This album contains photos from our first hike, near Hallstatt, to a waterfall. Click the picture below to see them all.
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.
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.
|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|
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!
|Day 03||Friday 18 May||Hallstatt|
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|
|11:25||Arrive Hallstatt train station|
|11:30||Take ferry “Stefanie” across the lake to Hallstatt|
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|
Sights in Hallstatt