I’m in no position to answer this question, of course.
But I can tell you this much: If there is a heaven, it’s got to be a place like Hallstatt!
Hallstatt is a tiny village in Austria’s lake district that is home to the world’s oldest salt deposits. But that was of no concern to me – I didn’t even go see it. The village is so beautiful that you hardly want to set foot outside of it.
The nature there is astounding!
The mountains rising up to 2,000 meters are enveloped in forests. The snowy blanket lends the village a fairy-tale quality in winter, to be contrasted only by the picturesque cover of green come summer. What’s more, these 2,000-meter-high mountains drop sharply into the lake as if they’re holding the water in a tight embrace. A lakeview is beautiful everywhere, but it’s truly something else to see one like this!
There’s absolute silence…
It’s an ideal hermit’s retreat for someone who has left a spouse, lover or job.
It’s a wonderful environment to pen a novel or conduct research.
More than that, it’s a marvelous escape for those tired of the rat race in the big smoke…
But it’s a place with nothing to do for honeymooning couples! (I won’t pass judgement on whether this is good or bad for honeymooners of either the young or old variety. I’m just stating a fact…)
Hallstatt is so quiet and devoid of action that anyone coming from life in the big city is sure to grow tired of it soon.
But you’re sure to enjoy it until you reach that point!
Hallstatt can be accessed from Salzburg. On paper, the transport seems difficult and confusing, but that doesn’t mirror the reality. Wherever I go, I always want to see how the locals live in any given place rather than go there as a tourist, so I didn’t ask for a tour. Instead, my wife and I hopped on Bus 150 from the bus station adjacent to the Salzburg train station, getting a scenic, 90-minute ride to Bas Ischle. The bus left us right at the train station. In the blink of an eye, we jumped onto the Hallstatt train. We got off a short while later at the Hallstatt station, except that the village was on the other side of the lake. As soon as we disembarked, however, there was a small ferry ready to transport us to the village. The ferry was one of the best parts of the whole adventure; because tours bring you to the village by road, you get no chance to soak in the peerless beauty of the lake. As it is, the stunning shots you see of the village are all taken from the lake.
After a ride of about 5-10 minutes, you reach the village. The return is identical – enjoyable and easy.
If you’re not interested in seeing the salt mines and the museum of skulls in Hallstatt, take a walk along the lakeshore to either the left or right from the village center before returning after taking an obligatory shot of yourself in that frame. With the pine forests and fresh air leaving you peckish, sit down to fill your stomach and observe the surroundings.
We sat down at the restaurant of the Seehotel Grüner Baum, the best hotel on the lakeshore. The restaurant, which is at the entrance to the hotel, looks out over the lake, with the dock down below. In the summer, you can dine here amid the sunbathing guests, but those unfazed by the prospect of cold water can even jump into the lake with a plop. The food is decent and orderly – one must not forget that you don’t come here to eat, you eat something when you come here!
Alternatively, there’s also the See Terrassencafé Polreich right on the lake – sitting down for a meal is to die for. But for those looking to tide themselves over with something light, let me recommend Die Gemischtwaren-Handlung Am See – a lovely cafe, even if it isn’t on the lakefront.
Speaking of “something to die for” and other matters of life and death, I read a Q&A on the plane to Austria. One of the people in the piece said, “I don’t attach any importance to life or the world; it’s not something I take seriously.” I respect the person’s ideas. But I would add that I think such comments are nothing but empty talk and cheap heroism. And I wonder if this person who downplays and trivializes life maintains the same view when their plane experiences turbulence, or do they grab a hold of the hand of the person next to them and begin fearfully mumbling the prayers they’d long forgotten!
I take life pretty seriously – especially when paradises like Hallstatt are within my grasp!