Hallstatt, Austria, you have my heart!!!
I thought Paris was beautiful. I thought Vienna was beautiful! But then, I met Hallstatt.
This morning we woke up at 7:00/7:30-ish and got ready for the day/ate breakfast. I LOVED the breakfast this morning. There was so much selection and SO MUCH FRUIT! ❤ I ate some salami, a roll with butter, a kiwi, and some mixed fruit, with a fruit medley juice (called multivitamin juice, I believe) to drink.
After getting dressed, we departed on the drive to Hallstatt. I slept for part of it, but what I did see out the window was GORGEOUS. I woke up to the most breathtaking view of all.
We got off the charter bus and then explored Hallstatt for some time.
Hallstatt is this adorable little town southeast of Salzburg with an elevation of 511 meters. It sits on Lake Hallstatt and features many souvenir shops and restaurants that cater to tourists. In addition to its beauty, it is known for its salt mine.
For lunch, I went to a grocery store right near the water with Elaine, Cynthia, and Rhandi, and bought a roll, some salami, salami sticks for a snack later (the ones my host mom bought for me on the first day), some chocolate, a banana, and a Sprite. We decided to take our food to the water to eat with the view. Little did we know that there were plenty of swans around, all who liked our food as much as we did. (Cue the meme “I thought the view was pretty, but the swans thought our bread was prettier.)
My lunch of a roll, salami sticks, a banana, and a Sprite.
At first, we were amazed by the presence of the swans. Who would have thought that we would have such a spectacular view and be joined by such majestic birds?! But there turned out to be a very certain point (correlated to the distance that the swans were away from us) when our excitement turned to anxiety and our anxiety turned to fear. The birds kept coming without abandon! Suddenly, every article I’ve ever read naming swans as surprisingly aggressive creatures came to mind as they began to growl at us. I truly thought I was going to leave the encounter with a swan bite. We were afraid to give them bread because we thought it would encourage them to stay rather than leave, so we just sat– paralyzed, unable to eat our food for fear that they would fly up and peck it out of our hands.
By about the third picture, I was uncomfortable and was ready for the swan to stay put.
…It didn’t stay put.
Finally, by the grace of God, the birds swam away and we could eat our lunch in peace. I have decided that people only like swans because they are associated with beautiful places. Those birds are ugly and aggressive, and if they were found in ugly places they would be known for what they are, but because they are only found amidst beautiful scenery, they are praised by humans.
As we finished our lunch, it was time to meet up with the group to tour the salt mines. We walked to a tram that took us up the mountain and up to the most breathtaking view of the water and village below. We took a lot of pictures and then hiked up to the start of the salt mine tour. They gave us outfits to wear and let us check our bags so we didn’t have to lug them through the mine. Donning our new garments, we trekked into the underground, learning about how salt was deposited into the mountain and how it is now mined. I learned that salt water was formed by mass amounts of water breaking down the salt and minerals that were in the rocks below. The area where the salt is now used to be a sea or an ocean filled with this dissolved salt, but because of volcanos and plate tectonics, deposits of salt are now located under layers and layers of rock and sediment. The salt can then be excavated through either wet or dry mining. Dry mining involves chopping up rocks and bringing those segments out of the mine to then be worked on and divided out, while wet mining involves drilling a hole into the mountain, filling the area with water to form a cavity, and sucking out the salt that settles as a layer in the cavity as a result. Our tour guide told us that the area where we were is currently an active mine, so there are miners there at all times during the day, each working a 10-hour shift to bring salt out of the mountain. One of the coolest parts of the tour for me was getting to slide down two wooden slides deeper and deeper into the mountain. The slides were created to aid miners in getting deeper into the mountain faster (as it takes about and hour to get in to where the mining takes place and an hour to get out), but they let tourists use them on the tour. One of the slides is the longest wooden slide in Europe! Isn’t that impressive?!
The tram we took up to the salt mine.
Salt lamps inside the salt mine.
Once we left the mine, we shopped in a gift shop for a little while and took more pictures. Everything is beautiful here! You simply cannot take a bad picture. The lighting is fantastic, the views are astounding, and the beauty surrounds you, making you want to photograph everything instead of simply focusing on the one beautiful feature of an otherwise ugly town.
A restaurant outside the salt mine overlooking the mountains.
After descending from the mountain, we walked around for a few more hours before getting back on the bus. I elected to ride on a boat for a half hour with Hershila and Elaine while Hayley, Cynthia, and Katie rode on another boat in the crystal clear water filled with vicious swans. It was so neat! There was a castle on the other side of the water, so we drove in that direction for a while. It was a great place to take more pictures of Hallstatt and of each other with the picture-perfect background in every shot. We then decided to find some dinner, so we stopped in a restaurant that looked promising. Little did we know how bad the management of it was. The wife of the owner, who waited on us, was extremely grumpy and was in no rush to serve us. They sat the six of us at a table meant for three, and they looked at us like they wished we hadn’t come in, even though we were probably the easiest customers in the room. (There was a man in the restaurant who kept following the owner’s wife around, pointing to a specific thing on the menu.) We were supposed to meet back at the bus at 5:20, but it was 5:00 and we still hadn’t received our food. Katie asked how long we could expect it to take and the owner told us 20 minutes. We explained that we were in a rush, and he informed us that we could order our meal “carry out” so we could eat on the bus and not be late, so that’s what we did. We payed, ran over to a market across from the bus to get forks, and then ate our food on the bus.
We arrived back at the hotel and some girls decided to go out– some to a beer garden, others to find food and to shop as much as possible given that it is a holiday. Najeeah and I stayed in our room to relax and get caught back up on blog posts.
All in all, it was a perfect day in the most stunning place I have ever seen. I can’t wait for more adventures!