Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day 29: Hallstatt (Oct 15)

Today's pictures are here on Flickr.

While doing my research in the months before I left, I came to quickly find that I enjoyed the Rick Steves guide books much more than Lonely Planet, Frommers, Fodor's, or any other (though I did consult as many as I could find). It also helped that Rick had a TV series, and a great many of his shows covered cities that I had planned to visit. One of those shows was on Salzburg and its surroundings, and while Halstatt wasn't on the list of places from the Frommer's car trip that got me to Melk, Krems, and Bad Ischl, he liked it enough to devote a segment of that show to the town (which you can watch here, it's only 3 minutes). I saw that episode and said that looks cool enough to spend a day there on my trip through the Salzkammergut.

After a quick breakfast (I was going to grab something and run, but they made me sit and eat, until it was time to leave to catch the 8am bus), I hopped on the bus back into town and got off at the train station. Bad Ischl has a line running south to Hallstatt and points further south, so after a day there I'd be back here tomorrow transferring to another train going west to Salzburg. A sign at the station said that the elevation was 468.946 meters (I love how they calculated that to the millimeter!), which is 1538.5 feet. The ride was about an hour, getting in just after 9:30am and passing next to an amazingly beautiful Lake Hallstatt with blue skies and fog coming off the mountains.

The train stop for Hallstatt is literally a wide spot in the road. There's a station there, and by "station" I mean a small building that holds a few people in inclement weather. The only thing is that the train comes down on the east side of the lake, and the town of Hallstatt is on the west side, so after walking down the hill to the shoreline, there's a boat that picks you up to take you on over. Of course it's not free, so make sure you have a few euros since they don't take credit cards. The town looks literally postcard-pretty. I was lucky that the weather was great, nice and sunny and no clouds. It's about a 10-minute boat ride across.

I hadn't made a room reservation because I had planned to check with the Tourist Information office to find me a room at a B&B somewhere. Unfortunately, I missed the part that said the TI office was closed on the weekend, so I had to figure out something on my own. If nothing else, there were a couple of hotels right near the dock, which were more expensive than I had wanted to spend, so I set off walking down the main street. There were a lot of B&Bs there, but none of them had any rooms free. I used my pidgin German to ask some people "zimmer frei ein nacht" (which roughly translates to "room free one night") but no luck. When I hit the end of town I headed back, which was only about a 45 minute walk total (it's a really small town), and checked in to the Seehotel Gruner Baum at $100 per night. Oh well.

After lunch (Swiss sausage salad with bread and a Hallstatter Naturbrau beer at the Cafe Derbl), the plan was to stroll the town to the south end, catch the bus to nearby Obertraun which would take me to the place where I'd catch a cable car to Schonbergalm where I'd tour an ice cave. Unfortunately, I waited at the bus stop for a bus which never came, so I said screw it and walked over to the funicular up to the top of the mountain. I chose not to do the salt mine tour or go hiking (especially since the sun goes down behind the mountains early), so I just stayed up top and admired the views.  A sign at the top listed the elevation as 838 m (2749 ft). After coming down, I walked up to the northern end of town, which I found is where the junction with the main road is, where I stopped to take more pictures of this picturesque town. I did some window shopping for a while and stopped for dinner around 6 since it looked like nothing was open late, and I wanted enough time to enjoy dinner. I walked up and down staircases looking at menus for the various places until I found something that looked decent (where I had cheese soup, sausage with bacon and cheese with fries and a salad, and a Stiegl Goldbrau to drink. And of course, an apple strudel for dessert.) There being nothing going on in town after dark, I took my tripod and camera to get some night shots from first the north side and then the south side of town (about a 20 minute walk), then back to the hotel.

I spent some time on the computer back in my room, finalizing my Salzburg trip and my room there. Then through the magic of illegally streaming video from somewhere, I was able to watch the Texas Longhorns vs the Oklahoma St Cowboys. It wasn't pretty, and what made things worse was that the only place I could get wifi was out on the patio near the lake, and the temperature was right around freezing. I stayed as long as my battery would let me, then I went back inside to recharge it, and came back out for the end of the game. I had to get to bed so I could wake up in time for the 8:45 boat across to the train station.

Today's pictures are here on Flickr.

(Originally posted 8/6/13 at 11:02pm, Houston)

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