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Hallstatt: salt mines and ice caves

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Small town in the Salzkammergut alpine region in Upper Austria located on the western shore of the lake of the same name (Hallstättersee) and close to the Dachstein mountain massif (Hoher Dachstein) below the Salzberg (literally: Salt Mountain). Thanks to the beauty of the landscape that surrounds it and the interesting particularities of the place, Hallstatt has become an important tourist and holiday center.

Famous since prehistoric times for its salt mines. Between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age (13th – 6th century BC), the so-called Hallstatt Culture (Hallstattzeit) developed here, based on the trade of salt extracted from the mines in the area. Certainly exploited also by the Romans, the salt mines continued to be a source of wealth even in the Middle Ages, at the beginning of the 14th century Hallstatt became a market place.

At the end of the 16th century, the “oldest industrial pipeline in the world” was built to facilitate the transport of salt. 40 km long from Hallstatt to Ebensee, it was made up of thousands of hollowed out tree trunks, along which the salt dissolved in the water flowed.

WHAT TO SEE IN HALLSTATT

The cultural landscape of the Hallstatt-Dachstein region and the Salzkammergut has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. Located along the Austrian Romantic Road (Romantikstraße), which connects Vienna to Salzburg, Hallstatt overlooks the Hallstättersee, a small 8 km long lake and 2 km wide.

The town has numerous old houses, made of wood and stone, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries which overlook both the central square, the Marktplatz, and the characteristic narrow streets of the historic center. Some houses, which overlook the lake, have a pile-dwelling structure. Hallstatt is closed to car traffic, which is diverted to a tunnel. The silence of the valley is filled only by the roar of the water of a waterfall located near the market square.

High above the village, the Catholic church (Pfarrkirche Maria Himmelfahrt) overlooking the lake is a Gothic-style building from the 12th-14th century. Inside there are interesting frescoes from the end of the 15th century and a beautiful dossal (artistic object intended for the rear part of the altar) from the beginning of the 16th century. Around the church there is the small village cemetery with an ossuary annex (Beinhaus or Karner), with decorated skulls, and the Gothic chapel of St. Micheal from the 12th century.

HALLSTATT MUSEUMS

Museum Hallstatt. Museum dedicated to the history of Hallstatt, with important material relating to the prehistoric civilization of Hallstatt and the history of salt mines.

Hours: open from January 1st to March 31st: from Wednesday to Sunday from 11.00 to 15.00; in April: every day from 10.00 to 16.00; from 1 May to 30 September: every day from 10.00 to 18.00; in October: every day from 10.00 to 16.00; from 1 November to 31 December: from Wednesday to Sunday from 11.00 to 15.00.

Tickets: adults € 7.50

EXCURSIONS

In the lake it is possible to make interesting guided boat excursions, the classic route is the Hallstatt-Obersee-Untersee-Steeg one. There are also many possibilities for excursions and walks around the town or on the surrounding peaks that can be reached with comfortable cable cars.

With a walk of just over an hour you can visit the Glacier Garden (Echerntal) and the famous Waldbachstrub waterfall, which falls from a height of 90 meters in three jumps.

Another interesting route, also suitable for children’s strollers, is the one that can be reached via the Dachstein-Krippenstein cable car. The path, marked and full of information signs, starts from the highest station of the cable car and leads, through a karst plateau, to the Heilbronner Cross. Do not miss the panoramic view from the “Five Fingers” (Jeder Finger) viewpoint.

DACHESTEINHÖHLEN (ICE AND LIMESTONE CAVES)

Other local attractions are the beautiful Dachstein ice and limestone caves (Dachsteinhöhlen), which can also be reached via the Dachstein-Krippenstein cable car. The short path to the Great Ice Cave (Rieseneishöhle) starts at the Schönbergalm stop. At the entrance to the cave begins the guided tour (duration 50 minutes) of this wonder of nature, with rivers and ice falls. You will explore underground caves and passages created by water in the limestone rock, you will visit places called by names such as the “Cathedral of Parsifal” (Parsifaldom), the “Castle of the Grail” (Gralsburg), the “Cathedral of Tristan” (Tristandoms) and the “Ice Chapel” (Große Eiskapelle).

Not far away there is also another beautiful cave, the Mammut Cave (Mammuthöhle), a complex of limestone cavities that extends for over 60 km, of which the first kilometer can be visited. The itinerary inside the cave lasts about an hour and leads to a cavity over 40 meters high. Koppenbrüller Höhle is the youngest cave of the three described here, it is located not far from the starting station of the Dachstein-Krippenstein cable car, and 5 km away from the village of Obertraun. The cave is rich in stalactites and is crossed by an underground river with its waterfall.

Hours: Open from May to October. Ticket: Rieseneishöhle: € 10.20; Mammuthöhle: € 10.20; Koppenbrüller Höhle: € 8.90. Ticket including the two caves of Mammuthöhle and Rieseneishöhle € 15.50.

SALZBERG

A beautiful and comfortable funicular takes you to two of the main attractions around Haltstatt. In just three minutes you reach the site of the Salzberg Necropolis, a little higher at about 1,000 meters above sea level, you reach the entrance to the Salzwelten salt mine.

SALZWELTEN

Located within the Salt Mountain (Salzberg), just above Hallstatt, it is probably the oldest salt mine in the world. The mine can be reached via a funicular, the visit inside is done in part using the small trains. In the mine there is a scenic underground lake, the visit also leads to the crystal room (Edlersberg) and tells the story of the prehistoric man preserved in salt, discovered in the eighteenth century.

Hours: Open from May to mid-September from 9.30 to 16.30; and from mid-September to October from 9.30 to 15. Tickets: Adults: 24 €; Children 4-15 years: 12 €. Access to the salt mines is allowed for children over the age of 4.

SALZBERG NECROPOLIS

Discovered by chance in 1846, this prehistoric necropolis of the 1st millennium BC, is located at over 800 meters high, and contains over 4,000 tombs. In the excavations, thousands of objects have been found and recovered such as fibulae, precious jewelry, bronze weapons, ceramic vases and iron tools, objects that prove the vastness of the trade exchanges of the Hallstatt Culture, whose commercial network stretched from the Baltic to the Mediterranean.

Hallstatt
Population: 835 (2010)
Altitude: 511 meters above sea level.

This post is also available in: Italiano

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