Extreme European Adventure: Hallstatt, Austria (June 22, 2014)

Sunday, June 22, 2014
Getting to Hallstatt/Obertraun by public transportation from Munich isn't difficult, but it also isn't direct.

We wanted to get the most out of our day in Hallstatt, so we caught the 9:09am U-Bahn to the Munich HBF where we caught the very nice and spacious 9:34am RailJet 63 to Salzburg. First class on this train is nice with comfy seats, a welcome bag of pretzels, and footrests at the seats.

I got a bit freaked out when, due to delays, our 10 minute connection time turned into a 2-3 minute connection time. After our train finally stopped and doors opened at the Salzburg HBF, Kris and I sprinted (quite a feat with all of our bags) down the stairs and back up different stairs to get the our IC 549 train to Attnang Puchheim. Phew - we made it, but it turned out we didn't need to run afterall. Scheduled to leave at 11:12 am, this train was also delayed due to the RailJet delay. Thinking we needed to sprint at Attnang Puchheim to find our train to Obertraun Dachstein, we were very pleasantly surprised that we just needed to walk off of our train and a few steps across to our final train to Obertraun. (This train was held too. Going to Hallstatt from the RailJet must be popular.) We were glad not to have missed any connections. It would have meant an hour wait for the next train.
Austrian countryside from the train

Austrian countryside from the train

Austrian countryside from the train

Austrian countryside from the train

After getting to Obertraun Dachstein around 1:40 pm, we walked the 5-7 minutes to the Obertrauner Hof, our home for the next two nights. We were checked in by the owner Debbie and shown to Room 17.

Our awesome room at the Obertrauner Hof

Our room was spacious and clean with a comfy bed and pillows and a lovely balcony with a view of the 5 Fingers viewing platform. We also had a private bathroom. Each floor has coffee/tea any time of day and a shared mini-fridge. A really nice breakfast is included in the room price.

We tried reading the bus schedule to get over to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hallstatt and failed pretty abysmally. We opted to take the next train one stop back to the Hallstatt station and ferry across.
Kris on the Stefanie ferry to Hallstatt

Talk about a nice choice. Seeing Hallstatt on that ferry boat (called the Stefanie) was outstanding!
Hallstatt from the Stefanie ferry

Hallstatt from the Stefanie ferry

Hallstatt from the Stefanie ferry

We landed in Hallstatt and decided to do a walking tour we'd found on Big Boy Travel. We just did it in reverse.

Hallstatt was one of the stops that I had been most anticipating, and it did not disappoint. Stacked timber houses along a lakefront with gorgeous balcony boxes of flowers are a visual delight. Hallstatt is a 7,000 year old village and even older than Rome, but it is well kept and clean! You don't think about it being so old, but they have the oldest functioning salt mine in the world which attracted villagers many moons ago.

Granted, the terrain in Hallstatt isn't very flat, but it is beyond charming.
We headed uphill toward the Pfarrkirche (Catholic Church) to view the two-level picturesque and tightly packed cemetery. Every grave had a little flower garden and some kind of twisted metal grave marker. The cemetery had a great view too. The cemetery only has room for just over 100 plots, so people are actually rotated out. Over 1200 bodies have been cycled through, and, when they are removed, they are brought to the Bone House in Michael's Chapel.
Pfarrkirche Cemetery in Hallstatt


The Bone House is a sight to behold. For people slightly twisted like Kris and I, it is definitely worth the small admission. The bodies exhumed from the cemetery are cleaned and left out for a few weeks until they are smooth. Since 1720, the skulls have been painted with flowers, leaves, ivy, and laurel. A few former priests have crosses with bibles painted on them.
The Bone House - Hallstatt

The Bone House - Hallstatt

The latest skull in the Bone House belongs to a skull exhumed in 1995. The woman still has a gold tooth attached. Fewer skulls are added today since the church has started accepting the practice of cremation.
Note the gold tooth at the Bone House - Hallstatt

Our next stop was up a bunch of stairs to what we thought was the overlook mentioned in the walking tour. Turns out that we didn't need to go up any stairs for our next point...we should have instead gone downstairs from the church and followed a rather flat road 300 meters. Both spots offered nice viewpoints. Kris and I certainly aren't practicing for The Amazing Race with this trip. We're making many mistakes.




Nice view of Hallstatt

Next stop: Marktplatz or Market Square. In 1750, this part of Hallstatt was leveled by a fire so all of the buildings in Market Square were rebuilt from stone instead of wood. Kris and I decided to indulge in our first gelato of the trip. Kiwi for him...strawberry for me. Both crisp and refreshing.
Indulging in gelato

Don't forget to drink enough water

At this point, we made sure to note all of the buildings discussed in the tour, but I was just soaking in Hallstatt and going for a stroll. I was just less interested in the facts and more interested in the ambiance.





Until 1890, the only way to reach most of the homes in Hallstatt was by boat or through narrow passages. It wasn't until 1890 that the main road of was constructed.

We walked along the waterfront passing the rental Swan paddleboats and actual living swans of Hallstatt. The swans were brought to Hallstatt by Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Sisi. Sisi, like her cousin the crazy Mad King Ludwig, was obsessed with swans.

Swan paddleboats

Swan in Hallstatt


We walked back to have some dinner in town (goulash soup for me and hot dogs for Kris) then realized we'd missed the last ferry back to Hallstatt. Doh!



Missing the ferry made us schmucks we figure

We tightened our laces and prepped ourselves for the hour and a half walk back to Obertraun. Truth was...it was a nice walk. We got to see the residential parts of Hallstatt we would have missed, part of the lake we would have never seen, a freshly killed large snake that was run over by a car, a roadside memorial, the campgrounds of Hallstatt, and part of Obertraun we would have missed. With the weather as nice as it was, I think it was good we missed the ferry.






Thought this house was just really cool.

Home in Obertraun

Mural on side of house

We made it back to the Obertrauner Hof before sunset and called it a night.
Kris enjoys the balcony.
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