Completely unbiased, we embark on a journey to explore a patch of land that has been inhabited for millenniums, chosen by Emperor Franz Josef for his engagement trip with Sisi, and in its unique form, has even made it to China. We are not sure why and so we are kind of curious. What makes the fascination of this almost 800-inhabitant village, which we associate with salt, the lake and mountains? Why should we go there at all and what will we find – apart from a lot of Asian tourists, as we are told by various online portals?
It starts adventurous when we have just reached our destination and face the first traffic-related obstacle: the mountain pass Koppenpass is closed due to avalanche danger. Our navigation system is confused, so are we. What if there is only one way to Hallstatt and this is the one blocked? We speak to the first pedestrian who comes along and luckily turns out to be an insider. He inquires where we are from and when ‘Graz’ is our answer, he frowns and says, ‘In this case, I have to explain it differently.’ We are not sure whether this is due to our urban/ Styrian origin but in any case, we get the kindergarten version of the instructions. Still, they are effective, because half an hour later we reach Hallstatt, where the adventure definitely does not end, but only begins.
If you’ve never been to Hallstatt – just like us – you should consider previously how much luggage to take, because Hallstatt is a car-free zone and your vehicle must be parked at the public car park outside the town center. Since we arrive in the deep winter, we decide for the underground garage, because it might snow again at night. So we roll down the ramp and suddenly face a digital sign with flashing red letters: Don’t enter! Risk of poisoning. Jesus Christ! What now? Unfortunately, we do not carry gas masks in our luggage – although pretty much of everything else. Being adventure addicts – or kind of – we get out, sniff briefly, do not consider the place dangerous, unload our stuffed trunk and haul everything up a staircase. When we ask the shuttle bus guy about the sign and danger of poisoning, he just waves it off and says, ‘Wrong switch. Everything is okay.’ Well, so much for that. While driving into the village, we immediately engage the driver in some small talk and ask him not to wonder about the amount of bags, we are not eccentric ladies who spend their holidays here, but came to work and just have a lot of equipment. He smiles mildly and tells us that there are other guests – probably rich Asians – who travel with much more ‘Koeffer’ – should be the German plural form of ‘Koffer’ (suitcase) but does not exist (interesting, so the place also has its own grammar). The very short ride ends at our destination with an abrupt knock when reversing. ‘Shit. It’s Wednesday.’ For those who are not from Hallstatt, here is the translation: On Wednesday they empty the dumpsters and we just hit two garbage cans. Neither the driver nor we were prosecuted – also an advantage if there are no cameras.
Here we are now with three suitcases and six huge shopping bags and need to walk/ carry everything for the rest of the way. Here comes more essential Hallstatt information: There are a lot of narrow roads and they mostly lead uphill. And there are no lifts. Of course not, because Hallstatt belongs to the UNESCO world cultural heritages and must not be changed nor be modernized. Therefore, there are just people of size zero and everybody is in great shape. Like mountain chamois. So we adapt, roll up our sleeves, and haul our things to our accommodation, which fortunately is just a few blocks away. Just as we have climbed the steep stairs and stand in front of a beautiful ancient wooden door, it is opened and a friendly face with a dark complexion and black hair, smiles at us. Not a classic person from Hallstatt we guess, but we are happy to hand him our suitcases. Mo turns out to be an Afghan who welcomes us together with Karam (Syria) and Abbat (Iraq). All three are super nice and we understand the concept of the house: they take care of the house and the guests, while we feel at home. Our suites lead us to the Forest and the Sky – what more could a woman expect?
Our experiences in Hallstatt and Hallstatt Hideaway are published in the March issue of The Stylemate, the lifestyle magazine by LIFESTYLEHOTELS. There is also an exciting interview with the owner of the Hallstatt Hideway, Sike Seemann, who tells us about her experiences in tourism and the projects that are still on her to-do list. Believe us, this is worth reading, so stay tuned!