Visited October 2012
One of the highlights of our trip to Austria was visiting the UNESCO region of Hallstatt & Dachstein. Located in the region of Salzkammergut, the train from Linz to Hallstatt was a pretty easy and straightforward, given that we had a very helpful train personnel printing out the schedule for us the day before.
There is a ferry service for every arriving train to the town of Hallstatt, where one can enjoy scenes of the tranquil lake. However, as luck would have it, it was time for track works. Hence, we were unable to enjoy the ferry service, but instead had to disembark at the last available station for a complementary connecting bus ride.
Our accommodation for the night was Heritage Hotel Hallstatt, located right towards the end of the road. I really loved the deluxe room that we booked.
To get to Dachstein from Hallstatt, we made our way back to the bus-stop for Postbus-line 542. As the bus timings are not regular, it is best to check the timings beforehand. Alighting at Obertraun, you will be greeted by the cable car ticketing booth and entrance. Do remember to show them your Postbus-ticket for admission discount, as we chose the Dachstein Salzkammergut ticket combination.
Alighting from the first cable car at Schönbergalm, we realised that the next Ice Caves guided tour was in 20 minutes and decided to make that our first stop. As we began climbing up the hill towards the entrance, little did we know that the walk up would have been the most strenuous hike in our lives.With steep slopes at least 200m in distance, we had to take a break many times for our calves hurt too much from the incline, and that is despite me exercising fairly regularly back home. Fearing that we would miss the guided tour after putting it all into the climb, we pushed forward as much and as fast as we could, as we huffed and puffed to a lovely view at the end of the hike.
Dachstein Ice Cave was first discovered around 1900 by Peter Gamsjäger while looking for his lost goat. With an average temperature of 4 °C in the cave, our tour took about 50 minutes to 1 hour, as we got to admire the natural and man-made carvings of the ice, and the acoustics of the Parsifal Dome. To me, a certain amount of fitness is required as there are quite a number of stairs as part of the tour. Flash photography is also strongly discouraged.
After all the walking and hiking, we were extremely famished. Setting sights on Erlebnisrestaurant Schönbergalm which was just next to the entrance of the Ice Caves, we went straight into it as the Boy ordered a schnitzel while I ordered a Viennese dumpling. No food pictures were taken as we were too hungry, but their food was extremely generous and delicious! The owner of the restaurant was also very hospitable, as he made some small talk with us. A very delightful experience in my opinion.
Going from extremely famished to extremely stuffed, we made our way up to Mountain Station for Welterbespirale and 5Fingers viewing platform. Upon arriving at the peak, we were simply blown away by the breathtaking beauty of the mountains. In fact, one could easily lose track of time while admiring the view and the paragliders from the many wooden recliners located around Welterbespirale.
5 Fingers is located slightly further up the trek, and it offers spectacular views of the mountains via 5 different methods.
Viewing it as a right hand:
- At the thumb is a metal frame, whereby visitors can take a framed photo of themselves as a souvenir.
- The second index finger is fitted with a glass bottom which allows visitors to look down into the abyss below.
- The third finger, shorter than all others, is not accessible all the way, and has a springboard.
- The fourth ring finger has a hole in the floor that allows a free view into the abyss
- The fifth ‘pinky’ finger offers a telescope that is available free of charge.
A totally unforgettable experience!
Dinner was back at a restaurant in Hallstatt, as we got back a little too late to visit the salt mines. On hindsight, 1 day in Hallstatt was insufficient, as we did not have enough time to take the funicular, visit Hallstatt Salt Worlds and Rudolfsurm, explore the town itself, and take a picture of Hallstatt at the Classic Village View Point.
If I could turn back time, perhaps 2 days would have been better.