Hallstatt is a prehistoric village dating back to the Celts of almost 1000bc. It’s claim to fame is the salt mine which has been mined for the last three thousand years. After the Celts came the Romans. Both an old Celtic burial ground and a Roman one were found nearby and were methodically excavated in the mid 1800’s. There is a museum here displaying the archeological finds from nearly 1000 graves. Salt continued to be mined and in the early 1600’s a pipeline made of thousands of hollowed out trees fed liquid brine to tanks downstream. The city itself is built on an alluvial plain at the mouth of a roaring mountain stream. The stream was tamed and the main force was channeled away from the center of town. There was really not much area to build on so the residents built up the side of the mountain. There are approximately 900 permanent residents living in houses which are many hundreds of years old. In fact there was no room for a road and an upper path was created by making a foot path thru peoples attics. Vehicles traffic is still limited and most houses are only accessed by foot. There are two large churches and up until the eighties, with such limited burial ground, bones were disinterred and removed every 15-20 years. The skulls and big bones were cleaned, painted and placed in an ossuary building to allow new burials. Once the church allowed cremations the practise of removing bodies ceased unless specifically requested in the will of the deceased.
I headed out early in the morning to the Westbahnhof to catch the train to Hallstatt. I got a coffee at Mcdonalds just to see what it was like. Very good. And the selection of cakes in the display case were pretty awesome and definitely not North American. I also got a train sandwich because you cannot travel on the train without a train sandwich.
So then an enjoyable three hour train ride. I love trains. There’s something so relaxing about sitting and watching the world go by and not having to drive. And thru all the alpine villages with beautiful houses, seeing sheep and goats and cows. I didn’t know that the train doesn’t actually go into the village of Hallstatt. It actually stops across the lake and the train ferry meets you to take you across the lake to the village. The water was like glass, it was warm and sunny, a beautiful fall day.
So I started to wander then I thought as I’m only here for about six hours I better check what there is to see. I knew there was a new chairlift up the mountain and the guidebook said follow the signs for the salt mountain, Salzburg. So I did. I went up. And up. And up. And more up. The path snaked up the side of the mountain and I finally reached a lookout where the remains of the torrential river that used to run thru the middle of town were diverted and a small portion channeled thru town.
It was pretty creepy walking out on that wire walkway. It looked like it was put together with twist ties. I took a few quick pictures and beat a quick retreat.
So in this next picture you can see down below another bridge.
Now from this picture you can see up to the twist tie bridge.
I’m still far above the churches. But now going down. And down and more down. My poor knees.
Finally I came out at the church yard and cemetery. It was beautiful. I saw the ossuary. And some beautiful fall flowers displays in the church.
And from here I wandered. Around the village. Had a beer in the main square. And then lunch was a donair down by the lake. It was such a beautiful day. But apparently Hallstatt has one of the highest rates of suicide in Austria, the reason is theorized as the claustrophobia of being trapped by the mountain and the lake. Probably the hordes of tourists doesn’t help either even though the money generated by tourists must be immense. This is the view from my beer. And my donair.
I wasn’t sure if it was a Korean photo shoot or Japanese but Hallstatt is very popular with that part of the world. Then a boat ride back across the lake and home. Wonderful day!!!