Trip Start May 12, 2009
Trip End May 12, 2009

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Where I stayed
Caravan camping Hallstatt

Flag of Austria  , Upper Austria,
Sunday, August 2, 2009

This morning we arrived in Hallstatt, Austria.

Hallstatt is a tiny town of about 1000 residents.  It is strung out in a narrow strip along the shore of Lake Hallstatt.  The shoulders of great green mountains tower out of the lake on all sides, leaving almost no room for the town, but there it is climbing straight up out of the lake up the mountain.  Hallstatt looks like some sort of postcard alpine village, with its church steeples and its wooden houses with big eaves and flowered balconies.  The narrow street (there is only one) is narrow and cobbled.

The lake looks clear and blue and reflects the town beautifully when viewed from out on the water.

It is indeed a postcard scene, which might explain why the town is pretty much carpeted with pictures of itself.

We started off with a tour of a salt mine.

First, we took a funicular, a device sort of halfway between an elevator and a train up the mountain.

Then we toured the salt mine itself.  We learned that people have been mining salt here on this mountain non-stop for over 3000 years. Salt is still mined here.

After we were issued coveralls, the tour started off with a long walk down a very narrow rock tunnel straight into the mountain.  The tunnel got smaller and smaller, like some sort of claustrophobic nightmare.  As we went deeper into the mine, the temperature quickly dropped to 7 degrees C.

The kids seemed to enjoy the whole thing, though much of the tour was conducted in German.

After coming out into the light (and warmth) of day, we had our picnic up on the mountain overlooking the lake.  It was warm and beautiful.  We were happy not to be salt miners.

The ride down was more spectacular than the ride up, as we were relaxed enough to look out over the vista before us.

We walked around the town for a while.  The town really is as picturesque up close as it looks from up on the mountain.  The kids found a lawn-size chess set.  Nick and Russ managed an entire game.

In the basement of a sporting goods store we found the remains of some Roman baths.  These were discovered when the basement of the store was being dug.  Is there anywhere the Romans did not go?  Apparently they were digging salt here 2000 years ago.

After a bit of a tour of the town, we rented a boat and set out to putter around the lake. 

Here is another difference between what you would expect in Canada what happened in Austria.  We have rented boats in Canada.  There we signed long disclaimers about whole fault it would be if we were injured or drowned.  We all had to wear life jackets at all times.  There were all sorts of warning signs and stickers about the various things not to do with the boat.  Credit card imprints were taken in case we decided to wreck or steal the boat.  Here, the only thing that was said to us was:  That will be 42 Euros please.  That's it.  No lifejackets available or offered.  No ID.  No disclaimers. No warnings.  The boat itself contained exactly one explanatory sticker in German:  Turn knob to go forward.

The electric boat was quite slow, but in a relaxed enjoyable kind of way.  We got near the other side of the lake, and the kids jumped out and went for a swim.  They had great fun paddling around in the clear water.  Russell dove underneath the boat.  It was warm and sunny.  We brought some drinks and snacks and drinks.  Hallstatt sat prettily on the other side of the lake.  It was a beautiful way to spend the afternoon.

Then a tour boat came by and the captain yelled something unitelligible at us in German.  We thought he was annoyed that we were in his way.  Then a Coast Guard boat pulled up (yup - Coast Guard on a lake 3 km by 8 km long) and advised us in German and English to head for shore, as a storm was coming.  We thought this very funny, as the sky appeared more or less clear.  We started dawdling back, just to humour the fearsome Austrian Coast Guard.

Then as we approached the shore, it started to get dark and threatening to rain.  Reluctantly we pulled into the dock.  We had paid for another half hour of boating and did not want to waste it.

It started raining as we got to our campsite.  Then moments after we got into the camper, all hell broke loose.

It started raining buckets - as much as I have ever seen anywhere.  Then the wind hit.  It was a howling storm, sending the tremendous rainfall horizontal.  It was quite terrifying.

Then with a big bang, the big heavy fibreglass roof of our rooftop carrier blew off, ripping the hinges right off.  Our aluminum framed awning started to flap violently, threatening to tear itself into pieces.  When bits started to actually fly off, Susan and I staggered out in the storm to batten the thing down.  The awning was bucking violently the whole time, but we did manage to get it reeled in.  We are still not sure if it is badly damaged, as it does not seem to stow properly.  The roof of our carrier is stashed under the motorhome.  We may have to invest in some bungee cords and duct tape.

Now, over an hour later it is still raining heavily.  I'm hoping that it will clear so that we can see more of this lovely town, and maybe find the local equivalent of Canadian Tire (Deutsche Reiffen?) to get some duct tape.

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