The ‘postcard’ shot of Hallstatt

I left my hotel in Berchtesgaden on another cold and cloudy day, headed down to the bus station and off I went back to Salzburg again. I must have been to Salzburg train station about 10 times now I reckon and only stayed in the city twice. From there it was two slower regional trains to a tiny tiny place called Obertraun in Austria. Obertraun sits on a lake with a few other villages scattered around it, the main one being Hallstatt, and the reason I was there. There are no trains to Hallstatt, only a ferry, so its far easier to just stay in Obertraun.

Got off the train and walked down what is basically the only street in the place and found my hotel, the Obertrauner Hof. I have to mention this hotel, because it was just so good. For starters it was owned by an English couple, so getting advice on what to do etc was extremely easy with no language barrier. Then I had an actual choice of rooms, which I have never ever had. I chose the room on the third (top) floor, which had two beds in a massive room, a bathroom and a balcony. Yes, a balcony overlooking the lake and mountains. There was also complimentary breakfast, which included the typical breads, rolls, meats, cheese, cereal, yoghurt, juice, etc. They had also just got wireless internet so I was able to book the next leg of my trip. And all of this for only 35 euros a night. There are some hostels that cost that. So I am definitely coming back to this hotel in the future. Oh yea also to give you an idea about the level of trust people have in these areas, there was a fridge downstairs full of beer and wine etc that you could just take and you write down what room you are in and it gets added to your bill. Love it.

So anyway back to Obertraun. Woke up on the first day and it was cloudy. I looked at the weather forecast before I arrived and unfortunately it had predicted this for the days I was there and then sun as soon as I left. Story of my trip. Went up in to the mountains anyway and did some ice caves which I blogged about already. Woke up the next day to this time not so much cloudy skies, but raining skies. Munched down a good sized breakfast (i don’t think ive had lunch for weeks because of how good the breakfasts have been) then made the wonderful walk around the lake in the rain to the ferry stop.

Hallstatt is one of the most beautiful little villages in the world. Its set right on the edge of the lake with towering mountains behind it. Its on the UNESCO world heritage list because of its importance in history – the mountains are riddled with salt mines, which are still used today. And that was to be my first stop, a tour of the salt mines. They are quite high up the mountain side so you go to the little fernicular station and it takes you up an extremely steep track to higher up the mountain, and then its another 10 minutes or so walk to the salt mine entrance. For some reason you have to put on these these gigantic dorktacular overall type clothes. At the time you think ok maybe you have salt thrown at you or something equally as stupid, but no, nothing. The guide wears a wicked outfit though, kinda like a pirate. She was a really good guide though, she spoke everything in German and then also in English for me and 3 others. The tour was pretty interesting, not so much about the old style of salt mining, but more how they do it now. Pumping water through bore holes which collects the salt, then sending it down a 40km pipe to a kind of desalination plant.

Spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Hallstatt. Did the World Heritage walking trail, which goes from the fernicular station down to the town and then back up again a different way. There are signs the entire way (in both German and English) detailing the history of Hallstatt which were quite interesting. The path also takes you to the massive gorge with multiple waterfalls flowing down it, pretty insane amount of water. For dinner I went to what is probably the only actual restaurant in Obertraun, and it just so happened to be a pizza one, a pretty good one too. Washed that down with a couple of Zipfer beers then crashed.

Then came my last day in the area, and I had no real plans for anything. The owner of the hotel told me about a really nice hike you can do near Hallstatt, so I decided to do that. Figured out the buses this time and took it to Lahn, which is just a part of Hallstatt. Deciphered the walking trail signs and started up and up the side of the mountain. The first thing you come up to is ‘gletschergarten’ or glacier garden. A huge gorge cut out of the mountain by hundreds of years of glacial waterfalls. Really really cool, literally as well, the water is absolutely freezing. The water flows down in to little pools all over the place and goes down tunnels cut through the softer rock. I had decided to take my tripod with me today so I was able to get some good water flow photos. Continued on the trail for a couple of hours and it comes to the main waterfall of the valley. This thing is ROARING, echoing off the rock mountain side, fall in you are dead. So I did what any crazy person does and that was climb down to the side of it and stop for some lunch of ham and cheese rolls. Back home this is something I would never ever eat, but ive grown to love it, even having them for breakfast which is quite normal in Europe. The trail goes on for quite a while, goes over the top of the valley and ends up above the salt mines in Hallstatt. It was about a 6 hour hike so by the time I ended up back down in Hallstatt it was time to call it a day. Once again it was pizza for dinner, this time take away, ate it back in the hotel downstairs with MTV on the big plasma screen.

Even though the weather wasn’t what I had hoped for, I had a great time. A big part of that was coming back to a great hotel at the end of the day to relax and recover. But also so many things I didn’t know existed in the area. The mountains that the ice caves are in, the Dachstein mountains, are riddled with hiking routes, even one which goes over a glacier up to 3000m which im keen to tackle in the future. There is also hundreds of very well marked mountain biking routes criss crossing the mountain side. So this is definitely a place for the future.