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Working my way through the alphabet, one country at a time


Train view austria

A View From the Train

Thanks to Kay Gabrielsen Hinton for a glorious day! She mentioned yesterday that Hallstatt was her favorite city ever. So I cancelled my plans and the desk clerk helped me map the easiest train route: three trains, one ferry, three and a half hours. I took the shuttle to the station at 8:00 but my first train was CANCELLED. I walked to the bus stop and waited for 15 minutes. Then I returned to the station. Better be an hour late than not know where I was going!

I was grateful to have this train ride through pastoral settings. It was just what I hoped for when I signed up for the railway tour. I simply enjoyed the view and put my camera away, but I couldn’t resist this one shot!

Just when I thought the scenery couldn’t be more beautiful we arrived at Hallstatt. The grandeur of the mountains rising dramatically above the glassy lake, and the quaint town nestled between the lake and mountains defy description.

This village owes its history of wealth to the salt mines at the top of that majestic mountain. Luckily, Kay mentioned to take the gondola and tour of the salt mine. The view from the gondola as we rose was magnificent!

Serving Time?

Serving Time?

I hiked up to where the tour of the salt mine commenced. I was pleasantly surprised by the tour in spite of being required to wear protective clothing that made me look like I was serving five to ten years. There were two long wooden slides on the tour, and slides are one of my favorite things along with flotation devices. But the tour was interesting, as well.

Hallstatt salt mine tour

The Salt Mines

People have been mining salt from this place for 3,000 years! I can’t imagine anyone climbing that far, let alone discovering the salt. They would spend two weeks mining the salt and then return below where they lived. Fascinating artifacts have been discovered (because salt is a preservative, of course) including the remains of a man!

After the tour, I spied a walking path from above so I walked back down to Hallstatt. There were million dollar views all the way down.

When I made my way back to the ferry, I heard some passengers talking about a charnel house (“A charnel house is a vault or building where human skeletal remains are stored”) and said ” are you talking about the church with bones?!?!” I had read about this unique attraction in Austria and wanted to see it–but I had no idea it was in Hallstatt! The passengers told me how to get there and I jumped off the ferry.

This isn’t as gruesome as it sounds when you understand the history. The cemetery was so small that around 1200 A.D. they began removing bodies. Any decay was removed from the skull and it was bleached in the sun until it was milky white. The skulls were arranged by families, and in time the practice of decorating the skulls with flowers began–as you would decorate the grave.

Thank you, Kay, for a wonderful day!


Rhonda Sarantis

Rhonda Sarantis

"She's crazy and loud but she loves you!" That's what they tell my infant granddaughter to prepare her for my visit, so I thought it would be a great way to prepare you. And while I may not always be crazy or loud, one thing is always true: I LOVE people. That's at the heart of my passion for travel. I love getting to know people from different cultures who speak different languages, eat different food, have different ideas and opinions. I'm endlessly curious and make a point of reading about the countries I visit. Instead of saying "that's not how WE do it," I enjoy identifying strengths in diverse cultures, and learning about their way of life. I LOVE road trips! I have great memories of monthlong vacations growing up. Dad always had a van--before they were popular--and invited anybody who wanted to join us. My road trips within the United States will be featured in "The Lower Case Travelogs." Be sure to buckle your seat belt. I execute illegal u-turns if a bakery or estate sale is spotted!

Innsbruck Austria

Last Day in Innsbruck

Kurhotel Vellererhof Austria

Kurhotel Vellererhof

Buildings Innsbruck Austria

Colors of Innsbruck

Parades austria

Who Doesn’t Love a Parade?!

Salzburg Fortress Austria

A Mighty Fortress


  • Susan Krueger

    This looks amazing! I want to live there an wake up to that view every day! What an incredible adventure!

    September 22, 2015 at 11:40 am
    • rhondasarantis

      Me too! Who wants to pool their resources and live with Susan and I in Hallstatt?!

      September 22, 2015 at 3:59 pm
      • Ali

        I’m in!

        September 24, 2015 at 6:13 am
  • Ali

    Your descriptions and photos made Hallstatt MY favorite city even though I’ve never been there. Yet. I can’t get over the views!

    September 24, 2015 at 6:13 am