Tag Archives: Austria

Hallstatt Photos

Our photos from Hallstatt are ready. We spent two nights in this picturesque town in Austria’s lake district. The pictures from our hike to the waterfall near Hallstatt, as well as the Dachstein excursion, will be posted in another album. The full album can be seen by clicking on the image below.

Hallstatt and its lake

Overlooking Hallstatt, the lake, and the surrounding mountains

Day 6 – Better than Madison County Trails!

Did the Taranusauruses make it back safely to their hostel last night? Yes, of course; this writing proves it. After getting directions several more times, they finally found a flight of stairs that led up the little mountain. The path was well-lit but still creepy due its deserted state and also because it is located in a thick forest.

They were up and ready to go before their roommates stirred and before the hostel’s free breakfast was served. The next hour was spent failing to find a post office, but they did patronize several bakeries. Raul and Lauren were the first to arrive at the meeting point for Fräulein Maria’s Sound of Music bicycle tour. If you look for them on Facebook, there might be some pictures of the Taranusauruses from today.

Two dozen people showed up for the popular tour, and so they were split into two groups. Their guide, Rupert, was experienced and entertaining as he took them past several locations featured in the musical. It was a nice way to see Salzburg. The first half of the tour took place in the Old Town of Salzburg, followed by a relaxing ride through the picturesque countryside on its outskirts. The entirety of the route afforded stunning views of the mountains near Salzburg. The rest of their group was comprised of a young couple from the Midwest, a family from South Africa, and four young Taiwanese.

After the bike tour, Raul and Lauren took a leisurely walk through the Old Town, following the self-guided walk in their guidebook. They took in all the major sights, including the massive Salzburg Cathedral, a restaurant where Charlemagne is said to have eaten in 803 A.D., and Getreidegasse, the historical commercial center of the town. On that street, Raul sampled several homemade spirits at a century-old establishment named Sporer. The spirits were delicious (lecker!).

They decided not to attend a concert since they are leaving early in the morning for Switzerland and instead, wrapped up the evening with dinner and completing their preparations for the next day’s trip to the train station from the top of the mountain. They bought stamps for postcards and later realized that the woman had charged them double. Their expectations for recompense were low, but they returned to the shop anyway. The woman was immediately apologetic and grateful to see that they had realized her mistake and returned. She corrected the charge and even offered a bag of chocolates as a token of apology. The chocolates are delicious (lecker!).

Republik Österreich
Coat of Arms

Time Plan Sleep in
Day 06 Monday 21 May Salzburg
09:30 ▲▲The Sound of Music Bike Tour, €24, €2 discount with book
13:00 ▲▲▲Salzburg’s Old Town Self-Guided Walk
13:30 ▲Salzburg Panorama 1829, €2, 09:00-17:00
15:00 ▲▲Salzburg Cathedral (Salzburger Dom), free, Mon-Sat 09:00-18:00, Sun 13:00-18:00
20:00 ▲▲Concert

Day 5 – It’s a Small World

Lauren and Raul would like to wish Caitelin a very happy birthday today! Happy 27th! Lauren misses you very much and can’t wait to talk to you again soon!

Days 0 to 4 have been updated with the journal entries. Unfortunately, the computer Raul and Lauren are using in Salzburg will not allow pictures to be transferred off the camera, so those will be posted at a later time.

Raul and Lauren said good-bye to their kind host Gerhard and mosied along to the boat dock. They were pleasantly surprised to find Ian and Brenda there, waiting for the same ferry to take them across the lake to the train station. They spent the journey to Salzburg sharing travel stories, and Raul and Lauren were interested to learn about life in California.

At the transfer point, Lauren and Raul decided to ride in a six-person compartment and ending up sharing it with a couple from Seattle, whom they had previously met on the ferry in Hallstatt. They gave Raul and Lauren advice about hikes around Salzburg and also about working for the Semester at Sea university program.

It is always nice to meet and get to know interesting people while travelling.

In Salzburg, they ascended Mönchsberg, a small mountain in the city, to Gasthaus Stadtalm, the hostel they had chosen for their lodging. Fortunately, they had beds available.

Next, Raul and Lauren made their way to Festung Hohensalzburg, a fortress overlooking the city. They opted to walk up rather than take the funicular. Near the top, they were dismayed to find that they would have to pay most of what it would have cost to ride the funicular to enter the fortress anyway. The fortress has a good view of the city below, but it was not worth the effort or cost to get there. At least the entrance ticket they were forced to buy included a ride down the funicular.

Also inside the fortress grounds, they ran into Brenda and Ian again as they were going to a concert. Lauren was especially glad to see Brenda, because she was “having a rough time,” as Ian put it, and so was Lauren. The heat, hunger, and disorientation was taking its toll. It would be nice to see a water fountain once in a while.

