Saturday 30th July
Today was too hot to live. Certainly, it was too hot to sit in a huge traffic jam caused exclusively by a single temporary traffic light, but that’s exactly what we spent today doing. Although our borrowed car has functioning air conditioning, unlike our usual old Clio, it just wasn’t strong enough to contend with the special sort of heat that only strikes in a traffic jam. As the vicious heat rays reflected off the tarmac, I tried opening the window in the hopes of finding a breeze. Not only was the air completely still, but I’m fairly sure I got sunburn from those few minutes I spent without the protection of the window.
In a wonderful bit of preplanning, our destination for today was Salzkammergut, Austria’s lake district. We barely looked at the towering mountains surrounding the blue lake before jumping right into the water. The lake was freezing despite the hot day, causing the enjoyable sensation of the parts of your body outside the water burning in the hot sun, whilst under the water, your feet go numb with cold. It was so hot that even Morgan jumped in the lake, despite his severe and irrational dislike of getting wet.
It almost looked like we were back in Norway, which is about the highest compliment you can give a body of water.
After a spending a couple hours flopped around by the lake, our desire for a cold drink begun to outweigh our fear of getting back into the Box of Insufferable Heat, we set off for Hallstatt, which is the UNESCO listed town you can see across the water in the picture above. We drove the short distance around the lake, all three of us panting and hanging our heads out the windows, only to realise that Hallstatt is actually a living nightmare.
Beautiful as the lakeside village was, it was also very tiny, and very busy. In complete contrast to everything the guidebooks will tell you, Hallstatt is no longer “Austria’s Best Kept Secret”. Unless the secret is that it’s actually known as Hellstatt.
It seems that in 2 years, Hallstatt has changed a lot. On this hot summer’s day, it felt like the entire population of Austria was now descending on this tiny village at once. Approaching the place, we were immediately met with a combination of narrow roads, gridlocked tour buses, roadworks, flocks of tourists walking into the road without even pretending to look where they were going, “no parking” signs everywhere, and sweet, cold-drink containing cafes that all looked very closed (we assume they only need to be open a couple days a week in order to make an absolute killing).
So, we were stuck in the box amidst swarms of people, with no way to stop the car and get out. As if it was able to fully comprehend the state of this place and silently decided to take control of the situation, Google then routed us through one long tunnel that took us right back out of the town. We took a quick pit-stop, and agreed to give up on the supposedly “idyllic mountain village,” just slightly despairing at the thought of more time in the hot box without a cold drink.
Checking the map, we set off for a decidedly unknown town to the North. After 20 minutes of painfully tailgating a large group of cyclists down a twisty mountain road, we finally made it to a quiet little cafe which would have been absolutely perfect, if only it had wifi so we could post some blogs. Instead, we indulged in homemade apple strudel and ice cold ‘Almdudler’, in an effort to shake off the hot funk that was plaguing us. It was pretty effective!
Almdudler is a fizzy, slightly fruity drink which is often used as a mixer for beer in Austria. Having realised that Almdudler is actually delicious and refreshing, we now fully comprehend just how weird it is to mix it with beer.
Finally, by around 7pm it started getting cooler and we found a pretty rest stop to park up for the night. Of course, it was still so hot we needed to have all the windows open in the car for the situation to bearable, but still. It was good progress. And next time our local hosts advise us not to bother visiting a place, we’ll definitely listen!
You might have noticed we’re actually back from our road trip now! But we’re still catching up with our backlog of posts that have been patiently waiting to be published.
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