Well, then! Shall I tell you a story of my travels far and wee? (You don’t actually get a choice here, but indulge me.) It all starts with a little town in Austria…
Our first stop, thanks to some booking mix-ups, was the small, somewhat difficult-to-access Austrian town of Hallstatt, rather than the main hub of Vienna (as originally intended). As such, after a five-hour flight to Toronto and an eight-hour flight to Vienna, Mom and I had an exciting time catching a cab to the train station, and then two trains to the Hallstatt ferry station! We were very very tired, but seeing the Austrian countryside from a comfortable train seat is perhaps not so bad. Along the way I photographed what would be the first of many, many pastel buildings to delight and charm me during our visit.
Eventually we made it aboard the ferry to cross the Hallstätter See, where we were free to relax for a few minutes, talk to some nearby ducks, and enjoy the sight of Hallstatt in all its UNESCO-World-Heritage-Site-listed beauty.
See? World Heritage-y.
After 30+ hours of traveling and being awake and hungry and cranky, settling into the beautiful hotel room in the beautiful hotel in the beautiful town was sort of weird and dreamlike–a feeling only amplified when I leaned out the beautiful hotel window to watch a young couple take wedding pictures in a gondola at the water’s edge.
That first night we ate, sat around in a daze, and did little else. The nice thing about Hallstatt is that it’s a really great place to recover from the exertion of getting there.
The next morning was wonderfully foggy and cool, and my mom and I were both more in a place to appreciate the sights!
(Sights such as tiny Rittersports left thoughtfully in our hotel room. How’s that for customer service?)
We took a walk up the hill to the town’s Catholic church, and only experienced a handful of other visitors, as well as some overenthusiastic cyclists. Hallstatt has a reputation for being unpleasantly crowded during the summer months, but in late April it was neither empty nor tourist-choked. Perfect!
On our walk, we came across what’s still one of my favorite things about the entire trip; literal catwalks, for residents’ pet cats to descend from house to garden and vice-versa.
I mean, really.
I didn’t get to see any cats put the ladders to use, unfortunately, but they tickled me anyhow–not the least because pet dogs seem to be quite doted on in both Austria and Slovenia, so it was nice to see cats getting some of that same treatment and affection.
(Remember this lake. It will be important later.)
The hill is a gradual climb, and not very strenuous–even taking into account the dodging of bikes, it was a pleasant way to spend the morning. Hallstatt is beautiful from pretty much all angles, and I hope that having tourists amble along the roads behind their houses (and, um, take pictures of their rooftops and backyards) isn’t too much of a trial for the locals.
What immediately struck both of us on reaching the Catholic church was the small, immaculately-kept graveyard. The graves themselves were more like flowerbeds, flourishing with pansies and fuchsias, and it was a place to stand and be quiet and respectful for the past and present residents of the town. Around the corner from the graveyard is the entrance to the Beinhaus, where that quiet and respectful feeling comes in very handy.
The Beinhaus–or Charnel House–is a small room filled with bones and skulls, carefully stacked. The skulls are beautifully painted and labeled with the names of the deceased, and I found it very peaceful.
Afterwards, we walked back down the hill and admired hanging plants, this dragon water spigot, and the bicyclists’ myriad of neon tennis shoes.
We also swung by a small boat-rental business, where they made the ill-advised decision to let me drive a small, slow electric boat for as long as I wanted for a handful of Euro. There were only two settings on the boat, it’s true, but that’s never stopped me from making a hash of things before.
I managed not to send us to the bottom of the lake this time, and it was really quite pleasant out on the water, almost completely by ourselves. Emboldened by our success, we may or may not have loudly and embarrassingly sang what turned into the theme song for our trip. It’s a wild time when mother-daughter pairs go a-traveling, I tell you.
And Mom gets a gold star (on her face) for being such a good sport! She gave everything the old college try, and I admire her for that. It’s not everybody I’ve traveled with who’s willing to order innards off the menu, and that’s not a metaphor.
On the walk–there was a lot of walking on this trip, just to warn you–back to our hotel, I met this cat! It was not utilizing a catwalk, but one can’t have everything. Thank you for humoring me, Kätzchen.
Later we did such unpicturesque things as read and send emails until bedtime, so I’ll leave you with the start of my Weird European Graffiti tally.
1. Shouting chicken?