The Austrian Storybook Town of Hallstatt

It’s a storybook alpine village that demands to be painted. The trick is to cancel out the ferry loads of grinning visitors and their wildly flailing selfie-sticks

So ultimate is this destination to some that an exact replica has been built in China (for a sneaky little USD$940 million). Unfortunately someone made a small mistake and installed a London style red phone booth, just about the only sign that it’s not the Austrian original (that and the numerous dumpling stalls and towering advertisements for the mining company who funded the project). This explains why the train, then the ferry and then the market square of the actual Austrian Hallstatt were filled with people from China, here to take pictures of Austrian phone booths.

Big props to Mum for gallantly using her umbrella to fight the hoards of aboard the ferry in order to gain a perfect vantage point as we entered the port, well worth the mission as it’s a stunning entry into the town. I cannot get enough of the Austrian/German style of timber frame building and framed by mountains and lakes, this spot is a delicious picture. A detail mum did not fail to notice and for the fourth time, the phone storage became full. But you do need 8 pictures of a blue window incase 7 are blurry (which at 7 is optimistic).

One spot in the town that I’d highly recommend to escape the mass-selfie taking place in the centre is the most beautiful graveyard I’ve laid my eyes to rest upon – up on the edge of town. Every grave stone has been structured as a miniature timber framed 2D house along with bright flowers planted liberally amongst them all. The Cemetery of Hallstatt on the parish grounds of the cliff-edge church also adjoins the Beinhaus or ‘Bone house’. In St. Michaels Chapel sits the world’s largest collection of skulls – around 1200; 600 of which have been painted with words and patterns. All you can do is give a toothy smile back to the bony audience and ponder whether this is Hallstatt’s solution to its invasive tourist problem – I’m sure I saw a few pouting skulls ready for the next photo that never came…

The cemetery steps very nearly became our picnic lunch spot but as we didn’t have enough to share with everyone lying around we didn’t want to appear rude and moved on to a lookout above town.

Even more so in the rain, the view above the misted town gave the feeling that the picturesque cute-ness of it all may easily overwhelm and cause some kind of spasm. I drew a picture instead and thanked the stars we weren’t there in peak season as it must get even crazier (at least there’s now a replica for the overflow).

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Mum took a picture of a Chinese man in a knitted Christmas jumper posing with a letterbox. And while we’re on the topic, yes mum did enjoy her daily coffee-zen at a market square Konditorei along with a slice of Hallstatt torte (a clever marketing ploy to get rid of yesterday’s sponge cake). And do not be disappointed as yes she let the Chinese girl and her mum on the next table know that she’s from Australia (a far-away land) and that she’s travelling with her daughter – and are they mother and daughter too? The girl did not understand and quickly became confused, I quickly asked for the bill. The ferry back across the lake was calmer, the hype having settled slightly. Mum made a few last well-aimed jabs with her umbrella to secure our spots and pondered aloud what it would like to fall in love with an Austrian man and become a Hallstatt resident. She’d certainly make a colourful addition, a replica may even be employed to flail their umbrella and order cake-zen over in China.

Whatever happens, I hope you can get over to this magic part of Austria one day and say hi to Mum for me. If you can’t find her check the skull collection.

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