Raul and Lauren had a quick dinner at Saran Essbar Restaurant. They have begun to see a pattern of exceptional quality in restaurants run by non-Europeans, who are more attentive and eager to please. The food was tasty, but they were in a hurry to get to a concert and could not linger for dessert. Unfortunately, they discovered that the “nearly nightly” concerts at Mirabell Palace were not offered that night.

They meandered back to the old town and tried to find a way up Mönchsberg now that the elevator is not running. Will they make it back to their hostel tonight?

Republik Österreich
Coat of Arms

Time Plan Sleep in
Day 05 Sunday 20 May Salzburg
07:00 Hike back to Hallstatt, take train to Salzburg
17:00 Check in at Gasthaus Stadtalm, €38/night (2 nights)
Tel: +43 0662/841-729
17:30 ▲▲Hohensalzburg Fortress (Festung), €10,50, 09:00-19:00, until 22:00 when there’s a concert
19:00 ▲Mönchsberg Walk
20:00 ▲▲Concert at the Mirabell Palace (Schlosskonzerte), €29, usually at 20:00
Sights in Salzburg
  • ▲▲▲Salzburg’s Old Town Self-Guided Walk
  • ▲▲Salzburg Cathedral (Salzburger Dom), free, Mon-Sat 09:00-18:00, Sun 13:00-18:00
  • ▲Salzburg Panorama 1829, €2, 09:00-17:00
  • ▲▲Hohensalzburg Fortress (Festung), €10,50, 09:00-19:00, until 22:00 when there’s a concert
  • ▲Mönchsberg Walk
  • ▲Mirabell Gardens and Palace (Schloss)

Near Salzburg



Day 4 – Raul Holds a Baby

Raul and Lauren dropped their bags off at their host Gerhard’s private room after breakfast. Having packed warmer layers in their daypack, they took a bus to the Dachstein cable car.

They first ascended to 4,500 ft, Schönbergalm, the half-way point up Krippenstein Mountain. Here they planned to visit the Eishöhle, a giant ice cave at the top of a steep 15-minute climb on foot. Lauren was glad that the beautiful snow still covered the landscape. She was quite excited also by the presence of springtime buds on flowers and trees and repeatedly pointed them out to Raul. Characteristically, Raul was reserved with his emotions.

The tour of the Eishöhle lasted about an hour and was accompanied by what must have been a fascinating and informative commentary; alas, it was entirely in German. Nonetheless, the cave system was impressive–it was like being in a glacier but in a cave, with sheets of ice all around. Some sections were massive enough to induce vertigo. The illumination was masterfully implemented, utilizing the cave’s features to great effect. Lauren’s sister Diana would have thoroughly enjoyed this experience.

Next they ascended by cable car to the summit of Krippenstein at 6,600 ft, where they hiked to numerous lookouts, including one that afforded 360-degree views of the surrounding Alpine mountains. In addition to tourists, the mountain lifts are used by other adventurers, including paragliders and skiers with dogs. The dogs seemed to have as much fun adjusting to the altitude as humans do.

Also at Krippenstein, they enjoyed a hot meal at a lodge. Despite being surrounded by snow, it was still pleasant enough to sit on the terrace outside with the sun on their backs.

Raul and Lauren wanted to be back in Hallstatt by 15:00 in order to take a ferry on the lake, but Raul realized that the next bus back would not pick them up until after the last ferry departed. Raul said to Lauren, “Maybe we can hitch a ride back to town.”

No sooner had he spoken than a young Austrian named Josef asked if they were travelling as a pair, because he had room for two in his car. They gratefully accepted his timely offer and enjoyed getting to know him while they descended and drove back to town.

It was interesting to hear his perceptions of Austria and the United States: Josef prefers a limited government, with an emphasis on personal liberty, and feels that he would fit in well in the Midwest, which he believes to be well-ordered since it is more conservative. He laments that few Austrians attend church anymore and expressed his admiration at seeing a full Lutheran church when he last visited the United States at Easter. He feels the best place on Earth is Yellowstone and that the Austrian countryside is too crowded. He prefers the expansive wilderness of the United States, which complements his desire to have a large car and drive everywhere, rather than take the train.

Not having had done enough walking, Raul and Lauren decided to do an “easy” two-hour hike to Waldbachstrub Waterfall. On the way to the trailhead, they were glad to run into Brenda and Ian, the couple from California they had met in Vienna. They swapped stories of their experiences in Hallstatt for a time and then continued toward the trail.

The first third of the trail was a flat, pleasant stroll among homesteads in outlying Hallstatt. There were lovely meadows of wild flowers and a rushing river nearby. Following the river, the next third was a peaceful, forested area. Finally, the flat terrain gave way to a steep climb to the waterfall–actually, multiple waterfalls.

While Raul boldly scampered closer to the waterfall, a Hungarian couple reached the viewing platform as well. Raul wanted to take a picture from the top, so he descended to retrieve the camera. Meanwhile, the young Hungarian man climbed up to the perch where Raul had been and asked his wife to take a picture of him from below. Realizing she couldn’t do this while holding her infant child, she turned to Raul, and before he knew what was going on, there was a baby in his arms. The child looked as dumbfounded as Raul did.

