Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Charming Alpine Village: Hallstaat, Austria

After leaving Salzburg, we drove into the mountains and passed some really gorgeous towns surrounding beautiful lakes. I'm convinced these lakes are at least partially glacier water, because they had that kind of irridescent, really aquamarine color like the lakes and rivers in Alaska.

At the end of one stretch of road, nestled between the mountainside and the lake, is Hallstaat. The road dead ends there, and you have to pass through a tunnel to get to the town. The only other way to access it is by a ferry boat across the lake.

The majority of the town is built ON the mountainside, and in that part of town, there is one road. Everything else is stairs. (Well, there's one main road that crosses the whole town. There are little side streets that allow you to get to the lake and some of the houses in the flat part of the city. But still.) There are dozens of staircases to take you from one 'terrace' of houses to another.

Charming. I would totally honeymoon here.

This view is from the cemetery at the Catholic church. The steeple of the Protestant church and the lower part of the village are what you see here. I can hardly stand how charming this panorama was to me. Obviously this is just a little slice...

The interior of the Protestant church. So simple, but incredibly gorgeous. I would die to have a house with woodwork like this. And though the walls are very plain, I think they really allow the woodwork to shine.

Again, very simple, but sooo beautiful.

What to you think? Are you a fan of the simplistic interior? Or are you more a fan of embellishment and adornment? This is the interior of the Catholic church.
Still very beautiful, in a completely different way.
Now on to the cemetery right outside the Catholic church.
I don't know if I already shared this tidbit with you, but in Austria, burial plots aren't purchased, they are rented. So, should your family line disappear--or your descendants get sick of/forget to pay your 'rent,' you're out of luck, and who knows what happenes to your bones.
And instead of having flat gravestones like in Utah or big family 'shrines' like in France, each grave has an upright cross or similar item at the head of a small flower bed. I love this. Though it obviously involves more work on the part of the family members.
The cemetery was small, of course--it's a very small town. But what I found very interesting and disturbing is that when the cemetery got too full, they would just move people into this little mausoleum at the top of the cemetery. I guess that also solves the problem of what to do with people whose 'rent' isn't being paid...
Isn't that the creepiest thing ever? (Well, maybe not EVER. But I thought it was pretty creepy.)The bones are all labeled, though. To avoid confusion. ;)
This is random, but I liked the look of it. It's the door to a hotel that is currently being completely restored. It had been abandoned for a long time because its floorplan is apparently terrible. Looks like the townspeople made the door useful as a bulletin board.

I love the little cart of wares outside the entrance to this shop.

I would have no qualms about making Hallstaat home base for an exploration of the lakes and villages in the area. Who's with me?


Billy Bob Bambino Bombabious Baby the Third said...

Well, I'll tell you (you knew this was coming! - if you know me at all you know I can't stifle myself ever!!!)...

I like both. How's that for wishy-washy?!? But let me explain. I like/appreciate how they've taken care to craft the experience. As we've already discussed, there's a deliberate movement away from the excesses of the Catholic church, both in liturgy as well as in the architecture. The building is not as bare-bones as we saw in contemporary American protestant building, partly because our buildings would look shabby and unrefined next to the grand-dames of the Catholic world. So they had to nod to the tradition, but they didn't want to be like it... There's a lot of tension for Europeans in that regard. Something to do with the hundreds and hundreds of years of tradition and excess... Since everyone here arrived at the same time we don't have that same sense of history and feeling. Americans also tend to be rootless and temporary, anyway...

But I digress... ;-)

It's the craft of the building that makes it beautiful. There is much that can be percieved from your pictures that speaks to the care and craftsmanship of each of these spaces. Each piece of wood, each guilt plaster moulding, every nook and cranny has been sculpted and shaped and painted for your experience. You feel in the space exactly how you are intended to feel. There's nothing to distract or detract because everything has been carefully and lovingly executed. There's no rush and no "slap it together" here. It's what makes you feel the way you do and respond the way you do.

PS - I love the shot of your dad admiring the ceiling.... I also really, really like the shot of the rib vaults... So elegant and beautiful. The icons beyond the altar diminish the effect somewhat, don't you think?

Denise said...

I would have to disagree with Billy Bob regarding the rootlessness of Americans. This is judging all Americans as one - I feel a strong connection to my ancestors and believe my roots are in people, not in places.
I love the cemetery and am, at the same time, grateful that we purchase our plots rather than rent them. The city looks beautiful.
The disadvantage of traveling without cars and for shorts periods of time is that we miss these beautiful villages. Ahh, me.
You are helping us form our plans when we travel to Germany and Austria. Thank you!

Billy Bob Bambino Bombabious Baby the Third said...

Forgive me, Denise. You're absolutely right - we do feel connection to our ancestry and traditions that we do have are dear to us. I guess I was speaking more of the built environment.

From a urban design point of view, an often cited reference is the old palimpsest idea where things are used and re-used but there's a basic echo that stays. This is usually found in roads and old city walls and things. Hence, the Ringstrasse in Vienna, or the Sacra Via in Rome. People have been walking these roads for millenia... We just don't have the same kind of thing here. And for the most part, we are less invested in creating the kinds of meaningful places, or imbuing our places with meaning - not in the same way. Yes, it's a generalization, but my years of research and experience - with the general public and with real estate developers and other design professionals - have led me to this realization. I am not making a judgement about it - it's neither good nor bad. It just is. I don't know if we want to recreate Europe here in America. There are certainly lessons to be learned from both.

Roxanne said...

Beautifully charming. I love the simplicity, for sure. What a wonderful place.