During my overtime hours at work over the past year, I got into a routine of googling something like "most beautiful mountain town in Europe", the top results usually included the 2500-year-old Austrian village of Hallstatt. I kept this in the back of my head all year, and then while on a trip in the region recently, I decided to start in Munich from where I could quickly swing over to the area. This meant spending a night at Salzburg and then catching a train the next day with a connection at Attnang Purcheim, before ascending up into the mountains. 

Apon arrival I was dropped off on the opposite side of the Hallstatter See from Hallstatt, where a ferry comes to pick up everyone who comes in by train. The ferry ride across the lake offers an incredibly beautiful view of the town and the surrounding nature, but a real shock came after leaving the boat. I found myself surrounded by a whole circus of tourists, clamoring back and forth around trinket shops and swinging selfy sticks around carelessly to take pictures of themselves. As I walked into town I started recognizing mandarin conversations taking place all around me, leaving me with the feeling that I'd just landed at a typical Chinese tourist attraction.

While checking into my hotel, the receptionist there explained to me that for the past ten years or so Hallstatt has been one of the more popular tourist attractions in Europe for Asian travelers. The town has been set up accordingly, ready to process and profit from thousands of new visitors from Taiwan and China each day. On the positive side, I would be able to practice my mandarin here, but any dream I had of getting a taste of a traditional Austrian village had dissipated within a couple minutes of arriving here.

Boat ride into Hallstatt

Although this place is a complete tourist theme park; the area around it is still worth exploring. One attraction ten minutes away from Hallstatt is the five fingers viewing platform at Obertraun. After a quick bus ride and a picturesque cable car ride, you can walk along a trail on top of one of the peaks looking down onto Hallstatt. It had snowed five feet a week or two before my arrival, leaving a small coat of snow left around and on the trail to slip over. From the actual viewing platform, you can see a breathtaking view of the entire lake, It was a bit magnetic, as I tried walking away I kept coming back to take one more picture.

Looking over Hallstatt

The second night I took the bus over to St Gilgen at Wolfgangsee to escape the Chinese tourist attraction, this place turned out to be closer to what I was hoping Hallstatt would have been. Maybe it wasn't quite as picturesque, however walking around inside this village I could think and breath again. It has a real traditional, not overdone feel; and is not completely overrun with tourists.

From here there is another cable car you can take to go hiking Zwolferhorn Mountain, although with a different feel to it. This is more of a pleasant mountain where slipping won't kill you, and you might stumble into a picknick or hikers going the opposite way from another village. While on my voyage up here I ventured into a local bed and breakfast to use the restroom, where the only mandate was that I must buy a beer in exchange. It wasn't exactly what I had planned for breakfast, however, it was a nice feeling to be sipping a beer while surrounded by a postcard picture of Austrian mountain ranges.

Looking over St Gilgen

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