Back in town, they set out to look for a place to eat dinner. The first place they tried was Gasthof Simony, where they slept the previous night, because it has a gorgeous lake-front terrace. Unfortunately, no tables were available. They looked next door at Hotel Grüner Baum, but the menu didn’t strike their fancy. So they tried a pizza place, but they had no room at all. They thought they would check at Simony once more, but they were told the kitchen had actually run out of food, owing to the beautiful weather that day. Finally, they resigned to giving Grüner Baum a chance, which turned out to be a mistake.

Not only was the service slow by Austrian standards, but there can be no clearer illustration of the difference between table service in Austria versus America than the indifference they were shown tonight. They started with their usual appetizer, caprese. It was the first time they were unsatisfied with that dish, and after eating only a few bites, they set it aside. Not once did any of the wait staff remark, notice, or ask about the uneaten dish, which was unmistakably not prepared as described in the menu. On a happier note, the main courses were tasty, and every prior restaurant experience had been enjoyable.

They decided against the overnight hike mentioned in the itinerary below.

Republik Österreich
Coat of Arms

Time Plan Sleep in
Day 04 Saturday 19 May mountain hut near Hallstatt
08:15 Arrange for bags to remain in Hallstatt, take first bus to Obertraun
08:40 Take first cable car up ▲▲Dachstein Mountain to Schönbergalm
09:20 Giant Ice Caves (Riesen-Eishöhle) tour
10:30 Continue up the mountain to Krippenstein
11:00 Descend and start the two-day hike

Day 3 – Lecker!

At breakfast this morning, Raul and Lauren socialized with a couple from California. Since they too were fans of Rick Steves’ travel guides, they shared the same itinerary for the next few days.

Raul and Lauren used the remaining time on their 24-hour transit pass to take the subway to the train station. Raul wasn’t sure if the pass was worth it, since nobody ever checked tickets.

The journey from Vienna to Hallstatt was on two trains and a bus. The first train segment was a lovely experience. Arriving early to the station, they were able to secure facing seats with a table in between–plenty of leg room! As marvelous as they found the comfort of travel by train to be, they found the natural beauty of the passing countryside even more wondrous.

In Hallstatt, Raul and Lauren looked for a hotel room for their second night, as Gasthof Simony had only one night available. They procured lodging within a private home overlooking the Market Square.

They spent the rest of the day exploring the quaint, lake-side hamlet on foot. Along the way, they paid a visit to the Catholic Church and its unique Bone Chapel. Since burial space was limited, it was customary to re-use plots after a dozen years. The remains of the previous inhabitants were dug up, and the skulls were laid to rest in the Bone Chapel. As a sign of love, various symbols were beautifully painted onto the skulls.

After a dinner of the typical Austrian Wiener Schnitzel and Apfelstrudel, they went for a hike above the town. It was particularly enjoyable with all the day-trippers having departed Hallstatt by that time. The hike afforded rich views of the town, the lake, and the surrounding mountains, many of which are still dotted with snow.

Prior to retiring for the night, they relaxed on the lake-front garden terrace of their hotel. While the sun went down, they indulged in a second dessert of Eis (ice-cream) accompanied by Holunder gespritzt (elderflower soda) for Raul and an Almdudler (Austrian herbed lemonade) for Lauren. Lecker!

Republik Österreich
Coat of Arms


Time Plan Sleep in
Day 03 Friday 18 May Hallstatt
07:40 Depart Wien Westbahnhof platform 9 on OIC 860
Total duration: 3h 45m, €47,50
09:59 Arrive Attnang-Puchheim, transfer to platform 21 on REX 3412/3446
10:11 Depart Attnang-Puchheim
11:25 Arrive Hallstatt train station
11:30 Take ferry “Stefanie” across the lake to Hallstatt
11:45 Drop bags at Gasthof Simony
Tel: +43 06134/8231
12:00 Get information on two-day hike from TI
12:30 Self-guided walk around the old town
13:00 Check in at Gasthof Simony, cash only, €70 for one night confirmed
13:30 ▲▲Catholic Church and Bone Chapel, €1,50, 10:00-18:00
14:30 Take a hike, perhaps to Waldbachstrub waterfall
17:30 Take a rowboat/canoe on the lake

Ferry info

Sights in Hallstatt
  • ▲▲Catholic Church and Bone Chapel, €1,50, 10:00-18:00
  • Hallstatt Museum, €7,50, 10:00-18:00
  • Salt-Mine Tour, €24 combo-ticket mine & funicular round-trip, 09:00-16:00, arrive early or late to avoid crowds, ask for English tour

Near Hallstatt
  • ▲▲Dachstein Mountain Cable Car and Caves, €37 combo-ticket, 9:20-16:00, first and last cable car at 8:40, 17:00

  • ▲Lake Trip, €8+ for ferry, €12-13/hr for boat rental until 19:00
  • ▲Local Hikes