It was on a mere whim while in Austria that I booked us into a lake-view room in Hallstatt south of Salzburg for our anniversary celebration.
A storehouse of ancient and modern secrets, Hallstatt hangs at the lakeside base of the 5,000-foot Drachstein cliff that fittingly wears a gray beard of eternal ice. Centuries before the birth of Christ, Hallstatt’s salt deposits brought prosperity. The “Hallstatt period” gave its name to the iron-smelting of 3,000 years past. Hallstatt’s salt is believed to have been the destination of the “Iceman” who was mugged by Italians of prehistory and his body left to be discovered frozen in a glacier by 20th century humans. After a certain amount of geographic wrangling between Austria and Italy, his skeleton was removed to an Italian museum far to the south.
On the other hand the beauty of Hallstatt’s prehistory is that through the heroic efforts of a mine manager in 1846. much of Hallstatt’s heritage has remained in the town museum.
We were met by a Hallstatt gondola after our train arrived across the reflective lake. Today’s Hallstatt thrives on hiking trails, excellent restaurants featuring lake fish and a world class anthropology museum. It is a locale to abandon your vehicle and stroll for days.
Canturies following the Hallstatt period another group added to the mystique of the fjordlike waters of the Hallstattersee. In the closing days of World War II, the Nazis dumped a gold hoard into it. Some bits have been recovered but an estimated trove remains in the icy 400-foot depths.
The glacial waters of the lake provide another treasure – 20,000 pounds of whitefish yearly for restaurants of surrounding towns. Or you may wish to try Hallstatt caviar. Some restaurants have views of resident swans on the lake plus the town square. With luck, the Hallstatt miners band will be performing.