Monday, July 1, 2013

Three Trains, a Bus, and a Boat

That's what it took us to get to Hallstatt.  Normally, it would be two trains and a boat, but flooding has caused some problems in the area.  The train tracks from Stainach Irdning to Hallstatt aren't doing so well, so the train stops, you board a bus, travel past Hallstatt, and then get on a train to go back to Hallstatt.  Then, you take a boat (the Stefanie) across the water to Hallstatt itself.

Additionally, a river that runs through town decided to change directions the week before our arrival.  Switzerland responded by sending in the army to help sort things out.  The river was back to its usual course by the time we got there, but crews were still working on cleanup and repair.  Also, we discovered that a bridge had washed downriver into the lake:
Sorry, taken from a bus. That bridge belongs quite a ways upstream and not in the lake
So, what did we do in rainy, cold (50 degrees or so) Hallstatt?  A fair amount of hiding in our hotel, which was quite nice:
We took the short Rick Steves walking tour around town and were impressed by the trees growing along the buildings:
We visited the ice caves and saw... ice!
Along with about 30 eight-year-old Austrian schoolchildren.  Awesome.  The English speakers got to stay at the head of the group so the tour guide could tell us about the place before everyone else caught up.  Then she repeated the spiel in German.

We also toured the charnel house in Hallstatt, and by that, I mean we walked in and stared at all the skulls in this tiny room:
I felt kind of bad taking a picture (although the above is actually one that Paul took).  These are real skulls.  In Hallstatt, due to limited space, bodies stay in graves for only about 10-15 years, and then they are removed.  Previously, it was a practice to bleach the skulls in the sunlight for quite some time and then paint them with the person's name as well as with flowers, laurel leaves, or similar.  This practice has pretty much stopped, although I think people can still request it if they want.  The last person to do so was in about 1995.

We also went on a nice long walk on the day it didn't rain very much.  Austria really takes its walking paths seriously:
We enjoyed some lovely views:

That's Hallstatt nestled at the base of that hill.

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