Inside Austria: Hallstatt in the Rain
Location: Hallstatt, Austria
It was raining when the bus dropped us off by the train station where a ferry would take us across the lake to Hallstatt, a small village in the Salzkammergut region of Austria.
We found that there were already many people waiting for the one-hour ride, but our guide said not to worry. There would be enough room for everyone. She was right. I guess she must have been here before.
After checking in at the hotel, we strolled around Hallstatt in our rain gear and getting our feet wet (literally). It looked like a place taken out of a fairy tale. In fact, one Chinese businessman was so taken by its beauty that he built an exact replica of the village in China’s Guangdong province.
The sun came up later in the day and we took the salt mine funicular to Hallstatt’s upper valley 2,700 feet above sea level. The view of the town and the lake with the mountains in the background was priceless.
Afterwards, we hiked back downhill amidst ferns and wildflowers always careful to watch our steps on rain-soaked trails.
Our hike ended in the rocky grounds of the Catholic cemetery. I guess it’s typical in this part of the world to make graveyard plots look like small gardens.
We visited the nearby St. Michael’s Chapel built in the 12th century. In the ground floor, we found the Beinhaus (bone house) containing human skulls. Back in the day when cremation was forbidden, the church resolved overcrowding in the cemetery by removing previous occupants and saving and cleaning their skulls for safekeeping in the Beinhaus.
Hallstatt is a village tucked between a large lake and the Dachstein mountains, which doesn’t allow it room to grow. It has been known since prehistoric times for its production of salt. Although it has less than 1,000 official residents, it’ll continue to draw hundreds of thousands of tourists a year for its natural charm and alpine setting.