Hallstatt, Austria: Beyond the Fairytale
Between Salzburg and Vienna is the postcard town of Hallstatt, known for its salt mines dating back to the Neolithic period. The breathtaking mountains and tranquil lake appear to engulf the charming village upon first sight.
Brad wanted to visit Hallstatt because it visually embodies traditional Europe. Walking from end to end takes approximately 15 minutes, so be sure to slow down and appreciate the landscape.
From Salzburg, take the train to Attnang-Puchheim and transfer to another train towards Stainach-Irdning. The trip takes about two hours. After getting off at Hallstatt, take the ferry over to the town for a small fee. Try to secure your luggage at a train station if you are taking a day trip. Since our next destination was Vienna, we could have stored our bags in Attnang-Puchheim. We forgot, but luckily found a locker for two euros per hour at the Salt Mine visitor center.
The short cruise across the lake made for a grand entrance. The cool morning air was refreshing and everyone on board was excited. Make sure to grab a spot on the starboard side so you can take the best pictures upon your approach.
Beyond the grand views, the waterfall and main square look straight out of a storybook. Cafe owners were busy setting up outside and window boxes were overflowing with colorful flowers. Weaving staircases, buzzing bees, and the ring of church bells contribute to the overall allurement.
Take advantage of arriving early. You will be able to stroll the small streets, admire the architecture, and browse boutiques with ease. Make an effort to relax by the lake and visit the swans.
After exploring for a few hours, we had a delicious lunch at the Seewirt Zauner Hotel. The menu included fresh trout caught from Lake Hallstatt, cheese soup, and apple strudel. The peaceful balcony was a great place to sip some wine and soak up the sunshine.
Once we finished our meal, we had about an hour before catching the ferry back to the train station. By early afternoon, the vibe of Hallstatt turned upside down. Tour buses swamped the area and obnoxious selfie sticks filled the air. AHHH!
In 2012, the Chinese province of Guangdong unveiled its copycat version of the European village, which undoubtedly caused a spike in Asian tourists curious to see the real thing. We saw a few Asian couples taking staged pre-wedding photos in the streets, which has become a popular custom to do in front of famous foreign landmarks. However, the influx has caused some frustration with the locals. Rude behavior and trespassing are among the biggest pet peeves.
The best advice I can give is to avoid visiting Hallstatt in the afternoon. Come in the early morning even if the businesses are closed. Have a picnic near the lake for an unobstructed view. Five hours of a beautiful September day was more than enough time to have a satisfying experience.