Picture-perfect, lakeside Hallstatt, Austria
If you visit this idyllic, little village in the Salzammergut region of Upper Austria, you’ll be forgiven for wanting to chase all the tourists out and have this beautiful spot all to yourself.
That must be how the fewer than 950 locals feel each summer as the hordes invade this pretty Austrian town on the edge of the Hallstätter See, the Hallstatt Lake.
As reflected in the name of the region, salt was once mined locally and made this region very wealthy.
The world’s first known salt mine is just above the town, although we didn’t have time to visit it and the adjoining museum during our trip last summer.
Hallstatt has been inhabited for millennia, but it first appears as a market town in 1311, illustrating that it had a certain economic importance.
The salt mines were in operation until the mid-twentieth century.
Today, it’s a beautiful place to visit and explore, but on summer days such as the one we visited on, the waves of tour buses can feel a bit claustrophobic and Disneylandesque. On the day we saw Halstatt, half of China’s population seemed to also be in town.
It’s probably best to try to explore early in the morning or later afternoon, or perhaps stay overnight to enjoy the pretty town in silence. That’s what I’ll be doing next time.
In the town itself, with its homes built almost over one another and into the hillside rising at the edge of the lake, there is little land available for a cemetery. For this reason, bodies are exhumed after 10 years and removed to an ossuary.
In the Charnel House chapel of the parish church, decorated skulls are on display, with their elaborate painting and calligraphy announcing the deceased’s name, profession and date of death. A moving, if macabre, display, and a powerful reminder of the passage of time …
For other tips about towns to see while passing through Upper Austria, see my earlier posts about visiting Bad Ischl and Freistadt.
Talking about chinese visitors so a few years ago a chinese mining company built a full-scale replica of the entire Hallstatt in Huizhou the Guangdong province… 🙂
Ha! Yes, I know about that – seemed somewhat like Epcot-Disney in Florida when I heard about it. Think I’ll skip that one. : )