WIEN TO HALLSTATT We were up quite early and after packing up and having breakfast we left our packs in the hotel lobby and walked down to the Palace to see if we could get in to see the morning training session of the famous Lipizzaner Stallions. We couldn’t!
After grabbing our gear we caught trams to the Westbahnhof and bought tickets to a place called Hallstatt up in the hills near Salzburg in the area known as the Saltzkammergut. We changed trains at a place called Attnang-Puchheim and almost immediately the climb up into the green, rocky and wet mountains began.
We got off the train by mistake at a town called Bad Ischl and had to wait 2 hours for the next one to come along. The valley we were travelling up closed in and the rocky, pine-clad mountains were dusted with a light coat of fresh snow beneath swirling grey clouds. The shades of green were amazing: from the bright lime green of oaks to the deep dark green of pines.
We got off the train at the stop marked Hallstatt which was merely a wooden hut above the lake known as Hallstattsee, where a boat was waiting to take us across to the town itself. Stepping off the boat was like stepping into a postcard scene. The two churches, their wood-slate spires topped with gold spheres rose on either side of the pier and behind them the tiny timber houses climbed almost vertically up the rocky cliffside overlooking the lake. The village swept away in an arc to our right, clinging precariously to the water’s edge and spread more levelly off to the left around the bay. It was so still and quiet that not a single noise save the lapping of the water against the pier could be heard.
A man showed us the way up to the Jürgenauberge (YHA) and we booked in – the only people there save for a group of drunk and locals who had apparently been drinking non-stop for 24 hours. Later on we went out for a walk around the silent and nearly deserted lakeshore past rows of neat, well-kept timber houses: the ones closest to the water with adjoining boathouses at water level.
We ate dinner that night in the hostel and spent an hour or so talking to an Aussie guy who had come in for a beer.