How I Took a Solo Trip to Europe- Hallstatt and Obertraun

Wednesday, December 09, 2015 Emily Childers 0 Comments

Let me preface this post by thanking Rick Steves. So much. I learned about Hallstatt in his Best of Europe guide (see my planning post) and I'm so happy I took the time to travel here.

Hallstatt is a small Austrian village on a lake, nestled into the Austrian Alps. Swoon. I stayed across the lake in Obertraun, a slightly less idyllic town with a train station accessible by foot. To get to Hallstatt you have to take a ferry across the lake from the train station, or take the free bus all the way around the lake.

After 11 hours (!) of train travel from Bern, I got into Obertraun after dark. I didn't have much of a map, so it took me a few confused laps around the block to find my hotel. Gasthof Hirlatz is a sweet hotel with incredibly affordable rooms, shared bathrooms, and a lovely innkeeper that welcomed me warmly despite the late hour. I was starving (see: 11 hours on a train) so I wandered through town to find some food. It was inky black out and the streets were empty, but I never felt unsafe.

I wandered into a small restaurant attached to a two lane bowling alley (it was as weird as it sounds) and ordered a dark beer and a wurst. I was expecting a German style sausage, but apparently what I ordered was a hot dog wrapped in bacon and cheese. It was also weird. But delicious.

The next morning I got my day started with some complimentary breakfast and a quick chat with the innkeeper. She mentioned that her husband worked the ski lifts at Dachstein, the mountain right next to town. I knew that I was visiting in late winter, but I didn't realize that it was still prime skiing season in the area. So despite some pretty serious fear, guess what I decided to do...

Hello powder

It was really, really cold!

I rented skis and bought a half day pass. It was blustery and the lifts were closed, but the gondolas were still running so I was able to enjoy a few long runs. The snow was perfect and I've never felt so in control. The only issue was that my feet and ankles were WEAK. I had to call it a day 45 minutes before my pass expired because my gams couldn't handle any more. The sun was out and the snow was literally sparkling. I'm so thankful I bucked up and did it.

The landscape was so stunning it almost looked fake
With a grin I couldn't shake, I took the free bus back down the mountain to Hallstatt. I listened to Rick Steves' audio guide to the area while wandering around town. Some highlights were the ancient Roman road in the basement of a tourist shop, stunning vistas from the top lane of town, and the peaceful cemetery outside the church.

I decided it was time for a splurge meal, so I treated myself to some seriously decadent roast beef and rose' at Seehotel Gruner Baum. The restaurant is right on the lake and my table had the best view in the house (which I obviously forgot to snap a picture of).

After lunch I took the ferry across the lake to the Hallstatt train stop. From there I walked the few miles back to Obertraun. It was a gorgeous walk, interrupted only slightly by a work crew doing avalanche prep on the mountain. I got to stand and watch men in orange scale the mountain above while their supervisor blocked the road where the debris was falling.

Next up, Vienna!

Check out my other posts on planning and packing for this trip, or my overviews of ParisAmsterdam, and Bern.