Halstatt: A Lakeside Wonder

My fascination for lakes started when my friends and I hiked up to a crater of a dormant volcano in the Philippines. We swam in the water that collected in its mouth—in varying hues of turquoise blue and emerald green. It was like a bottomless pit: a lake of unmeasured depth with what I imagine to be a collection of molten rocks and earthen solids sitting tightly at the bottom until its next eruption.

Last weekend, I got my nature fix at another lake in Upper Austria called Hallstatter See. The town that enfolds it is similarly named, Hallstatt, a wealthy salt mining town tracing back to prehistoric ages. I have only seen photos of it during winter and knew little what to expect during summertime. It is remotely located in the Alpine region, accessible via Munich or Vienna, although the latter takes slightly longer. From the Hallstatt train stop, the town is reachable via ferry which runs all day.

As we were cruising through the lake, Hallstatt was waving at us like the idyllic photograph I envisaged it to be. I was already smiling before I even got off the ferry! It appealed to me as a charming little town where I could live to be a hundred! It seemed well like a mirage lifted from a painting, with the towering mountains standing proudly as if to protect the town like a king does his people. The weather was just what I hoped for; the soft wind brushed through my already ruddy cheeks due to the warm sunlight. It was the perfect sunny summer day to spend at Hallstatt; the view of lakes and mountains amidst lush greenery was truly a sight to behold, so much that I might have taken more photos with my brain’s memory than my camera’s. Each view from every angle was scenic and picturesque to say the least, almost like a photograph that brought life to a fairy tale. (Fun fact: In 2012, a housing development in Boluo, China was modelled after Hallstatt. It contains replica of the church, the square, the fountain and the pretty houses that can be found in the Austrian Hallstatt. Positively, this paved way for Chinese tourism and cultural exchange.)

What I would have thought is a young and newly discovered village is actually an ancient settlement that dates back to 1200BC to 500 BC! Artifacts from the Iron Age to the Bronze Age prove that Hallstatt was a thriving region known for its wealth and salt resources. In fact, the first salt mine called Salzwelten can be found here.  So what about wealth and salt? In ancient Rome, soldiers are paid their services with salt money, as salt was then an expensive but highly essential commodity. The word salary itself comes from the Latin word salarium whose root word is sal, which means a soldier’s allowance for purchasing salt. Up to this day, Hallstatt still thrives on industries related to salt, in addition to other forms of economic activity. The town holds a resident population of only 800 and is so small it can be toured on foot in less than 30 minutes, with a photo opportunity peeking at every turn. Highlights include the Market Square, Dachstein Ice Cave, Parish of the Assumption, Bone House and Cemetery, and of course, the boating experience across the lake! To end the day, we chose a nice restaurant for a swanky lakeside dinner, watched as the sun set gracefully and toasted to yet another beautiful day.

I would say a day trip would suffice, however, the journey back to your starting point would definitely not be a fair trade to a night spent here; once the town is owned back by the local residents sans the hordes of tourists, when the real charm of its quietude is most evident. Hence, to end the day, we chose a nice restaurant for a swanky lakeside dinner, watched as the sun set gracefully and toasted to yet another beautiful day.

Auf wiedersehen!

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