I knew I would go to Hallstatt before I embarked on my trip to Europe. What was a business trip had a clause in it: YOU MUST VISIT HALLSTATT. My former co-worker had mentioned this little village that was a few hours from Salzburg, Austria. She told me of its picturesque view, how small it was, and yet how you could literally spend your whole day there without noticing the day go by because of its unique beauty. She told me that if I got the chance, I should visit it. This became the one place I most wanted to see as I prepared for my trip. And so, I embarked on my journey, which would become one of the most memorable during my stay in Austria.
I chose to take a two hour long bus ride to Hallstatt after asking locals in Salzburg which method of commute would be better between a car, a train, or a bus. Because the city was small, I had planned to sight-see for two hours, and head back to Salzburg before it got dark. The small villages along the way were beyond beautiful. The scenic backdrops at almost all the stops were just breathtaking. Considering I have lived most of my life in Florida and Texas (both beautiful places in their own right), there was nothing quite as beautiful as what I saw on my way to Hallstatt. I wondered how Hallstatt could top what I was seeing on the way there.
Finally, the bus arrived in Hallstatt. When I stepped out, the view was better than expected and exactly what my co-worker had told me: mountains, a big lake, houses on the lake banks, with the whole town on one side of the lake. Traveling with me were five Greeks. We exchanged pleasantries and spent the rest of the time in Hallstatt together. We explored the small town and took several pictures. After walking for about 30 minutes, we had basically seen it all, except for salt mines and a church, both of which have historical importance. Hunger was calling so we went to a nearby restaurant. The food was great. I tried the Viennese beef and local beer. I also tried the omelette dessert. I was not a huge fan of it but I continued my trend of “stepping out of my box” and experiencing something different.
I captured an interesting picture of what seemed to be a kid being pulled by his relative in some sort of trolley. First time seeing that, and for some reason it seemed to exude the uniqueness that I felt and found in Hallstatt.
After more than four hours in the city, we headed back to the bus stop. Four hours just flew by us in no time, and my coworker’s words came to mind “you could literally spend your whole day in Hallstatt without noticing the day go by.” In truth, you could get to see everything in this town/village in two hours. But in our case, since we were not able to visit the two most important tourist sites, we could have walked through the whole city in an hour. Yet, my time in Hallstatt felt too short. I wanted to stay longer. There is a sense of calm and serenity that is not otherwise commonly seen.
We got to the bus stop at approximately 6p.m. and just sat and talked. Greeks are some of the world’s friendliest people; my firsthand account being from spending time with the Greeks I met. Time was slowly passing us by and before we knew it, it was almost 6:45 p.m. We got concerned because the last bus to Salzburg was scheduled to arrive at 6:30 p.m. It was now 15 minutes overdue and there were no buses in sight. We asked some locals about the bus schedule to Salzburg, but they had no idea. After a while, we realized the bus was not coming. Seeking a way back, we tracked down some Japanese tourists who traveled to Hallstatt in their own bus. They were heading to Salzburg. We figured we could catch a ride back with them, but they refused because they did not want to be liable in case their bus had an accident.
We found ourselves in a dire situation: collectively we had a total of 10 euros left and the possibility of having to spend the night in Hallstatt was becoming increasingly likely. On one hand, I wanted to spend more time in the town/village, but on the other hand, I could not afford it financially. We lately on found a police officer and explained our predicament. Things only got worse for us when he mentioned that we had to be in the next town called Bad Ischl, which was 15 kilometers away, no later than 7:25 p.m to catch the last bus heading back to Salzburg. If we did not get there in time to catch the bus, we would be stuck in that town till the next day. The police officer offered to take us in his car to Bad Ischl, but it could only fit two people. He went out of his way to call a taxi driver who drove one of only three vans in the town. Let me say this: the ride was fast and furious. We got to Bad Ischl just in time as the bus was beginning to take off for Salzburg.
As we rode back, we watched the sun set and we each relived our short but memorable visit to Hallstatt and the events that left the six of us with memories we will hold on to forever. For if we never visit Hallstatt again, we six know that for as long as we live, we were there together.