For me Hallstatt in Austria is associated with bad weather. We go and see it in rainy periods when hiking in the mountains is not an option, when the surrounding mountains are cut off by the clouds and the scenery, serene and dreary, is almost comically at odds with what is shown on the postcards. That is when and where the feeling of weltschmerz is best enjoyed, similar to the bitterness in dark chocolate. Also, the dark mood is better suited to a village that houses the world’s largest collection of painted skulls.
In China, everybody knows Hallstatt as the most beautiful place in the world, second only to its replica village in Luoyang, China. It is no wonder that many Chinese want to see the real thing. For them three-day trips to Austria are on offer, with Hallstatt sandwiched in between Salzburg and Vienna.
There weren’t many Chinese visitors around, but signs in Chinese prohibiting all sorts of things. What is especially galling to the locals is when visitors enter their houses and gaze at them, perhaps mistaking them for figures made of wax, as there might be in the replica village in China.
I’ve known Hallstatt since I was a child. Apart from the signs, it hasn’t really changed, especially on a rainy day in between seasons.