Tom and Linda’s 2008 Europe Trip

Hallstatt and the Salzkammergut

Train Friend

We took the Vienna underground to the Westbahnhof and hopped the next train to Salzburg. It was a nice EC train, and the first we’d seen with actual compartments. We were joined in ours by a young man with a laptop.

Turns out Roland lives near Atnang Pucheim, where we were getting off, and was just returning from a business trip to Turkey. His company makes plastics-forming equipment and he travels about 90 days a year to make the deals.

Tom asked if Puch motorcycles had anything to do with Atnang Pucheim, and the conversation took another turn. Roland rides motorcycles, owns four, and has two small sons.

We told him we were headed for Hallstatt, on down the lake chain. He recommended a lakeside resort near his home and called them to check on rooms and prices. It didn’t work out, but was a nice gesture. We went on to Hallstatt as planned.

Atnang Pucheim Bahnhof

The train that travels down the lakes from Atnang Pucheim left 13 minutes after we arrived from Vienna. It was a little train with no first class, and was a Rural Express – it only stopped at about half the little towns along the route.

Into the Salzkammergut

As we rode the train along the chain of lakes, I started grinning – couldn’t help it. The air coming through the open window smelled great and was the perfect temperature. The scenery just kept getting more beautiful – this is “Sound of Music” country.

At one point, two little blonde girls got on with their grandmother and rode for a couple stops, talking and laughing all the way.

It was a wonderful ride. What a change from Vienna!


The Hallstatt train station is across the lake from the town. The little boat Stephanie times her €2 trans-lake trips to coincide with the train schedule.

So we arrived in the town from the water below, rather than from the road above.

This was our favorite stop of the entire trip - beautiful, comfortable and inspiring.

You walk down the street between the front doors on one side and 3rd- floor roofs on the other.

Trausner B&B

We arrived at about 3PM and had some trouble finding a room. Did a lot of walking with packs on - good exercise!

We finally found a room for one night with Maria Trausner, but it was reserved after that.


We had a long and enthusiastic conversation with Maria's German-speaking mother in the back yard. Again, my high school German came in handy, along with an occasional translation from Maria, who was hanging washing on the line in her lovely back garden.


Even in this cold climate, Maria manages to keep Fuchsia, which I always thought was a tropical plant. She just moves them into the cellar in the fall and pulls them back out in the spring, and they come back to life every time!

Scenes Around Hallstatt

The clear mountain stream, tamed as it reaches the village

Town center on the little peninsula into the lake with its boat garages around the edge and steepled church in the center

These things are all for sale, set out every morning and taken in every evening.


Right in the town square, Tom found a Puch just like the one he had when he was a kid. It was there for days and he threateneed to take it home.

Lakeside Town

We walked around the lovely little town that rises steeply from the lake. Lots of beautiful half-timber houses, all with balconies draped with a riot of flowers.

Fruit trees covering the fronts of houses, espaliered to catch the sun

Steep steps up thirty feet to the next street or down thirty feet to the lake.

Looking for another room

Through the TI, we found a room for the next night at Sarstein Pensión, which is a fairly large B&B at the far end of town from Trausner’s. Isabelle, the proprieter, asked us to come pick up the key between 9 and 10 in the morning so she could get other things done.

Dinner By and From the Lake

We had dinner at Grün Baum, the fancy hotel on the town square that has hosted both Empress Elizabeth (Sissi) and Agatha Christy.

We sat at a nice table beside the lake, ate fish from the lake, watched the birds, and talked to our waiter, Gerhardt (Gary).


Gary had a brief career playing guitar in Nashville – once played a set on stage with John Denver, and shook hands with Johnny Cash.

Town Square

After dinner we did a lot of exploring in the long dusk between the mountains. It’s a very peaceful, comfortable, happy village. People can live in this beautiful place and make enough of a living from tourists in the summers to live through the cold winters.

There are huge stacks of firewood everywhere, often stacked all over a wall of a house, adding insulation until it’s used for fuel. But at this time of year there are flowers everywhere, along with little vegetable gardens.

Floating Sculptures

There are sculptures floating on the lake that were apparently from some art contest. They all have some relation to the town’s history.

Sissi the Surfer surrounded by ducks

Water From On High

Drinking water (Trinkwasser) from the town fountain comes directly off the mountain. I think the sign is in Latin - it's certainly not German. Something about a visit from Franz Josef and Elisabeth.


Is there a more photogenic town anywhere in the world?

This is the most over-the-top picture-postcard place we’ve seen. It’s stunningly beautiful, and the more you look, the more impressive it is.

Water Transport

After our one night with Maria, we decided the easiest way to get to our new accommodation was by water. We took our packs and rented this paddle boat for an hour to move to the other end of town.

Foot room was a bit of a problem for Tom, so I mostly paddled and he mostly took pictures.

Apparently this is pretty much the end of the tourist season. Maria says she’s mostly just booked on weekends from here out. The snow starts in November and stays until April, and the lake is already getting too cold for swimming.

That big yellow one with the lawn in front is our destination - our room on the top floor on the left.

Pension Haus Sarstein

This is our new digs. We did a pretty lousy job of docking here, but we managed it.

We got there at about 10:00, as requested, expecting to leave our bags in the hall, but the room was ready for us. It’s quite spacious, with a big bed, armoire, table and chairs, love seat (daybed, maybe), several side tables and a fairly large bath (although the shower’s quite small).


We were on the top floor with a little flower-laden balcony overlooking the lake. Three flights down is the patio, and another flight outside gets you down to the large airy breakfast room and the lakeside lawn with lounge chairs and umbrellas and a diving board.

