Thursday, December 4, 2014
An Absolutely Beautiful Christmas in Halstatt
When it comes to Christmas, I just want to have fun. I love the lights, the food, the festivities, the snow, the wonder that is Christmas. This year, I'm showcasing some spots that I haven't talked about before, and the first one is an area of the Alps that runs along a beautiful lake in the Halstatt/Salzburg region of Austria. This one is dubbed the most beautiful town in Austria. Halstatt, Austria is one of the villages that sits on the shores of the lake known as the Halstattsee. The town is ancient and has the old buildings and cobblestone streets to prove it. At Christmas and all winter long, this place becomes an amazing wonderland.
Halstatt is just one of the villages along the lake, and it is a beautiful little town. During the Christmas season, the local band plays in the afternoons for the people. There's a winter market in the beginning of December where you can pick up all kinds of local delicacies and handicrafts. The village is full of stands and everyone comes out to shop. There's also a great spa in town with natural hot springs. It's a great relaxing and gorgeous spot in the world.
Halstatt and area are not only beautiful but interesting. The funicular will take you up to get an amazing look at the area. Driving into Halstatt you go through some fantastic tunnels. There are boats for hire that will take you to the other villages along the lake as well. In the winter time you can catch a sleigh pulled by horses. It's all like spending time in a fairytale.
The town is so picturesque that it almost seems fictional. It sits in amongst the Alps and hangs right over the edge of the lake. It's been there for hundreds and hundreds of years. But, there's more to this area than just it's good looks. There are some great things to see and do here.
The folks in the Alps are hearty souls, and the folks that visit them in winter are as well. We all know you can ski in the alps and hike and ice climb. But January brings balloon week to Halstatt. The area has great wind currents and is a premiere location for hot air ballooning. If you come for the holiday, stay another week and get a great ride and a great view of the entire area.
Sitting on an outcropping of an Alp at the edge of a mountain lake doesn't leave a whole lot of room to maneuver, so the local cemetery is quite small. Years of having to deal with this problem has brought about some seriously creative solutions. The dead do not stay buried in this place. The painted skulls are in the Beinhaus Ossuary and, you guessed it; these folks are from the local cemetery. They are now painted so that loved ones know who's who and they are resting comfortably in the local ossuary.
Also in the area you will find the remnants of glaciers. There are glaciers all over the Alps, and they have some interesting ways of seeing them. The Dachstein Ice Caves are just outside of town, and they are a great place to see the effects of glaciers in the region.
Not far away is the Salzwelten salt mines. This salt mine is one of the oldest in the world. The miners went down into the mine by sliding down huge slides, and that is exactly the way that the tourist get down there today. There are a lot of exhibits that help to teach the history of mining in the area, and some great sights to see including a lake at the bottom. It's a beautiful place to see, and the train ride back to the top is pretty cool too.
Krampus originates from the Old High German word for claw (Krampen). In Bad Goisern during the first two weeks of December, Krampus is running around frightening the children. It's all part of tradition here in the area and it's the festival that comes just before Advent. It seems more like Halloween, but it has been a tradition in the small town of Bad Goisern just across the lake from Halstatt for generations. All of the Krampen meet with good Saint Nicholas and and good angels at the end of the festival, and then Christmas as most of us know it commences.
Have you ever tried a polar bear plunge? Well this little area of the world goes one better. They have dive trips under the ice during the dead of winter in the lake. The ice is so clear that the divers will tell you that it's an amazing experience. I don't know if I personally would want to dive in water so cold that it was iced over, but I'm assured that it's a once in a lifetime experience and that under the ice is incredibly beautiful.
But, no matter how you slice it, Santa coming across the lake to Obertraun, just up the lake from Halstatt, is a unique way to get in the Christmas spirit. This whole area is interesting, unique, and one of the most gorgeous places on Earth. Getting there is easy and scenic. It's a tourist area, so a lot of folks will speak a little English. In reality, it's not far from Salzburg. If you've ever wanted to get away from your old and moldy traditions, come and try some of these out. They are centuries old traditions, but it will be new to you. Come, enjoy the view, enjoy the food, enjoy the shopping, enjoy the sights, and enjoy the people. Relax for this holiday. Come to Halstatt. Enjoy!