hosts graciously arranged for us. The Salzburg train station is easy to find your way around in and we had purchased our tickets for Hallstatt there a few days earlier.

The short train journey of less than 3 hours, including one quick train change around halfway, was through beautiful countryside and into the mountains dotted with small towns and the occasional castle.

It was just starting to rain as we got off at the Hallstatt stop. There is a small building here in the wilderness at the side of the track and a path leads down to a small walk-on ferry to take you on a 15 minute ride across the lake to the town of Hallstatt. I remembered that our hotel was on this side of the lake and as we wandered about looking for the route and I pulled out the directions to find the path, I saw that we should actually have gotten off two stops earlier!

We rushed back to the train stop and a schedule posted there indicated that there was only one stop past Hallstatt then the train would return on its way back towards Salzburg in a few minutes. We quickly bought tickets in the machine there, for our short ride back and were ready just as the train returned. Ten minutes later we disembarked into the small town of Bad Goisern.

We followed my emailed directions onto the small roadway named Bad Gasse and found the small hotel at the end of the path. The door was locked and I rang the bell repeatedly with no answer. Frustrated, hungry, and a little angry, we headed back towards the train station where we had seen a restaurant or two just as it started pouring rain. We piled into the doorway with us and our suitcases soaking wet and found a table to sit and warm up.

After a nice, hot lunch we were feeling a little better so I phoned the contact number I had. Sylvia answered and I explained our dilemma. She was upset and said her father was supposed to be at the hotel. We headed back again and following her new instructions, found the "main entrance" around the hedge, through the yard and up onto the deck where you enter a glass door that actually looked more like a window. Sylvia's father met us and explained the door we had tried earlier was only for night-time use, but could not explain why nobody heard the rather loud bell ring.

Pension Maria Theresia turned out to be a lovely little, Bavarian style hotel with breakfast included. We walked up the one flight of stairs and dropped our bags, quickly returning to the train station to buy tickets and once again get off at Hallstatt. The small ferry meets each train and costs 10€ each for a return ticket.

Hallstatt is a UNESCO designated World Heritage site and is a walk into the past. A beautiful little village nestled along the lake edge at the bottom of a mountain with a salt mine. The town is filled with restaurants, souvenir shops and artisans. It takes 15 or 20 minutes to walk through it to reach the funicular railway to climb 360 metres up to the beginning of the paths that lead you further up the mountain to the mine.

The first building you see, now a restaurant, is an old defensive tower built in the 13th century to protect the mine. You reach it walking across a skywalk providing spectacular views down to Hallstatt below and across the lake to the mountains.

The 'Hallstatt era' lasted from 800 to 400 B.C. More than 1,500 graves have been discovered here with amazingly well preserved items from the salt in the ground. Salt has been collected and excavated here FOR MORE THAN 7,000 YEARS!

The tour guide was knowledgable and fun, speaking both German and English. We began by dressing in heavy coveralls over our clothes and coats (only 8c in the mine) and a long walk, deep into the mountain through a series of low and narrow tunnels. Every few minutes the supporting structure would change to different materials and design as we walked back into history until we were 400 metres below ground.

The tour itself was informative and fun at times, including sliding down long, FAST wooden slides into tunnels deeper into the mountain. We ended the tour all climbing onto individual seats on a little train which took off with a huge jolt and tore off at high speed through the tiniest little tunnel yet. We all had to squeeze tightly in and crouch down as we barely fit through this tunnel. This high-speed ride had no safety precautions of any kind and was maybe more scary than fun! But we made it back safely to the surface with no obvious injuries, and probably everybody that we had started with.

It was around 5pm as we returned to the town and in a light rain as all the shops gradually closed up. We took the ferry back across the lake, bought two train tickets, and waited an hour for the next train. Back in Bad Goisern we found another traditional Austrian restaurant and had a very nice supper there before wandering around in the dark until we found our hotel again.

Our included breakfast the next morning was the traditional meat, boiled eggs, cheese and bread, along with some fruit. We were back on the train by about 9:30AM onto our next stop in Vienna.

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