Travel

We were promised a Mammoth: Austria

What small village has a population of only 758 people, is recognised all over the world as one of the most beautifully crafted lake towns and is so loved that China recreated it in as a housing development in Luoyang, Boluo County, China. Hallstatt!!

Yes, the stunning village of Hallstatt is situated in upper Austria in the Gmunden district. Its 16th-century Alpine houses rise up along the sloping hillside. This gives makes the wooden buildings look as though they are growing from the mountain. Visiting this village is like drifting between times. The buildings you walk by are from another century but the cars, the people and the selfie sticks are all part of this one.

3 Buses later…

It is not exactly an easy place to get to from Salzburg. It’s not as simple as hopping on one bus and you are there. If you drive, its an hour but if you don’t… It takes up to three hours and three buses from Salzburg. The first leg is on the number 150 bus from Salzburg to Bad Ischl. From Bad Ischl, you can either take another bus or you can take the train instead. The train brings you to the far side of the lake and from there you can hop on a ferry. If you decide to take the bus, you need to catch the 542 or 543. Don’t freak out if your bus stops and everyone starts getting off somewhere that looks nothing like Hallstatt. It just means this bus doesn’t go all the way and you need to transfer. Your ticket should work for the transfer to the other bus. It will cost you approx 30 euro return per person for your bus tickets. Only going for a day trip? I recommend getting there as early as possible as the last returning bus stops at around 5 pm (check bus times for exact times).The bus will leave you right at the lake beside the village but you can continue on the bus to the Dachstein cable car location to visit the caves and the five fingers observation deck.

The Village

I think it’s obvious that the village is an absolute beaut! Look at it with its pastel buildings, winding streets and steps that go on forever. The only downside is that it pulls in over 2 million visitors a year, so of course, it has many trinket stores and overpriced restaurants. But if you look past the crowds you will find many independent stores that sell handmade goods, the Hallstatt museum and the Hallstatt Lutheran church which stands out among the other buildings. Plus there are trails that lead up through the hills where you can feast freely on different views of Hallstatt.

You can rent rowboats and peddle boats to float around the lake on.

Pizza + boat + lake views = HEAVEN

Photo by Michelle McAlinden


Photo by Michelle McAlinden

You know that view that comes up every time you search Hallstatt. We found it!

Where’s the Mammoth at?

Like I mentioned before, there is a cable car that takes you up to the Five Fingers viewing platform and caves. There are different ticket options for you to chose from. We chose the Mammoth cave and the ice cave tour. The cable car we took was filled to capacity with bodies as if we were being boxed up ready for shipping. In transit, we stood in our glass box waiting to reach our destination. On delivery, we were unpacked and happily, there were no damages to report.

*More from the cable car experience in the video at the end of the post.

 

If like me you were expecting Mammoth bones or at least Mammoth cave paintings in the “Mammoth Cave” you will be disappointed. The cave was given the name Mammoth because the dimensions of the underground spaces and passageways it contains within its system. Presently more than 70 km of these passageways have been explored but only 1 km of the cave system can be viewed during the guided tours. The height difference between the highest and lowest point reached during the explorations is no less than 1,199 m. As a result, the Dachstein Mammoth cave has been named the 30th longest cave in the world and 31st deepest. Apparently, the entire cave system used to be underwater! which is remarkable considering the height at which it’s at.  The caves are kept dark. Minimal lighting is turned on in the area the tour guide stops to relay information about the history of the caves. To me being in the cave made me feel like I was in the film The Descent. I was looking at all of the high passageways expecting blind mutants to come crawling down sniffing out dinner.  If you have not seen the film, then that reference will probably go right over your head.

About 200 million years ago the warm primaeval Tethys ocean (ocean during much of the Mesozoic era located between the ancient continents of Gondwana and Laurasia) formed and extended directly over where today’s huge Dachstein massif is rising. In the course of millions of years, calcite precipitation and shells secreted by marine organisms were deposited on ocean floors forming a calcite stratum, 1.000 m deep. The Dachstein massif is a result of continental drifts causing the tectonic uplifting and folding of the calcite stratum. Water enriched with carbon dioxide seeped through surface cracks and crevices dissolving the limestone (calcite) and eventually formed the caves which extended itself over time.

The Dachstein ice cave lies high above the Trauntal valley. On the Ice cave cable car stop, there is a tourist information centre. Make sure you go to the counter as you will receive a tour group number. You are also given a time which indicates when your tour starts. It is a good idea to head over early to the tour starting location if you want to make it on time.

Our tour guide for the ice cave was a well-spoken Austrian woman. She looked a little like Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games so you knew she wasn’t to be messed with. This was later established when a screaming child refused to stop while she was addressing our group. She politely but firmly asked if the parents would stand at the back of the group with the child or wait outside with the other tour group until the child settled. I actually really appreciated that she addressed it as it was hard to hear the information over the noise.

Top tip: Wear warm shoes or trainers or you will end up with numb feet like me. It is endless entertainment for those around you but pins and needles accompanied by pain for you. It’s an ice cave, what was I thinking!

Photo by Michelle McAlinden

Photo by Michelle McAlinden

If you are interested in the ticket prices and pass options. The image below gives you some more information. Please note prices may have changed or may be subject to change. The below is just an overview of your options.  As you can see it is a bit pricey but for me, it was worth it.

 

Check out the video below to walk around Hallstatt with my friends Lucy, Michelle and me.

 

Jess x

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