Here’s the thing.
I grew up in Sofia, a city pretty much surrounded by mountains. Every day when I went outside I saw Vitosha – the 2290 m high constant companion to my struggles. Most of the times I didn’t even realise it was there, but I did realise that when it was gone, I missed it. It took me a couple of years of living in Vienna to notice that its landscape flatness left me yearning for something different. It took me another couple of years to start going to Google Maps obsessively looking for the fastest way to get to a mountain.
I didn’t want much! Just to sit somewhere with a glass of something (coffee or wine depending on the hour of the day) and to admire the magnificent earth wrinkles. Who would have thought that it would be so difficult to get to a mountain in Austria – the land has the fucking Alps for god’s sake! But every option seemed too far away or too expensive to a person who was used to having the mountains just, like, right there. But then came my birthday and I was desperate to get out. A friend of mine recommended Hallstatt a couple of years ago and I decided to see what all the fuss was about. It took me, all in all, 4 hours on 2 trains, some minutes on a boat full of Asian tourists and 20 Euro to get there and of course, the same to get back. But damn, it was so worth it! The hotels in Hallstatt were way above my price range, so the whole adventure took place on a single day – my 27th birthday.
My boyfriend and I woke up nice and early and left Vienna – me, prepared for the chilly and rainy weather that the forecast promised me and he, an eternal optimist, spitting in the very face of weather forecasts and reasonable trip preparations. After 3 hours of travelling West it started raining quite a bit and I finally started to see some real and impressive mountains, instead of high, good for nothing hills (they dream of being real mountains one day the same way I dream of having a boyfriend who is good at planning things. We can’t have everything in this life).
I struggle to find the words to explain how beautiful Hallstatt really was. A small town, tucked in the feet of a mountain, on a lake, surrounded by mountains on all sides, covered in patches of mist, having clouds of fog creep along the steep slopes, hiding in between the trees, covering everything they pass through.
The rain was near constant the whole day. We didn’t see the sun once and I couldn’t dream of a better weather. It was calm and melancholy. I was in awe of the Nature. I wanted to capture everything in pictures. Every time I put my camera in my bag I had to take it out again, because the clouds had changed or we had moved and the new view was just as magnificent. People in China actually built a replica of Hallstatt. I saw pictures of it when I got home and it didn’t even come close to the original for the simple reason that you just don’t go to Hallstatt for the buildings.
The region has a lot of salt mines and people have actually lived there for more than 3000 years. You could go into the mines, there are guided tours, but we decided to skip it. Instead, we took a trolley up to the observation deck just in time to observe a cloud going straight through us and devouring absolutely everything except for the nearest tree tops.
Going back down on foot we found a bench hidden under the rocks, which is why it was still dry. I sat there for a while with a coffee in my hand (it was still early for wine) and thought of… nothing much. I didn’t have to think about anything. I only had to observe and be amazed. And that’s what I did. (Also, I made fun of my boyfriend a lot for being so unprepared for the rain, even though I warned him about it)