It takes a leap of faith to leave your luggage at the hotel reception and walk to the next destination, in the hope that the said luggage will be waiting for you when you arrive. That’s exactly what we had to do on our Inntravel Lakes & Mountains walking holiday in Austria. As we set off on our hike to Hallstatt from St Agatha, with just a rucksack filled with valuables and passports, I had visions of the taxi driver disappearing with our bags and my M&S flimsies finding a new home under a dirndl.
Despite our trepidation, I was looking forward to today’s walk: a gentle stroll down the eastern side of Hallstättersee before catching the little ferry over to Hallstatt. On the previous day, around St Agatha and Bad Goisern, we hadn’t seen many people on the trails, but this was probably because mid-October is coming to the end of the hiking season. When we did see other walkers, we were greeted with a friendly smile and a greeting which varied so frequently, we couldn’t work out what phrase was the regular hikers’ hello. I have no idea whether people were saying ‘Good Morning’, ‘Have a nice day’ or ‘Isn’t the weather good for the time of year’. We replied with the odd ‘Guten Morgen’, ‘servus’ and the occasional ‘hello’ – all of these seemed to work well.
Once again we were in awe of the Austrian homes. They were so tidy, with tables of autumnal decorations on the doorsteps, and any open garages displaying a full set of winter tyres lined up on the walls. I became fascinated by the log stores and photographed this one by the lake, saying, ‘This is a log store!’
Dougie tapped me on the shoulder to turn me around and said, ‘No, THIS is a log store!’
Is it appropriate at this stage to talk about shewees? Probably not but I will anyway. I had purchased a Shewee before our trip and, as suggested on the instructions, tried it out in the shower beforehand. Surprisingly, it actually worked. Halfway along our lake walk, I decided the time had come to see if it worked in the wild. Yet another leap of faith, peeing into a receptacle, waiting for its appearance along the extension pipe and hoping to avoid any reverse-flow. My trousers were quick-drying but they were also pale-coloured so I was a tad anxious. You’ll be pleased to know there were no accidents and I was now confident I could do the honours behind trees, just like a man, without resorting to baring my nether regions to any Austrian wildlife.
It didn’t take too long to reach the ferry station. It felt too early to head over to Hallstatt so we continued walking for another half an hour, with a plan to have lunch in the town of Obertraun. The walk was fabulous: the mist had cleared, the sun was bright and warming and the scenery was awesome: those striking Dachstein mountains towering above. As we walked we could hear a helicopter hovering over us. We passed a long run of metal fencing and the imposing gates of some hidden lair. Dougie commented that the place felt like a James Bond set and that the baddie probably lived behind the gates. Just at that moment we heard a ‘miaow‘ coming from behind the fencing. ‘Blofeld!’ Dougie exclaimed, as the cat edged towards us, purring up against the railings.
Most of Obertraun seemed shut as it was in-between the summer and winter seasons. Thankfully a pizza restaurant was open. It was busy with locals, probably because it has a skittle alley attached – how brilliant is that! We didn’t have a game but the pizzas were great and we had a lovely walk past the closed Obertraun schiffsstation (ferry station), through Blofeld’s pad and onto the Hallstatt ferry station. We timed our walk to perfection as the tiny ferry was due to leave in ten minutes. If only all waiting rooms looked like this…
It’s probably best to be aware in advance that Hallstatt has become a big tourist destination. After a couple of days of quiet hiking, you could feel a little shell-shocked to find so many people taking photographs. This didn’t bother me at all – I was snapping away as much as anyone else so I could hardly moan that the town was busy.
Hallstatt is so beloved by the Chinese that they have made a copy of it in Luoyang, Boluo County, China. The day-trippers who come to visit the real Hallstatt are so happy to be there; it’s infectious. And why wouldn’t you feel joyful when you look around Hallstatt: the pretty houses stitched onto the side of the mountain like an elaborate embroidery. It is beautiful.
Hallstatt has a number of souvenir shops selling things with salt in them – well, it’s been trading salt for thousands of years so why stop now – but we were delighted to discover a Maislinger bakery serving cakes that had been made in Au, the village where we had tasted their delicious products the previous day. Kaffee und kuchen for 5 euros 50. I don’t think that’s too bad for a tourist hot spot.
Our hotel, the Heritage Hotel, Hallstatt, had a totally different vibe from the traditional accommodation experienced in St Agatha. Although the exterior was in keeping with the town, the inside was contemporary. We had a lake-view room, with chic wooden floors, stylish bathroom and a Nespresso machine. We could buy cakes and have our own coffee whenever we liked.
We were also relieved to find two more additions to our bedroom – two large cases, no pants removed.
If you want to know more about Hallstatt, have a look at the blog posts from Emma, A Bavarian Sojourn and Lorelei from Calfornia Globetrotter. I read both of these before our trip to understand more about the town. Emma also told me to check out Obertraun and the pizzeria/skittle alley!
Disclosure: we chose and paid for this holiday ourselves although Inntravel gave us a small discount in exchange for a review.
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