Sunday, April 28, 2013

Eurotrip: Hallstatt

I discovered Hallstatt in the most unlikely of places: while not paying attention during Geopolitics and instead reading a travel article on relatively undiscovered gorgeous European places. Thanks Geopolitics! I sent the link to Angie and she agreed that we needed to go. Luckily it was a relatively easy journey from Salzburg that would serve as a nice day trip.

The trains took about two hours, and were far and away my favorite trains yet. The scenery was incredible and the giant picture windows provided perfect views. Side note - I have taken to listening to audiobooks and podcasts while traveling so I can focus on the scenery. That is when I'm not updating this blog, of course.

The train ride was filled with scenes like this! Angie and I exchanged countless "Do you see this!?" comments. Sadly, I wasn't able to capture the multiple tiny horses we saw, but I think this picture is a good representation of the Austrian beauty.

To get to Hallstatt, you get off the train, walk to the dock, and take a ferry to the city. This afforded us the opportunity to see the town from the water. Little did we know we would soon find ourselves at the little yellow house at the top of the mountain.

Look I'm on a boat!

Upon getting to the town, we stopped for lunch and for of course had to sample the local beer. So far, so good!

Hallstatt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it gave its name to a distinct period of Iron Age culture after Celtic remains were discovered in the salt mines above the town. Many of the finds date back to the ninth century BC, making Hallstatt the oldest salt mine in the world.

Angie and I really wanted to hike to the Salzachtal, where the salt mines are located. We certainly tried to, and we weren't even scared by our guidebook warnings of stairs, steepness, and rigor.

We were, however, scared by signs that warned of potential death if we kept hiking. Sadly, we choose a route that did not warn us of death, and headed back towards the other side of town. We did get to pass this pretty waterfall, so all was not lost.

Maybe we were a bit underdressed? Just kidding, this was all the snow we found and we were actually really happy to be wearing clothes suitable for hiking.

Upon reaching the other side of town, we took the funicular up the side of the mountain to the salt mines. We didn't really know what to expect, but figured we might as well see what made this place famous. And, well, I think salt might be one of my favorite things ever and the opportunity to see it in mass was appealing! The views on the way up were worth the price of the whole adventure!

Upon entering the salt mine museum, we were outfitted with these gorgeous outfits that made us feel a bit like prisoners. The highlight of our outfit was the velvet underside that made our future sliding possible. Pretty hot, right?

The actual salt mines are located about 300 meters into the mountain, which meant we had a long tunnel to walk through to get to the action. I had no idea what to expect of this adventure, and I will admit that I started getting a bit claustrophobic while working our way through the tunnels. Luckily the overall goofiness of the tour took my mind off of the potential of the mountain caving in on me.

I actually did learn a lot about salt mining during this tour, so in addition to providing us an hour of nonstop laughing, we received some education too. Then our guide surprised us at the end of the tour, saying we couldn't walk out of the mountain and instead got to take a miner's train. We hopped on and were whisked out the tunnel and a pretty fast clip. It was surprisingly fun and probably doubled our giddiness levels. Upon exiting we were greeted with more incredible views. This is probably a time to check out Angie's blog because my pictures are terrible. Even though it was overcast in Hallstatt, it was still one of the most beautiful places I have seen on this adventure.


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