ABOVE: Hallstatt on a foggy spring day.
Pretty villages in the Salzkammergut
may be a dime a dozen, but the Upper Austrian town of Hallstatt isn't just any
village--it's a major Celtic archæological landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage
In a 1956 book titled Panorama of Austria, James Reynolds wrote:
Halstatt is set on piles in one of the Gosau lakes, the
Halstättersee. An intricate system of intersecting timber ramps, butresses
and ascending terraces like hanging gardens creates an air of mystery, the
eerie beauty of mirage, a village lost in the middle-mist of fable. The
mountain flanks rise sheer from the lake, leaving no room for a road.
Prehistoric remains found on this site have given the name
of the Hallstatt Culture to the Iron Age. Thousands of years before the birth
of Christ, the salt deposits in Hallstatt brought tribes across the mountains
to this improbably remote spot from points as far away as the Carpathian
Mountains in Romania. From that early time, until the close of the 19th
Century, the mines have been a bone of contention for "every helmeted dog
in Europe to snap at," as the 19th-century Count Rudolf of Habsburg is
supposed to have shouted to the Archbishop of Bern.
More recently, guidebook author and TV travel host
Steves wrote this description of Halstatt:
The minute it popped into view, I knew Hallstatt was my Alpine Oz. It’s just the right size (1,200 people), wonderfully remote, and almost traffic-free. A tiny ferry takes you from the nearest train station across the fjord-like lake and drops you off on the town’s storybook square.
Bullied onto its lakeside ledge by a selfish mountain, Hallstatt seems tinier than it is. Its pint-sized square is surrounded by ivy-covered guest houses and cobbled lanes. It’s a toy town. You can tour it on foot in about 10 minutes.
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