Sunday, August 27, 2017

Europe Day 5 - Hallstatt

We got up early to catch an 8 am train to Hallstatt. This is the kind of place that you think can't possible be as beautiful as the pictures. 

But it truly is.

Once your train stops, then you wait for a ferry to come and take you across a gorgeous shiny lake. If you can elbow your way in between the very pushy Asian tourists, you can snap a photo. It was no easy feat. They must be used to standing their ground in their highly populated home countries. 

This was the first sign we saw off the ferry.

That is one seriously long word. And apparently it means that this store carries a variety of items.

We planned on touring Hallstatt's salt mine, which is the oldest in the world. Mom has done this several times with each of the kids that take a big trip with her and she says the miner's slide is pretty great. So we are aiming for that first.

We started walking down the street and looking into shops. And as I glance up, I noticed a VERY STEEP funicular up to the salt mine.  I mean, really. That looks scary, right? But every time you see something like that, you also have to weigh the scariness factor with the fact that you will not have to climb up that mountain if you can get yourself over the fear.

Not to mention, that is a very beautiful mountain.

We made our way through the shops and over to the base of the funicular. Looking at it from this perspective did not calm my fears.

This is the view from the trail above the funicular. It really is so gorgeous. I could just picture this in the winter. What an amazing place to live!

There was a pretty substantial trail we needed to still climb to the entrance of the salt mine. I got bit by several Austrian mosquitoes. They are just as mean as American ones.

We had brought our puffy jackets along with us because we were thinking it would be a chilly day. We wore long sleeve shirts too. Well, it really was NOT chilly and by the time we hiked up the trail, we were both really warm and sweaty. So, mom had hauled those puffy coats around in her cute bag all morning just so we could use them inside the mine. She knew first hand that it is very cold in the mine.

Unfortunately, we were so hot from the hike, we were both thinking that the coolness of the mine would feel amazing and a welcome relief. So we CHECKED THE COATS!!

They issued our coveralls, complete with matching green pants with reinforce bum for maximum speed on the miner's slide.

Mom realized just that the pants they gave her were too small and we started to head back to exchange them. But our tour guide said, "No, no...those are fine. It's too late now!" So mom was stuck with uncomfortable pants the whole tour.

Other than that, this guy was a pretty good tour guide. He spoke both German and English very well. He took a moment before the tour to ask us to please refrain from picking up rocks, writing on the walls, grabbing pipes or wire and....I promise you....not "relieve yourself'" in the mine.

ugh. You know he said it because someone did it.

We hike up several flights of outdoor steps and walked over to the entrance. This mine is 7000 years old. It really is the source of wealth and industry hear. I think it is fascinating that salt is so important and can bring so much money into the area and we buy it for 50 cents a pound. I have never thought of it as a valuable commodity.

The entrance to the mine. If you are claustrophobic, you probably should go back and look for souvenirs.

Walking down down down... and the cool temperatures felt amazing....and then they felt freezing. We were both wishing for our puffy coats after about 15 minutes. DANG!

We reached the first miner's slide and the guide tells us if we are really super scared we can walk down the stair case..(wimps). If we choose to slide, all you have to do is sit down, lean back and resist the urge to slow yourself down with your feet, which would cause you to pitch forward and break your face.

You don't have to tell me twice.

But, wow. That was scary. Doing something like that and just letting it happen. That was really hard for me. And it felt very very fast.

This is mom getting off the second (much longer and much scarier) slide. Can I just say, I really had no idea how fearless she is! She doesn't bat an eye when we are going up steep inclines or sliding down into the abyss of a mine. She has nerves of steel. And....we found out that she clocked a speed 30.7 km per hr! She says she thinks she can do better when she comes with Heidi in a couple weeks. I told you....fearless!

The rest of the tour was all about the history of the mine. They showed us how they found a staircase that they believe is the oldest in the world. And some of the science behind removing the salt from the mine and making it usable. Mom and I kept getting jostled to the back of the group and really couldn't see or hear a lot of it.

The mine was cool and the history was so interesting. But we were absolutely shivering by then and we were thinking lovingly about our puffy coats back in mom's cute bag from Budapest.

We left the mine by way of this funny little train the miner's used. It was basically a long skinny bench that you straddle. This picture makes me laugh every time....

We were so happy to warm up outside of the mine. And hiking downhill is infinitely more enjoyable that uphill.

At the base of the mountain I saw this little cottage again. The more I looked at it, the more I wanted to just move right in and live out the rest of my days. I'm not sure it would have the same charm if I built on to fit the whole family, however.

Maybe later.

We walked back through the town and took found some fun souvenirs. Mom and I both bought some darling wooden toys...little animals that have wooden balls on their backs that roll when you move them around.  I bought a little turtle and mom got three animals for the little girls that live across the street from her. While we have been on this trip, they have essentially lost both of their parents and it is so heartbreaking. I know Mom wishes she could be there to help and comfort them. I think these little toys will make them smile.

We spied this fantastic pear treat that has been pruned to grow flat against this house. I love it so much! Right after I snapped this photo, Mom pointed out the "no photo" sign nailed to the trunk.

lol... whoops!

Along the banks of Lake Hallstatt.

Soon we were both starving. And we found a place that looked good.

All of the restaurants have the same basic menu. Which is totally fine with me, because weinersnitzel! But really, it was the salad I liked most. I even poured the leftover salad dressing over my potatoes.

I love how the people here take such care with their homes. The paint and trim and all the flower boxes.

The view of Hallstatt from the path up to the old church.

We visited this old church and next to it the Charnel House. Because of the way the town is so nestled in the hills, there is limited space for burial grounds.

"In the 1700s, the church began digging up corpses to make way for the newly dead. The bodies, which had been buried for only 10 to 15 years, were then stacked inside the charnel house. Lest this all sound overly callous to the memory of the dead, there is actually a charm to the whole affair that Hallstatt can’t seem to escape even with a room full of skulls. Once the skeletons were exhumed and properly bleached in the sun, the family members would stack the bones next to their nearest kin.  In 1720, a tradition began of painting the skulls with symbolic decorations, as well as dates of birth and death so that the dead would be remembered, even if they no longer had a grave. Of the 1,200 skulls, some 610 of them were lovingly decorated with an assortment of symbols - laurels for valor, roses for love, and so on. The ones form the 1700s are painted with thick dark garlands, while the newer ones form the 1800s, bear brighter floral styles. "

Kinda nice, huh?

After the Charnel House, we went down to the dock to wait for the ferry. The view behind us was gorgeous. 

We watched as a lady hand fed a swan.

And had a laugh about how much Mark and this kids would love this ticket.

We were happy to hang out and rest our feet.

On the trip back, I was wise to the pushy tourists, so I hopped right on and found a great spot at the back of the boat. I wanted to get a great shot of the town as we crossed the lake

We could see a lot more of the shoreline as we got further away...

Right as we came to the other side, the ride came pounding down! You can see the water jumping in the lake. We were feeling pretty grateful for our coats then.

Luckily there was a covered area at the bottom of the hill. All we would need to do is run up it when we heard the train coming. That way we could spend as much time as possible staying dry. Others made a run for it.

Mom heard the train and the rain petered out. Perfect timing!

We rode the train all the way back to Salzburg and back to our hotel, but we made a little pit stop at the grocery store in the station for a dark chocolate and coconut ice cream bar. Delicious!

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