Hallstatt, Pearl of the Salzkammergut - Part III
Continue with the Saltmines themselves: Located approximately 500 metres above the city of Hallstatt, on the "Salzberg" ("salt mountain"), they are among the most popular show mines of Austria (given that there are plenty of popular show mines in Austria, this means a lot!). You can get there by a railway ("Salzbergbahn"), unless you choose the much sportier approach of hiking up - there are two routes, both of them will take you approximately 50 minutes and offer the more rewarding experience than the railway.
A sight associated with the mines is the Rudolfsturm ("tower of Rudolf"), built by the Habsburg ruler Albrecht and named after his father, the first Habsburg duke of Austria. Erected in 1284, it was meant to defend the duchy′s salt mines and thus the Salzkammergut′s prosperity, which it did very well. The program that you can expect inside the mine is similar to the one described for the Hallein Show Mines:
First you have to put on a protective overall that pretends to protect you from dirt (though it′s more for the effect, as you won′t swim in mud anyway), then you are taken town to the main levels of the mine, where you can experience the joys and delights of racing down wooden slides, taking a boat over an underground lake and watching exhibitions about the history of mining in the Salzkammergut. All in all, the whole thing lasts easily an hour and should not be missed by any responsible Hallstatt visitor.
Salzkammergut Folk Culture in Hallstatt
A final word about a very special attraction of Hallstatt: Most communities in Austria celebrate Corpus Christi or Fronleichnam in late May or early June with processions in festive clothing and other folklore. For details on this, read the article on traditions and customs in Austria. In Hallstatt, however, there is a very distinct version of this festival: The procession starts - like anywhere in Austria - at the local parish church. It continues across the market square and down to the lake, where everybody embarks on the boats (many of them are the traditional Salzkammergut punts that are navigated by a single pole).
Most of these boats are decorated with floral ornaments and many of the locals wear traditional clothing. Of particular interest is the participation of the local societies and guilds, many of whom have specific clothing. The procession ends in a small chapel on the Eastern shore of the lake. If you happen to travel across Austria around Fronleichnam, you should definitely try to be in Hallstatt for the procession.
Other rewarding destinations in the region include the Dachstein with the famous ice cave and the "Mammuthöhle" or "mammoth cave". Bad Ischl is only some 12 kilometres away and the villages of Bad Goisern, Obertraun and Gosau are pretty places. The same thing applies to the towns of Bad Aussee and Altaussee.
In terms of transportation, Bad Ischl offers the best connections with Attnang-Puchheim probably serving as a good starting point. However, you are certainly best off - and most independent - if you have your own car. Keep in mind that the curvy roads and steep mountains of the Salzkammergut roads might be a bit challenging for drivers from flat places with straight roads.