Over three months since my last Austria post? How did that happen?
Our day started looking for the bus station. We found the place where were supposed to buy tickets, waited in line for a very long time, and then were told to buy tickets on the bus. We wandered around looking for the correct bus stop in Mirabell Platz. I asked a tour operator, and we finally crossed the road and found the correct spot. I bought tickets from the bus driver. This was our nicest European bus experience. We took the back row to ourselves and spread out our luggage. The trip was pretty, through a series of lake towns. We made about 500 stops unfortunately. The bus dropped us off right in front of the train station at Bad Ischl. We waited a few minutes before boarding the slightly early train. It was a very pleasant train, passing through a number of very pretty lake towns, some with paragliders. After a while, I checked our progress on the map. Oops.
A couple of questions (in German) to the German woman across the row confirmed that we had gone the wrong direction from Bad Ischl. We got off at the next stop, and only had to wait about 10 minutes for the next train. Thankfully the conductor never made it to us before we got off, but our friend across the row offered to explain our predicament if he asked.
Going the right direction now, the scenery was just as nice. Once we reached Hallstatt, it was a short walk down to the water. Hallstatt is squeezed between a lake, the Hallstatter See, and a mountain. There isn’t enough room for a train station, so the train station is on the other side of the lake.
A few minutes later and the tiny ferryboat arrived. We arrived in the village and walked through it to our hotel. We stayed at the Bräugasthof . This former brewery was built in 1472, with an older section of the building built in the 1380s. This place had serious character- every step made the whole building creak. Our room, the nicest room of our vacation, was just gorgeous- hardwood floors with throw rugs and old antique furniture (the wardrobe was dated 1833). Outside was a deck overlooking the lake, complete with colorful flower boxes, a little table, and two chairs. Of course, the room had modern plumbing and electricity. One of the things I noticed the most was the sheer size of the wood planks and beams that were used to put this thing together. You can’t buy wood that big anymore.
We cleaned up, and then set out to explore the town. The guidebook said it would take 10 minutes, but it might have been 12 or 15. We got ice cream and pastries for lunch, then spotted a young American woman carrying an identical set of pages ripped out from the Rick Steve’s guidebook. She came over to say hello and introduce herself. Her name was Christine, she lives in Washington, and was on an extended solo tour of Europe.
We checked out the Catholic Church, reached by walking up the street- street here being defined as a covered stairway. The cemetery was reminiscent of St. Peter’s in Salzburg. They don’t have much room in Hallstatt, so after a few years they dig up the bones and display them in the adjacent Beinhaus. This was also pretty cool- cool being defined as a small, confined, and creepy room filled with bones and painted skulls.
Our next stop was a small village history museum. Dorinna liked it, but I thought it was pretty cheesy- highlighting historical events of Hallstatt such as a landslide, and a fire that destroyed 30 homes. The landslide was simulated by being on a little wooden bridge that shook back and forth as the movie played, showing fake trees tumbling over. And the fire was demonstrated with a wall of red lights that flickered over a picture of the city while a sound best described as “eggs frying” played on the loudspeaker.
Finally it was over, and we got to sit on the hotel balcony, listen to iPods, and relax. As we got ready to go to dinner I spotted Christine walking by. I yelled to her from the balcony and invited her to join us for dinner. We all started with a wonderful cheese soup, served from a communal crock. I got a fairly lame smoked trout salad. At least the fish came from the lake a few feet away. I ended up eating some of Christine’s breaded trout, which was better. I also drank some fairly mediocre local beer. The dinner ended on a good note though, with our first taste of Sachertorte. We talked late into the night. Christine really liked Prague- definitely on our list.
Special thanks to Christine for providing the photos for this post!