Although touring Hallstatt when in Austria is a must…
The surrounding region known as the Salzkammergut is Austria’s hidden treasure in the Austrian Alps.
Normally when places in the Austria Alps are mentioned, you hear of Tirol, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Kitzbuhel, St. Anton and such but, not Salzkammergut, which by the way translates to something like “Salt Chamber Place”.
The “salt” comes from the fact that salt mining has been a major staple of the area going back 5,000 years when it was discovered, and has been mined for over 3,000 years. Some 230 million years ago the area used to be an ocean floor. Nature sure does wonders over the eons.
Salzkammergut is not a specific town, village or state, rather it is an area situated mostly south and east of Salzburg that takes in parts of three Austrian states – Salzburg, Styria and Upper Austria. It’s a beautiful Alpine region with numerous large mountain lakes, meadows, hot mineral springs, little quaint villages and just great outdoors. There’s the Wolfgangsee, Fusslsee, Hallstattsee, Wolfgangsee and Grundlsee (lakes) among others.
One of the quaint villages in the Salzkammergut region is Fussl, which also happens to be the home of Red Bull. And unless you know what to look for, you’d never guess that a set of totally discreet single level glass enclosed structures that sit on a pond and blend beautifully into the surroundings, were Red Bull’s world headquarters. The village itself, which sits on the shore of the Fusslsee (lake), is a place that invites one to spend some time in and soak in the setting.
Nearby is the village of Hallstatt, which is bound by a cliff on one side and Hallstattsee on the other. The colorful boathouses at the edge of the lake make one of the most photographed settings of Alpine Austria. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that photographs don’t capture the full essence of the setting. It’s a village where you’d definitely would want to spend some time at. Numerous guest house (Gasthof) accommodations are available.
The Salzkammergut area is also known for its spas and hot mineral springs, with villages such as Bad Goisern, Bad Ischl and Bad Aussee, the latter used to be a health retreat for the Vienna aristocracy of the past. Today, these facilities still serve as retreats for guests from all over the world.
Besides the recreation available at the lakes, the hiking, and just plain relaxing, here you’ll also find Salt mine tours, such as in Hallstatt, ice cave tours and a two leg gondola ride to the top of Krippenstein, where the view of the surrounding area, the Hallstattsee down below, the Dachstein glacier and the southern Alps is truly magnificent. While on Krippenstein, step out on one of “Five Fingers” platform and look a thousand feet straight down.
There’s much to see and do in the Salzkammergut region and it’s definitely worth spending a few days, or more, exploring and just taking in the surroundings. A good base for such a visit is the village of Gosau, with its Gosausee and glacial backdrop. The setting is idealic, with the green meadows, roaming sheep, cows and plain unspoiled country side.
BTW, the wearing of tracht (local traditional wear), which varies from village to village and personal preference, is fairly common in the Salzkammergut region. It’s almost worn as a badge representing people’s individuality as well as association with a particular area or village. There’s definitely a lot of pride shown in one’s heritage and village.
And then there are the local residents that greet you with a “Gruss Gott” and some with a MOOOOO!