A Day Trip to Hallstatt, or “Paradise.”

Alright, so a bit has been up lately, and the updates will come at ya in posts throughout the week. But first, I must update you on my day trip to Hallstatt.

Hallstatt is a village in the Salzkammergut, about 15 minutes drive from Bad Aussee. Although it’s in the same region, it’s in a different state, Upper Austria (BA is in Styria). I actually had no idea it was in a different state, so I was a bit surprised. Situated right next to the Hallstättersee, the city is smooshed between lake and mountain. The drive was fun; over the mountains and through Obertraun, another tiny village. I never get to ride in a car in Austria, so it’s always a nice experience. The road is closed during the winter because of avalanche danger (we saw the remains of a new avalanche on the way through), so the only way to reach Hallstatt in the winter is by train/boat. Consult any guidebook about Austria, and it’ll implore you to visit Hallstatt (I implore you, too.).

Hallstatt, from the far end  of the downtown.

Anyway, Zandra had called me up last Monday and invited me along for a day trip (on Wednesday) with her husband, Tom, and son, Leo. The weather was sunny and pristine, so we had lunch and drinks outside, next to the lake. Leo had fallen asleep in his stroller, so Zandra was excited for a quiet lunch. We all ended up getting the Bärlauch ravioli. Bärlauch is translated as “wild garlic,” but it looks nothing like normal garlic. At all. It’s green and leafy. It’s in season now (for a short time), and apparently, one can just stroll up to some field in BA and pick it fresh (but I haven’t tried this). The dish was delicious.

While we were eating, an Australian couple traveling through Europe asked Tom to take a photograph of them in “paradise.” I really couldn’t blame them for using such a strong word. Sitting next to the lake, with a white wine spritzer, the sun on my face, mountains all around, it truly did feel like paradise. As they walked away, Zandra said (paraphrase),  “You know, we really do live in Paradise. People save up for years to come here, but we live here.”

We decided to walk a bit through the downtown and up a pathway between the houses. The village is built right into the side of the mountain, so all the houses are stacked, with pathways going in between. As you look  up the mountain, you can see the built avalanche protection. I’m talking real mountain here. The entire downtown is a Fußgängerzone, which means no cars are allowed. Even so, the pathways to the houses are too narrow for cars. I felt I had walked into a private world; the tourist noises were dulled and I got an up close look at the houses of Hallstatt.

We walked on a path just like that one in the middle.

And then, suddenly, I felt a something prick my hand, and I looked to see Tom, jumping away from me and giggling like a 12-year old, with a handful of some plant.

“Brennessel,” he said. “It’s good for arthritis.”

“Great, but oww.

Brennessel is a type of nettle and stings you when it touches you. Needless to say, I got him back and a Brennessel war ensued, which ended up involving Zandra as well.

Zandra and I ended the trip by picking up a boring hitchhiker and depositing him in Obertraun. We followed the trip to Hallstatt by drinking in Zandra and Tom’s backyard and enjoying the remaining warmth of the day. Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day, really.

The whole time we were in Hallstatt, walking the cobblestone streets, the beauty shocked me. I honestly haven’t seen a more beautiful town in Austria, or anywhere for that matter. The traditional houses and store fronts, the mountain to one side and lake on the other combined so that all I could say was, “Wow.”

However, I did learn that Hallstatt has the highest suicide rate in Austria, because in the winter it receives no direct sunlight. Despite the overwhelming beauty, could you ever live in a place that received no direct sunlight during winter? My answer is, “Erm, probably not.”

Until next time!