Home' Greymouth Star : January 24th 2018 Contents Greymouth Star
o a Google
of “Hallstatt ”
and you will
it has one
perspective, looking long across the
length of the slender village, strung
along a shoe-string peninsula,
pricked by lofty church spires, that
sings out loud.
Wedged between the edge of
Lake Hallstatt and the towering
Dachstein mountains, Austria’s
oldest — and arguably most
photographed village — hovered
like a mirage, as I neared it.
It is insanely quaint, achingly
beautiful and home to just 800
High above Hallstatt, in the
upper valley, one of the greatest
eye-openers was to take a journey
back in time to the origin of salt
Salzwelten is situated high
above the town on the 1030m tall
Salzberg (Salt Mountain). You can
access this remarkable attraction
aboard a funicular.
My first stop was at Rudolf ’s
Tower, which ser ves up dreamy
views from this old fortification,
built over 700 years ago to defend
the mines against invaders.
It has been joined by the
Sky Walk, built four years ago,
consisting of a sprawling platform
that juts off the mountainside, with
a sheer drop to the rooftops of
Hallstatt, directly below.
The starring attraction, however,
is the 7000-year-old salt mine
itself. Yes, you read right. 7000
years! It is the world’s oldest known
salt mine, with archaeological
evidence proving they were mining
the salt from this mountain in
Since salt is such an excellent
preser vative many of the early
miner’s tools like pick axes and
ladders, found within the mine,
have withstood the ravages of time.
The earliest picks were made from
deer antlers, which meant the salt
was originally mined in the shape
By 800BC, the hardy miners were
penetrating as deep as 200m into
the mountain, car ving out tunnels
by hand, to reach the vast deposits
of “white gold.”
The greatest discovery to date was
the ‘Man in Salt”, the corpse of an
ancient miner, mummified in salt,
who is believed to have perished
during a major workplace accident
His preser ved body was found
in 1734 and he was laid to rest
in the local graveyard, 2700 years
after dying. Within the mine, I
mar velled over the magnificently
preser ved wooden staircase that was
built in 1344BC!
As you would expect, this ancient
salt mine is separated into different
The tourist experience takes
you through two levels, using the
wooden slides that the miners
actually used on the job. Riding
these 64m-long slides must have
been the fun part to their
Back down in town, I
paid to visit to St Michael’s
Chapel’s Bone House.
Dating back to the 12th
century, the rather macabre
draw is the hundreds of
artistically painted skulls on
Hallstatt ’s shortage of
available land meant the
graveyard was always in hot
demand and after several
years, an existing grave was
reused for a new burial.
The skull and bones were
transferred to St Michael’s
for storage and the identity
of the deceased family
member was preser ved by
decorative paintings and
Over 30,000 entries have
been logged in the church
death registry. Given
Hallstatt ’s glorious sense
of alpine isolation, the
area is ripe with outdoorsy
Backdropped by the Dachstein
mountains, the peaks play host to
skiers in winter and hikers in the
Some will take you up close to
glaciers, including the stunning
nature walk on the Echerntal Trail,
which many a romantic poet and
painter have swooned over.
The mountains are also famous for
the spectacular Dachstein Caves, a
network of caverns nearly 1200m
Highlights include the Giant Ice
Cave with its wondrous caverns
and frozen waterfalls, and the
Mammoth Cave (consisting of
huge pipe-shaped galleries formed
by an ancient underground river.
Other highlights are the
panoramic viewing platforms, like
5 Fingers and the Stairway to
Nothingness, jutting out from the
rock face over with alpine vistas.
At ground level, the World
Heritage circular trail, wrapped
around the shoreline of Lake
Hallstatt is pure bliss. Getting to
Hallstatt takes some effort, but
if you are staying in Vienna or
Salzburg, take the two hour train
ride from either destination.
The pint-sized station above
the lake is like a scene out of a
storybook and after alighting from
the train, a waiting ferry will whisk
you across the glassy waters to the
village, for just 5 euro return.
What a way to serenade your
arrival into this true Austrian gem.
I tripped to Europe with
Cathay Pacific who operate ultra-
contemporary A350-900s, the
newest aircraft in the world, daily
from Auckland and seasonally from
Christchurch. The cabin air quality
is decidedly better, I experienced
minimal jet-lag, the refreshed CX
Entertainment system kept me
suitably engaged with excellent
movie selections and live news
channels, plus I kept in touch with
For best fares and seats to suit,
Wednesday, January 24, 2018 - 7
with Mike Yardley
The skywalk of Salzwelten.
Salt mine wooden slides.
the beauty of
Hallstatt The funicular up to the salt mine.
The Hallstatt salt mine tour.
The Dachstein Stair way to mid-air.
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