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On a trip with her family in Austria, Tanushree Desai happened upon Halstatt, a jewel hidden in the Austrian Alps. Here is her personal account.
Mesmerizing panoramic landscape leaves me awed. Time freezes and so do my feet. Numbness fills up in the air around, casting a magical spell. I feel completely lost, yet more alive than ever; I surrender to it, yet I’m happier than ever. I wish I could just fix myself up there in that thin air, to float and absorb the tranquility within myself, to never let it go.
Who can ever come back to reality when the scenic beauty of the nature as wonderful as this hypnotises and makes you feel absolutely possessed?
Since we started to travel more extensively over the last couple of months, I have found myself awestruck at more than a 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.
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 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 along with a toddler is difficult in the way you envisage, and eventually you tend to not plan further and just 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 a 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 Hallstatt 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.
A self planned trip is the easiest and the best way to explore such places at your own pace. I wouldn’t have ever captured this if I was on a time bound tour.
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-
The beautiful village of Hallstatt with houses on top of each other tenaciously clinging on to the mountain behind.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Who knew the destination would completely take us by surprise when we arrive. We were quite happy clicking this few minutes before.
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.
Given a chance I would have never come back from this heaven of tranquility.
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 souvenirs 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 colourful houses, restaurants and cafes. My daughter 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 maybe I choose to see it that way
Mayra marvelling at the sheer beauty of what she was seeing and experiencing.
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 some research on cycling tours and places to rent a bike from, that I would like to share with you.
Hiking trail around the Lake Hallstatt. I explored a bit of it on foot.
I have left a piece of me there, and have taken back some sweet memories of having spent a beautiful day here.
Quite is the best way to be when you just can’t explain it to yourself – How can a place like this be so picturesque?
What about you? How do you like to reminisce about such amazingly wonderful places you have never imagined or seen before?
A version of this was first published here.
Images source: Tanushree Desai
Header image: By Ncsakany at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Jalo., Public Domain, Link
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