Austria was everything I hoped it would be and more. To my Dad’s utter shock, we were able to pack these 3 cities into 3 short days, traveling entirely by car! We began with Hallstatt, a quiet fairytale village that sits on the most peaceful lake. The winding alleys are overflowing with picturesque scenes. Homes and storefronts, walls climbing with edelweiss, waterfalls to the left and swan boats to the right! It was love at first sight.
I got an early start while the city was still in snooze mode, pausing about every 5 steps for another picture. Ducks and swans paddled by, and a local revved up his motorized canoe for a sunrise ride. Along my walk, I noticed the Heritage Hotel and immediately thought to myself I need to return there one day! We stayed at a little B&B called Haus Gummerer, which I’d highly recommend. A balcony view of the lake, the sweetest owners and a little cat named Peter who will join you happily for breakfast. Yes please!
Austrian antiques, traditional drindls and local salts of all flavors await you near the town square. Look no further than Drei Bunde for lunch, and go for the creamy potato soup, pork schnitzel and a Radler (lemon flavored beer) on the side. The perfect ailment for chilly bones.
We meandered towards the Upper Bounds, where we walked through the cemetery of Hallstatt and admired the uniquely decorated headstones made of shingled wood. One of the most peaceful places in the village overlooking the lake, it’s easy to see why this spot became a final resting place for many. But what’s even more intriguing is the Beinhaus. Centuries ago, the locals began to realize their space in the cemetery was limited. So after 10-20 years of being buried, the remains would be dug up and transferred to the Bone House/Beinhaus/Ossuary (whatever you fancy) to allow more room for a newly departed soul. The skulls retained their identities with painted markings like flowers, motifs, names, initials and dates to create a sort of “mobile headstone.” There are over 600 decorated skulls in this tiny little room, and it’s one of the most incredible things I’ve seen in my travels. Since most of Hallstatt’s deceased are cremated these days, they haven’t had to add to the Beinhuas as rapidly as they once did.
One of our favorite stops during this half-day trip was a visit to the salt mines – the one in Hallstatt is actually the oldest in all the world! We trekked single file through the caves, took actual slides down the different levels and rode on a mine train to top it all off. It was a true adventure, and the tour is spoken in English too! Definitely worth a trip, but allow approx. 3 hours once you arrive since the wait is a bit long and the tour itself lasts an hour. Fashion is certainly not a priority for this tour, and everyone comes out looking a little silly. I’ll leave the specifics to your imagination, but please do make sure to wear pants and sturdy shoes!
What’s your favorite corner of this little village?