Austria's charming places


Hallstatt (german text)  

Right at the foot of the impressive Dachstein lies – in an wonderful land­scape – a real jewel. Hallstatt is a small town in the so cal­led Salz­kam­mer­gut, in the „Bun­des­land“ (state) of Upper Austria and is lo­ca­ted on Lake Hallstatt. Together with the Dachstein and the Interior Salz­kam­mer­gut, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The municipality is located in the judicial district of Bad Ischl.
In 1846, Johann Georg Ramsauer (1795–1874) discovered a large prehistoric cemetery at the Salzberg mines near Hallstatt, which he ex­ca­vated during the second half of the 19th cen­tu­ry. Eventually the excavation would yield 1,045 burials, although no settlement has yet been found.
The burial ground is one of the most important archaeological remains in the world. The graves contain luxury goods from all over Europe that attest to extensive contacts. People of all ages were buried in the graves, from infants to very old men and women. During the entire occupancy of the cemetery, the dead were buried in both body and fire graves. Brooches, belts and jewelry were found in the graves of women, needles and weapons in the graves of men.
Bronze dagger (replica) from the Hallstatt period
The Hallstatt culture had developed from the Bronze Age urn field culture (around 1300 to 800 BC) and was the predominant Central Eu­ro­pean culture in the period of the older Iron Age from around 800 to 475 BC. It was followed by the so-called La Tène culture in a large part of Central Europe.
The people of the Hallstatt culture are among the earliest Celts. The Celts were not actually a people, but different tribes in the distribution area from the sources of the Danube to the hin­terland of Marseille, which Herodotus and other historians from the 6th and 5th centuries BC. BC were called „Keltoi“.

Idyllic location on the lake, imposing mountain backdrop, numerous historic buildings, UNESCO World Heritage Site: Hallstatt has become well-known far beyond Austria's borders. Therefore, Chinese architects started to build a replica of the world-famous place in Guandong Province in the People's Republic of China, which is around 7100 kilometers away.
Hallstatt on an old postcard (around 1900)
What delights everyone in Hallstatt is the typical townscape, which – compared to today's photos with historical pictures – appears almost un­chan­ged. Although, if you look more closely, only about half of the houses were built before 1900, the appearance of the old town and its backdrop (the mountains on one side and the lake on the other) have remained the same for centuries. This authentic townscape has been preserved to this day thanks to the natural con­ditions and the impact of enlightened citizens.
In the 1950s and 1960s, when the obsession with modernization and the crazy idea of car-friendly cities and landscapes was widespread across Central Europe, the danger to the townscapes was greatest. In Hallstatt too, „better“ com­mu­ni­cation channels were planned to solve the local traffic problems. Specifically, a lake road was planned, which would have sacrificed the most important features of the townscape.
The Austrian speleologist and travel writer and at that time administrator of the Hallstatt Museum Dr. Friedrich Morton engaged with all his might against the project and also managed to convince many Hallstatt residents to stand up to the pro­ject. A counter project was developed that did not provide for bypassing the central market part directly on the lake.

In a referendum on December 14, 1958, 58% of the Inhabitants of Hallstatt spoke out against the planned project and for the preservation of tra­di­tional buildings in the town. This initiative led the Upper Austrian state government to im­ple­ment a variant that treated with care the townscape. The green light was finally given in 1964 by the Upper Austrian Government for a tunnel through the Hallberg as an alternative. The excavated ma­te­rial was used to create the sunbathing island in Lahn. The Hallstatt road tunnel, with its two parking galleries in front of the Mühlbach Wa­ter­fall, was opened in June, 1966.

The realization of the tunnel went hand in hand with the traffic calming of the center of Hallstatt. It is now closed to day traffic. Even the guests of the hotels and pensions in the center have to leave they cars outside. The few available parking spaces are reserved for the residents of Hallstatt. A little downside: The traffic calming and the nomination for UNESCO World Heritage have contributed to the fact that Hallstatt has been exposed to a steady increase in visitor numbers over the years. On some summer weekends, one might wish, as was once suggested for Venice, that the number of authorized day tourists would be limited.

The picturesque Hallstatt owes its origin to the rich salt deposits. Powerful salt chambers were discovered here more than 4,000 years ago. The „white gold“ is still mined in the „oldest salt mine in the world“ above Hallstatt. Along the brine pipeline from Hallstatt to Ebensee, which was put into operation for the first time in 1607, the „oldest pipeline in the world“, in which the brine, an aqueous salt solution, flows down with a slight slope, there is a wonderful hiking trail today. The brine trail is about 40 km long.
Hallstatt's almost 4,000 year old past offers interested visitors a wide range of destinations: from the Celtic burial ground to the salt mine (in the footsteps of the „man in the salt“), the pre­historic museum, the houses nested one above the other, the churches and the cemetery with the ossuary from the 12th century with its painted skulls.
Hallstatt ossuary / Photogr.: Gakuro (GNU Free Documentation License)
The ossuary in the Chapel of St. Michael from the 12th century contains around 610 painted skulls, the earliest of which were painted at the end of the 18th century. Painting of the skulls was com­mon in the 19th century and was mainly found in the eastern Alps (in the Innviertel region of Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol and Bavaria). Hallstatt has the largest collection of skulls ever.
For the sporty guest, Hallstatt and its sur­roun­dings offer breathtaking views on innumerable small paths and trails or on comfortable and well-developed hiking trails.
Hallstatt in Winter
Since August 15, 2013, the Dachstein region has been offering a new attraction: a platform that partly floats high above Hallstatt and offers a great panoramic view of the Dachstein region. The so called ‘World Heritage Skywalk’ hovers 350 meters above the roofs of Hallstatt and offers a unique panoramic view over Lake Hallstatt and the impressive mountain scenery.