There’s certainly a lot to like about Hallstatt. The picture perfect hamlet is located between impressive alpine peaks and the banks of the Hallstätter See (a large lake). The settlement boasts a wealth of baroque architecture painted in a finely selected pastel palette and is renowned as one of the world’s most beautiful lakeside villages.
Historical evidence of civilisation in the Hallstatt area dates back to the early European Iron Age around 500 BC, when the region was first noted for its rich salt deposits. Ever since these early times the inhabitants of this beautiful region have attempted to balance the excavation of its earthly wealth to protect its flawless natural surrounds. And you would have to say they have done a damn good job. While there are some noticeable signs of industrialisation, they remain relatively diminutive and out of sight.
Our Hallstatt adventure began after a lengthy drive north from Triglav National Park in Slovenia. We arrived in the area on a misty afternoon and checked into a simple campsite just outside of the town centre. Upon arrival we were told that the rain had been-a-plenty this summer in Hallstatt and the townsfolk had not experienced the warm rays of mother sun for over a-one-month. This was rather deflating as our trusty Norwegian weather forecaster yr.no/ had predicted warm sunny weather. Nevertheless we quickly set up camp and set off for an early evening stroll through Hallstatt’s town centre. What was meant to be a short meander or brief gallivant, soon turned into a full town exploration. The mirrored waters of the Hallstätter See and the restrained pastel tint of the village dwellings overcame us, as we walked down narrow alleys, through quiet marketplaces, over wooden bridges and into the remarkable town square: which is perhaps the worlds most beautiful on our account.
The next day we awoke to a radiant sun and set out on a day hike that would take us through the town centre before ascending a mountain of moderate height. Once atop the mountain we would traverse down the backside into the Echern Valley in a smart loop that finished at our campsite. The scenery on the hike was absolutely spectacular and the weather was nothing short of superb. In fact the scenery captivated us so much that we managed to stray more than 2-kilometres off trail where we became lost like a pair of incompetent half-wits. Luckily we eventually found a small mountain hut, where we were able to have a picturesque lunch break and renavigate. Reorientated we found our way back onto the right trail and began our descent. After a few kilometres of walking we noticed a signposting for an alternative descent route for experienced hikers only. Teeming with confidence and a sense of adventure we followed a narrow cliff-side route affixed with chains and ropes all the way into the Echern Valley, where we spent the afternoon marvelling at the areas unspoilt grandeur.
At Waldbachstrub Falls we stopped to read a signpost that details the areas natural history, when an amusing quote written by the former Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph I caught our attention. The quote is taken from a lettered account that Franz Joseph wrote to his mother while on a visit to the Echern Valley with his sister in 1865
“The day before yesterday just Sissi and I had a lovely outing in magnificent weather. After we had eaten we went to the Waldbachstrub. The valley was superbly illuminated and of the freshest green, all that spoilt it were a number of halfwits as always and a new civilisation which is highly inappropriate in his beautiful region”
Thankfully the highly inappropriate settlement of Hallstatt has defied the judgement of Franz Joseph I and evolved into a picturesque village that rightfully compliments its superb natural surrounds. Unfortunately the half-wits still remain 😉