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One Summer in Europe: Austria




Hallstatt was a magical town on the edge of a lake and tucked underneath a cliff. Wandering amongst buildings in various cities around Europe was starting to grow monotonous, but I really liked the feel here. Not since Edinburgh has a town captured me — even if the two places were completely different. This village was beautiful, with narrow streets and small buildings all nearly falling off the land into the lake.

I hiked up the mountain above town to the first known salt mine, but since I just seen one of those in Poland, I did not go into this one. I continued up and around the mountain, greatly enjoying an invigorating walk through the mountains and forest. The sky had cleared and spectacular views of the region were to be had. I passed a couple nice waterfalls in Gletschergarten before finally descending through a valley to complete my loop back into town.

View from 5 Fingers over Hallstätter See

I also hiked up nearby Dachstein, instead of taking the much more relaxing, but expensive cable car. Anyway, I knew I would enjoy my time walking and climbing in the mountain more than being whisked up in an overcrowded gondola packed with camera yielding tourists. For the first segment up to the ice cave, walking was probably quicker than waiting through the queue for cable car tickets. I thought about a tour of the ice cave, but did not have time for that and to climb higher, so I skipped going underground. From then on the trail became narrower, steeper, and the tread deteriorated. Although sweating, huffing, and puffing, I enjoyed my climb up the mountain. Over an hour later I was at the peak. I spent some much deserved time relaxing on the wooden chains. The views were great, with the Dachstein Mountains and glaciers towering even higher off in the distance, and the lake and valley of Hallstatt far below in the other direction. Quite a few people were paragliding off the mountain from here. It seemed like an ideal locale to do so, with 1,500 meters of vertical descent and great scenery. The views from 5 Fingers was grand, although the platform sticking out over the cliff edge was smaller and less spectacular than expected. I thought about taking the lift down but could not find anywhere on the summit to buy tickers, so I returned to the bottom by foot. I took a different route down the mountain, which ended up following a ski run. It was absurdly steep in spots, and I slipped and fell on the loose rock several times. Any money I saved on lift tickets will be more than made up for when I have to have my knees replaced. In winter this would have been an awesome ski run though, covering eleven kilometers with over a thousand meters of drop. If only I knew how to ski.

Hallstätter See
The Dachstein mountains and Hallstätter Glacier
Relaxing atop Dachstein after a 4,000 foot vertical climb


Due to rain and clouds, I unfortunately never made it into the grand mountains around Innsbruck. Instead I was just in the city for a while before finally having to move on. Most notable of what I did see though was Swarovski Crystal World. I had not even heard the name Swarovski before and just went to the tourist attraction, but later learned it was one of the biggest names in crystals. Inside the exhibition was an assortment of large crystal creations, creepy robotic dancers, weird modern art, and other unintelligible creations. The gift shop had high-end crystal sculptures and jewelry as expensive as the sky. The only people buying anything appeared to be petrol-rich Arabs. The Old Town section of Innsbruck had some charm with its many street cafes, shops, courtyard, and iconic Golden Roof, but did not stand out much from many similar spot I had been to.

Old Town in Innsbruck
The odd fountain welcoming visitors to Swarovski Crystal Worlds


Salzburg is the hometown of Mozart, has a castle atop a mountain, and narrow streets lined with shops. In the central area below the castle though there was not much besides a statue of Mozart and a bunch of tourist shops. Mozart’s birthplace was one home in a line of many others, although marked by a plaque. The inside had been converted into a museum about him. The weather was always cloudy or rainy while I was in town, so I never bothered trekking up to the castle.

A statue of Mozart


I visited Schöbrunn Castle, another ritzy old palace, and wandered around its large gardens. Gardens are not usually captivating for me, but I really enjoyed these. They had a nice combination of immaculate flower beds, forests, fountains, statues, and fake Roman ruins to keep me entertained for a couple hours. I also went to the Imperial area of Vienna near Hofburg, which had its assortment of old, large buildings and churches, which had interesting architecture. With rainy weather though and since I had been exploring concrete jungles for the previous couple days already, I did not spend a long time there.

Austria’s Parliament building
St. Stephen’s Cathedral