“To every beginning there is magic,
that protects us and that helps us to live!”
It is the dawn of a cold September. I leave home very early. Three trains and a boat separe me from my final destination: Hallstatt. Raindrops make wet my face. It will be a long long trip. I am not alone. A lot of thoughts come together with me and fade in my mind one over each other. Heraclitus was saying that everything changes and nothing stands still but sometimes everything changes to not change at all. So many unexepcted things happened along this last year but nothing seems changed right now. Time flies crazily but sometimes you find yourself at the same point you were one year before….
The train runs fast through the fog, it looks like November and I feel like I am travelling in time and somehow it will be like that.
Hallstatt is considered to be the oldest still inhabited village in all of Europe. The charming landscape fascinates visitors since the very first moments when they come to this area. The mountains hug the village while Hallstätter Lake shows proud its glassy water and lazy waves. I can see beautiful reflections on the lake. My mind is stolen by the landscape…
Situated in the region of Salzkammergut (lots of salt in German), Hallstatt will tell you many stories. A well known Bronze Age settlement with a huge prehistoric cemetery (so far they’ve found over 1400 burials, including 2000 individuals). The town gives its name to “Hallstatt Culture” the main European culture of Early Iron Age Europe from the 8th to 6th centuries BC. Home to the world’s first salt mine it has always been a wealthy town and would have been a thriving centre of trade. It wasn’t until 1928 that a road was constructed to reach the village, leaving it in near isolation for over 2,000 years since it’s founding in 1311 as a market town below the salt mines. Today the salt mine is still active while the town has flourished with tourism. Hallstatt is so beautiful that people travel from across the globe to see it! I have been talking to people from South America, Japan or Southafrica! All of them come here to contemplate the untouched beauty of this place.
I decide to dedicate the evening to visiting Hallstatt. It is noon and I catch the bus to Obertraun. Here I want to visit the amazing prehistorical Dachsteinehöhle ice caves, hidden in the mountain, halfway to the summit at 1500 meters in altitude. Surprisingly, the outside temperature does not really influence the caves. Their temperature actually stems from the amount of precipitations received in a year, which determines how much ice melts or accumulates wear layers of clothes. I decide to climb until it under the rain and meanwhile you may get sweaty climbing the Alps, the temperature in the ice caves goes as low as -3°C. Trust me on this one there are only a few places on Earth where tourists can easily access huge ice caves and Hallstatt has one of the most beautiful!
These caves were used in 2012 as a test landscape for experimental spacesuits and instrumentation systems that might someday be used by humans on Mars. The Dachstein ice cave was chosen because ice caves would be a natural refuge for any microbes on Mars seeking steady temperatures and protection from damaging cosmic rays. There’s something magical about ice caves. Thick walls of ice. Beautiful shapes and colors. I had never seen anything like this before.
The tour in the caves ends. I take the cable car down to reach Hallstatt where I will spend the night. Again she looks so beautiful to my eyes. I let myself walk by her narrow streets, maps are not necessary here. I take the footpath that leads me near the waterfall overlooking the whole village. Colorful houses, small cafés and a picturesque architecture, the peaceful lake, the towering mountains….
The autumn weather makes it even more romantic with its carpet of clouds and its melancholic fascination. It is evening. Daily tourists are gone. The village is so peaceful, I feel like the time has stopped. It is a real postcard right in front of me…
Only it is reality… It is impossible for me to describe the beauty of this village. It seems to me to be in a fairy tale. The atmosphere is so calm and so incredibly romantic altough something is missing and my hand is cold but still my heart is touched from her beauty. It is midnight. I go back to my hotel. The sky opened a bit. I can see hundreds of stars above me. I will always remember this night.
The night seems longer than usual, the time perception here is completely different. Finally daylight comes. I have a huge energetic breakfast so I can start full of energies this new day in Hallstatt. It is raining but I don´t care. I take the funicular up to Salzwelten Hallstatt to explore the world’s oldest salt mine. This mine is how Hallstatt became famous 7,000 years ago, and why there is an entire era dedicated to Hallstatt – the Hallstatt era (400-800 BC). The tour itself takes about 70 minutes and you’ll want to enjoy learning about its vast history.
There’s even a giant wooden slide included in your tour, which is what the miners used to get from one level to another. It is the longest wooden slide in Europe, and makes you feel like a little kid again!
The tour ends and coming out of the mines this mesmerizing landscape opens to my eyes
“If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.”
William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night