When we learned we were to move to Austria I picked up the (only readily available) travel guide before we hopped across the pond, and instantly fell in love with its cover photo of Hallstatt, one of the Salzkammergut villages.
Schedules and weather kept us waiting four years to visit one of Austria’s prettiest villages, if not the prettiest. Last week I glanced at the hot but otherwise sunny and beautiful weather forecast for the upcoming weekend, booked the last available suite in Hallstatt’s top hotel, and off Tony and I went. (Anna Grace and a friend, having been to Hallstatt twice for school retreats, were all too happy to Clayton Theodore-sit.)
Hallstatt is blissfully (almost) entirely vehicle-free. Only residents and service vehicles are permitted to drive the narrow streets of this 7.000 year old Celtic village. Hotel guests are transported in via a shuttle; and day trippers walk from the bus parking lots or take the boat ferry from the train station across the lake. Having arrived at midday, we dropped our cases at the hotel and then sat for lunch overlooking the lake.
After lunch we, and the many, many daytrippers meandered about the village. “Hall” is the Celtic word for “salt;” and with the region being the Salzkammergut, it is no surprise that salt products are available everywhere. I am a purveyor of the cooking salt blends, and found a couple more to add to my collection.
With the temperature creeping above 30° we decided to take our Mittagspause on the cool and slightly breezy balcony of our suite. “Mesmerizing” is the only way to describe how the next couple of hours passed, which included a delivery to our suite of small poppyseed cakes and tea.
We had hoped to secure a boat rental for a short tour on the lake before dinner, but none were available. Small matter; we sat for dinner a little early and lingered to enjoy the setting.
To begin, asparagus creme soup. Everything tastes better when eaten in a stunning setting.
No surprise, but I chose Forelle for dinner, perfectly sweet and tasting like it had been fresh-caught that morning. Because it likely had.
Tony embraces his meat and potatoes, and because he loves me he shared a piece of the crackling pork from his plate with me.
We asked for dessert to be sent up to our room, and I highly recommend Gugelhupf with sunset-kissed mountains as a way to end the day.
Good night, Hallstatt.
The following morning, after lounging on the balcony with our coffees, we contemplated the invitation by the hotel staff to attend breakfast at 0700 with a large tour group if we chose to dine early, or to attend the regular breakfast at 0800. We are both morning people and so dropped in around 0715 to a scene that vaguely resembled that of breakfast from National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, where the adults are shouting and chaos is rampant.
A schedule posted outside the breakfast room indicated that the group was on Day 12 of their, “Best of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in 14 Days” tour and needed to catch the bus to Mauthausen at 0745; hence, the school cafeteria scene in the breakfast room. (Not sure how a visit to a Nazi work camp rates as, “Best of,” but, each to their own holiday.) The 0800 breakfast time suddenly had appeal, so we left to enjoy the village in the cool of the early morning before eating.
St. Michael’s Church, noted for its pagoda-like steeple and its ossuary.
If we had a home in Hallstatt…
The two most overheard languages in Hallstatt, we concluded, were Chinese and Japanese. How popular is Hallstatt with Chinese tourists? So popular that the Chinese secretly built a replica Hallstatt in China!
|Photo courtesy of the Internet
In the real Hallstatt one can rent Dirndls to add authenticity (?) to the visit.
Obviously rental Dirndls are filling a niche. No rental Lederhosen, though.
The woman is not a newlywed; she and her “husband” were models taking promotional photos.
Nikon Tai Chi? Canon Zen?
There is a popular viewing point of the village at its northern end, and even in the early morning there were quite a few people, ourselves included, seeking the perfect holiday photo souvenir.
From breakfast we drove toward Bad Ischl and Kaiservilla, the summer home of the Emperor. This villa was also where the Emperor proposed marriage to Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria, and the setting for the Emperor’s declaration of war on the Kingdom of Serbia in 1914.
Though the villa is the home to descendants of the Hapsburg family, a portion of rooms are available for touring. I am totally up for poking around former royal homes, especially when they are still in use, but just ahead of us a tour bus disgorged dozens of loud tourists who swarmed into the queue for a tour. That scene I am never up for, and made do with admiring the antlers in the foyer. Some other time.
The early calls of lunchtime hunger found us in Gmunden, a village on Traunsee that probably deserves more time than the passing glance we gave in search of a meal before motoring home. The village is a popular spa village; the home of dozens of exiled royalty; and also the home Conchita Wurst, Austria’s Eurovision Winner from 2014. Gmunden is also the seat of the hand painted Gmunder Keramik, founded in 1492. Oh, and there’s also the small WasserSchloss Ort.
A lovely, lovely overnight in one of Austria’s prettiest regions, and well worth the four-year wait.