Taking out the trash, with help from the children

We sat down and looked around and grinned, and decided to see if we could stay another night. Isabelle was vacuuming the stairs. Yes, it’s available, and 2 nights gets a 10% discount. We booked it. Flexibility is a good thing!

Taking the Boat Back

Stashed our bags and took the paddle boat back out on the lake. Got the boat back to its home just inside an hour.

Lakeside Lunch

Stopped at this lakeside cafe, found a shady spot under a tree. Had a light lunch - lake trout with dill sauce, noodles and salad.

Roman Baths

We looked around the shops for a bit, and discovered an ancient Roman bath ruin underneath the sports shop! Free admission and nicely laid out, although the ceilings were very low.


It was sunny and quite hot out, so we went back to our room, changed to the bathing suits that had not yet made it out of our packs, and went down to sun and swim. The lake water was quite chilly – just a quick dip was enough, then a soak in the sun.

Back in the room, we found CNN in English and the Global Edition of The Daily Show to catch us up on US politics and the falling stock market.

The Funicular

After a rest, we decided to go up the mountain.

After a few wrong turns we found the bottom of the funicular, a 2-car counter-weighted semi-vertical lift.

It's a single track, except where the two cars pass in the center. Here's the critical moment.

Views on the way up

In the car we met Gary and Tammy from Tampa. We’d all opted for the 1-way ride up and the walk down. Turns out they were traveling on the Rick Steves plan as well.

We took photos of each other, but apparently didn't get one of them on our camera! They headed down before we did.

That little island at the far end is involved in some sort of lake-life research being done by the college here. It's also a pleasant little park. The big building may be the college.

Mountaintop Cafe

We were hoping for a drink at the mountain-top café at the top of the funicular, but it turned out to be just closed, a couple employees enjoying an after-work drink on the terrace. So we sat with the view for a bit and then headed down.

Walking Down

The trail was steep and graveled and a bit slippery. We stopped to tie our shoes a little tighter to save our toes.

There were benches at each switchback and we stopped at several of those. This is the view of the town from one of those stops.

It was early evening and the sun was behind the mountain, so the walk was fairly cool and comfortable.

Here's the town center from behind and above. You can see the town square just left of center, and the yellow building there is the Grün Baum hotel. Trausner B&B is off the screen to the right, and Sarstein up the hill to the left

Salt Mine Tunnel

This salt mine entrance, beside the trail, was named for the newly found salt vein, which was named for the popular Emperor.

Fresh Water from the Mountain

Stopped to look up and down the waterfall that comes steeply from high above the village. This was once a very salty stream, but is now fresh and sweet.


Back in the town (finally!) we passed through this little well-tended churchyard.

Met Gary and Tammy again in the town square. Tammy had taken some foot damage on the hike down, as she wasn’t wearing socks. We ended up having dinner together.

Clouds Closing In

Our next day in Hallstatt dawned cloudy. We’d thought about making our way to the cable car we could see running between mountain peaks, but that was all in the clouds.

We asked Isabelle for advice at breakfast and she recommended a couple possible hikes.

The Falls Hike

After a look on the internet via her computer (bike gear still stuck in German customs?) we opted for the hike up to the falls.

It was quite a hike, starting with a stroll out of town, but quickly becoming quite steep – had me puffing for air more than once. But it was a favorite of Franz Josef and Sissi, and she did it in those ridiculous dresses! We got a little wet and a lot sweaty, but the views were wonderful and we hardly met a soul.

A long way up the mountain we encountered a remote B&B. This is part of their firewood stash, getting ready for winter. The trail kind of runs into their yard from the woods, and then back out again.

Huge foreign rock beside the trail, probably lava. There were periodic information signs like this along the way with information in German and English.

The path is well-maintained, with occasional footbridges and wooden steps when it gets particularly steep.

This hike is historically a favorite of painters and the vistas are beautiful.

The Falls - first stage destination

On up the trail toward the glacier, a look back at Hallstatt and its lake

Collection of leaves in glacier-melt


The reported three-hour walk took us four and a half, up through mountains and across high meadows, with a stop at glacier-formed rocks. Near the top we found ourselves on a paved road – very disappointing!

We left that road and followed our path back down, eventually finding this forestry road that we followed for a while. As we made our way back toward town, the clouds lowered again and the rain started.

Once we were back down off the hill, the road back to town took us past farms with their flower-bedecked houses.

and their flocks

Hallstatt in Clouds

Back in town, we stopped for a late lunch and went back to the room to put our tired feet up. The clouds settled lower over the mountains and we talked about just staying in, but decided not to waste our last evening there.

Last Evening

We ended up going to that pretty Gästhof at the top of the square - the one up there between the aqua building and the beige one. Very good food, efficient waiter, decent prices. No view at all from the 1st floor terrace where we ate, but it was a pleasant evening.

We’re glad we passed on the smoky Ruth Zimmerman’s Pub (lower right) that we thought might be the only place still open.

Last Morning, Last Looks

Ducks and swans bid us farewell

There's the dock where we'll meet The Stephanie.

Met another Rick Steves couple there who were planning the same route the next day. Seem to meet a lot of them in these small towns he leads us to.


We caught the 9:50 AM ferry across the lake for the 10:10 train to Salzburg.

Morning Train

Leaving the Salzkammergut, heading for Salzburg.


1 Beginning 5 Paris 9 Frankfurt and the Night Train 13 Bavaria and Tirol
2 London to Edinburgh 6 Bruges 10 Vienna 14 Motorcycles in the Alps
3 The Fringe 7 Amsterdam 11 Hallstatt and the Salzkammergut 15 Switzerland near Interlaken
4 Scotland and Wales 8 Bacharach in the Rhine Valley 12 Salzburg 16 Home again

If the journal is narrow, adjusting the width of your window will make it easier to read.

Email Tom:
Email Linda: