Thursday, October 23, 2014

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 165

Hallstatt, shown on the postcard above, is a small picturesque town approximately a two-hour or less drive from Salzburg, Austria.  We were absolutely stunned by the beauty of this place with the lake, mountains, and traditional Austrian alpine buildings.  A scenic delight for the traveler.  This region was historically very wealthy because of the discovery of salt.  Salt was used as a preservative as well as a seasoning and a valuable commodity.  We did not do it but it is possible to tour the mine located above the main area of the city.   A pipeline to transport the salt brine to Ebensee was built 400 years ago from 13,000 hollowed out trees.  Salt production still plays an important part in the economy of the village, as does tourism. 

 Until 1890 it was only possible to reach Hallstatt by boat or narrow mountain trails.  There are two parking lots accessed by tunnel under the mountain behind the town.  The village itself has only narrow lanes for pedestrians and a few delivery vehicles and local residents. 

 There are still boat tours across the lake

We saw several swans in the lake and even boats like the one above that look like swans big enough for small groups of people but these are more for recreation than necessity. 

Notice the steep stairway on the left side of the photo above

The houses and buildings look like they are stacked one upon another and cling precariously to the mountainside using what seems like every available inch of land.  Many dwellings can only be reached by very steep stairways.  We climbed up and down the stairs to get better views of the lake, the village and the churches.   At one time there was a fire here that destroyed several buildings and in remembrance of the event, the lives and property lost the building where the fire started is always painted red.  Many of the other buildings are painted pastel colors or are natural wood.  Almost all had flower or window boxes.  One house had old hand tools hung on the outside walls.  And for those who have heard the song “Edelweiss” from the movie “The Sound of Music” and never seen the blossom we spotted a basket of them with an identifying sign in front of a small shop. 

Because of the topography there is limited burial space requiring bones to be exhumed every ten years or so and placed in an ossuary to make room for new burials.  Although we did not visit it, the ossuary is open for tours and has a collection of decorated skulls with names, professions, death dates on display.  

We planned to return to the hotel in Salzburg that evening so we chose to visit the museum and get an overview of the culture, growth, and history rather than do separate tours of the ossuary and the salt mine. Iron Age Hallstatt is a World Heritage Site for Cultural Heritage.

In the museum we saw displays depicting how the people lived and worked here from about 7,000 years ago until the present time.  There have been several mine disasters some that necessitated the closure of selected tunnels.  At one time a large mudslide came down the mountain and into the mine tunnels filling everything. Fortunately not many workers were in the mine at the time of the slide.   Artifacts have been recovered including shoes, tools, and even bodies that were preserved by the salt and mud.  The systematic method used in Hallstatt to recover items of archeological significance is now also employed elsewhere.


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