Mesmerizing panoramic landscape leave me awed. Time freezes and so does my feet. Numbness fills up in the air around, casting a magical spell. I feel completely lost, yet alive than ever, surrendered yet happier than ever. I wish i could just fix myself up there in the thin air to float and absorb the tranquility within myself, to never let it go.
Since we started to travel more extensively over the last couple of months, i have found myself awestruck in more than few occasions, but some rare places, just blew my mind. One such place is Hallstatt in Austria, quietly tucked away amidst the Austrian Alps across the serene lake which is called by the same name - Hallstatt. It was another day, when i endlessly marvelled at the perfection with which nature conducted itself. It was way too wonderful to be true. I felt I was secretly enveloped and adeptly transported to a different world where words certainly fell short to express what i felt being in that moment.
What i didn't know about Hallstatt ?
When you barely know a place, you explore, you surprise yourself, and more often than not you take back more than what you had set yourself out for. Sometimes we consciously prefer to just go somewhere and peel out the layers one at a time soaking ourselves completely in. This process certainly is far more invigorating and fulfilling for us. Moreover, planning a trip anyways along with a toddler would never fructify the way you envisage and eventually you tend to not plan further and pleasantly surprise yourself. So Hallstatt just happened to us and we would have deeply regreted it someday if it had not. We had absolutely no idea about this awfully beautiful tiny market town, until we started to plan our itinerary of 12 day trip covering the 4 cities - Salzburg-Vienna-Budapest-Prague across the magnificent 3 neighbouring countries of Austria, Hungary and The Czech Republic.
When we were at Salzburg, we were checking out for day trips. The pictures of Hallstatt and Salzkammergut on the travel and tour guides intrigued us enough to take a road trip of 1.5 hour and reach there the next day. There are several day trips to Hallstat from Salzburg and Vienna. And also few from Prague and Cesky Krumlov. You can either choose to opt for guided tours or travel on your own like we did. Usually in the off season, tours do not operate. But it's quite convenient to travel on your own and explore at your own pace. Would highly recommend the latter, after having experienced it ourselves.
When an already intriguing history of a place intrigues you further, you go and see it yourself ????
A few interesting facts about this beautiful town-
It is one of the oldest, still inhabited villages in Europe. It's a Unesco World Heritage site, once coverted, but now a popular tourist attraction. This town has been seeing travellers due to its sheer photogenic beauty since more than 1000 years. This place had seen the beginning of the salt mining, about 7000 years ago. Up to the 19th Century, the only possible way to reach Hallstatt was either by boat or via very narrow trails. The village only has one small cemetery which means the burial area is very limited. Because of this, a person can only get up to 10 years of staying underground, after that the bones are transferred to the Beinhaus (The bone house).
Should you visit Hallstatt in March ?
Visiting Austria during March can get tricky as Winters just do not seem to make way for Spring as yet, but visiting Halstatt during winters is highly recommended. Check it out here. We were welcomed with deep and continuous snow when we reached Salzburg making it almost impossible to even step out with the temperature outside ranging between -3 to 0 degrees. ☃ However, we got lucky the next day to see the sun shine bright and just right for us to take a road trip to Hallstatt.
How did we get there ?
We took Bus no.150 from Sudtilor Platz station costing 58 Euros with return tickets, for the two of us. The bus took us to Bad Ischl in 1.5 hours from where we took a train to Halstatt for 30 minutes. Once we reached Halstatt station, we had to take a ship for 10 Euros return fare, which took 10 min to reach the town. On the way to Bad Ischl, you can also enjoy few breathtaking views at St Gilgen. You can also use the same bus pass to get down at any of these villages on the way - St.Wolfgang, St. Gilgen, Bad Ischl and continue from there.
What can you expect to see during your travel ?
The entire journey whether it was through bus train or the ship, our mouths were wide open and eyes were stretched till the end in awe and delight. No photo or video can capture these breathtaking views well enough for others to even know what they would miss otherwise. And I really mean it ????
The beautiful small villages with gorgeous looking small hut type houses along the way, the magnanimous snow kissed Alps embracing the tall and graceful pine tress, the breathtaking bluish greenish color of the water in the lake, wide green huge pasture lands, an unsual freshness in the air that we inhaled, and the cold breeze that occasionally reminded us of the winters kissing us a goodbye to give way to the spring and the summer- It all felt like I am at a fairytale land. I was literally being swept off my feet. Such is the power of nature. It draws you in. Its awe-inspiring. Its perfect. We must learn to adopt the pace of nature. It's secret is patience.
Why is Hallstatt more than a day trip ?
While we embarked ourselves on the 10 min ferry from Hallstatt station to the town on the other side, we saw a few travellers carrying luggage and now I no longer ask - Why, after realising that, our trip was a-little-rushing-through, to soak it all in just a few hours. While one could spend almost all the time sitting by the lake being caressed by the nature's humble, yet drop dead beauty all around, one could also go around seeing some of the most coveted places in the town like - The Salt mines, The Museum, The Churches, The Dachstein Skywalk, Parish of the assumption etc.
Exploring the town with a toddler ????
It's a great place to while away time with your little one, away from the busy roads and life in cities you have travelled to. The entire stretch of the town can be walked through in about 20 minutes and the kids really enjoy running through the narrow cobbled roads with lake on one side and beautiful picturesque timber houses and shops on the other, occasionally stopping to pickup or touch the seemingly attractive soveinures on display outside the shops.
As soon as we reached the town, we were at the marketplace which has a statue of the holy trinity and is adorned with beautiful colorful houses, restaurants and cafes. Mayra had a great time running down the aisle like a free soul. She was unwilling to be seated in the stroller, instead for the first time wanted to push it while she strolled. New places bring out some new or latent capabilities in her, or may be I happen to see it that way ????
Biking and hiking trails which deserve to be explored
We took the ship back to the station post lunch, only to find ourselves about an hour early for the train back to Bad Ischl. While Sandee and Mayra chose to stay back at the station, i decided to walk along the biking trails around halstatt, and I truly missed having a bike to ride upon, and a day more to stay and go hiking ????. But whatever time I had, I was convinced that this can't be missed. Soon after I was back to Salzburg, I did research on cycling tours and places to rent bike from, that I would like to share with you. Here you go.
I have left a piece of me there, and have taken back a sweet little memory of having spent a beautiful day here, captured exquisitely on my phone camera - Oneplus5, which has gathered too many accolades already on social media, but is imprinted in my heart like a picture, that I would see always when I would want to quickly escape into my schizophrenic world.
What about you ? How do you like to reminisce about such amazingly wonderful places you have never imagined or seen before ?