A visit to Austria’s oldest village was slotted into my family’s European holiday itinerary at the 11th hour, after my daughter received a postcard of Hallstatt from her friend.
I had not heard of this picturesque village before but apparently, the mainland Chinese are so besotted with it that a full-scale replica of the village was built in Huizhou in Guangdong province. The Unesco heritage site, one of the oldest inhabited settlements in Europe, is known for its salt production since prehistoric times.
After doing some research, we found out that it was possible to make a detour to Hallstatt on our way to Vienna from Munich but it would take about four hours by train and entailed two transfers (with big luggage bags in tow) and finally a short ferry ride. Going from Salzburg would have been much easier but that was ruled out as we had already been to Salzburg.
We arrived at the Hallstatt train station at 3.30pm. From the train station, we walked down a steep slope to get to the ferry jetty. Within minutes, we were in Hallstatt.
We checked into the Seehotel Gruner Baum, located right beside the lake and only a few steps from the jetty.
It is a very old and charming boutique hotel but provides modern amenities. The 19th century famous figure and beaut, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (fondly referred to as Sissi) and famous crime novelist Agatha Christie had stayed in this hotel before.
The first thing we did was to head to the favourite photo-op spot to take postcard pictures of Hallstatt – the Lutheran Church with the mountains for a backdrop (see top image). We had the whole place to ourselves as April is low tourist season in Hallstatt. Moreover day-trippers would have left by then. We did not hang around there for long due to the overcast sky.
We then walked to St Michael’s Church to see the Bone House, only to find that it was still closed (it opens only from May to October). Then it began to drizzle. It was only 5pm yet all the shops had closed. As there was little else to do and we were a bit hungry, we opted for an early dinner and then called it a day.
The next morning, we walked to the other end of the village, 10 minutes away, to take the funicular (9am-6pm, but closed in winter) to the Skywalk viewing platform. The return ticket for the three-minute ride was rather expensive at €16 (RM73). But going up to the mountain is a must. After all, visiting Hallstatt is about enjoying the vista.
Other than the two-hour Salt Mine Tour which costs €30 (RM136), and also covers the return ride on the funicular, everything up there is free of charge. The viewing platform offers stunning views of the fjord-like lake and the snow-capped mountains, the exhibit of the remains of a prehistoric miner, and the hiking trails. Those who do not wish to take the funicular can hike up the path (it takes about an hour) beside the funicular station. There’s also Rudolf’s Tower, next to the Skywalk, a 13th century defence tower-cum-mine manager’s residence, which has been converted into a restaurant.
When we came down at about 11am, the shops had opened and we spent the rest of our time in Hallstatt shopping for souvenirs. We did not have the time to visit Hallstatt Museum (€9/RM41) to learn more about Hallstatt’s history which dates back 7,000 years, because we had to catch the 12.45pm ferry back to the train station to take our train to Vienna.
Auf Wiedersehen, Hallstatt!
The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.
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