. The trail was marked "for experienced hikers only" and was made of steps cut into the rock face with a rope anchored to the wall to help pull you up. Once we made it to the top, we were greeted with an even bigger waterfall, well-worth the demanding hike. We decided to take a different route down, passing through Hallstatt’s famous Salzberg (salt mine, not the city). The mine and tours were over for the day, but we enjoyed the informational signs near the trail with history of Hallstatt and the salt mines. As we approached Hallstatt, we found grand views of the village from above. That evening, as we were heading to dinner, we happened to notice a sign for a free band concert in the Market Square, next to our hotel. Thus, we had dinner outside in the square and enjoyed the “oom-pah-pah” music (along with the Schnapps girls passing out samples) as we dined.
The next day, we awoke ready for some serious hiking! We found a delicious breakfast buffet unexpectedly at our hotel and carb-loaded for a day on the trails. We then headed to the local outdoors shop for a better hiking map where one of the helpful workers recommended some great trails. We decided on climbing to the summit of Krippenstein, ascending over 1,500 meters. The five-hour hike was gorgeous and covered various terrains, from the wooded paths to the barren, glacier carved rock at the top
. Kelly was so excited to hiking amongst “glaciers” (patches of snow along the hiking trail), she even deviated from the trail to slide down one. Afterwards, she implored Creighton to do the same (see picture). Refreshed with a wet backside, we set out ever higher. We came across a small lake and stopped to snack next to it. Even more than the snow patches, Kelly was excited to find that Austrian M&Ms come in hot pink. Then we powered the last hour to the very top where we were greeted by all of the “cheaters” who took the cable car up to the summit. We walked around the top and ventured over the “five fingers”, a metal structure extending beyond the cliff that faces Hallstatt. Kelly ventured out to the furthest point where you can look through the metal grating straight down some 1,500m; Creighton did not. On the hike back to the cable car station, Creighton heard a metal clunking sound. Kelly told him it was just his aluminum water bottle, but not convinced he looked off the trail to find a flock of sheep gathered around each other eating snow. Once discovered, the sheep would not stop bah-ing at us so we took the clue and continued back to the cable car station. At the cable car station we encountered some technical difficulty with our tickets (they got demagnetized, forcing us to jump the turn stall), but made it back to lake level. Fully exhausted and possibly a bit stinky, we retreated back to the hotel for a quick dip in the chilly, 20 degree Celsius lake
. Kelly thought the cool dip was a refreshing treat to her tired muscles. We then freshened up and headed to dinner at Restaurant Braugasthof. We enjoyed the rest of the evening relaxing on our balcony watching the sun set over the mountains, before deeming it an acceptable time to retire for the evening.
The next morning, we awoke to thunderstorms and heavy downpours which continued most of the day. This put a damper on our hiking plans, and instead we spent the day walking around Hallstatt between downpours and relaxing at our hotel. The highlight of the day was our dinner at Gasthof Zauner, where we shared a delicious platter of venison and roasted vegetables. We called it a night after dinner, hoping for better weather the next day for our travels to Munich!
We awoke early to continue our journey. We decided to take the Shuttlebus service between Cesky Krumlov and Hallstatt instead of taking the trains with our Eurail Pass as we have been as the shuttlebus trip was 3 hours shorter. We were very happy with the decision, as our trip was basically a tour through the gorgeous Czech Republic and Austrian countryside with a fabulous, informative private guide. We arrived in the lakeside town of Hallstatt in the foothills of the Austrian Alps and were very happy with our hotel (although very rustic and creaky) and especially happy with our room and it's lake-view balcony. After we got settled we decided to have lunch in the hotel’s restaurant on the lake. The food was very good and served us well on our hike that afternoon. As it was already mid-afternoon, we set out on a fairly easy two hour hike through a valley to a scenic waterfall. We made it to the waterfall in good time and then, spontaneously, we decided that we should continue on and hike up the very steep trail to the top of the waterfall