Hallstatt-Dachstein/ Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape
Hallstatt-Dachstein/ Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape
Cultural Austria Europe And North America States Of Upper Austria, Styria And Salzburg

The Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut Alpine region is an outstanding example of a natural landscape of great beauty. It also has great scientific interest because it contains evidence of a fundamental human economic activity, the production of salt.

Human activity in the magnificent natural landscape of the Salzkammergut began in prehistoric times, with the salt deposits being exploited as early as the 2nd millennium BC. The name of the medieval town, derived from the West German hal (salt) and the Old High German stat (settlement), first recorded in a deed of 1305, testifies to its primary function. This resource formed the basis of the area's prosperity until the mid-20th century, a prosperity that is reflected in the fine architecture of the town of Hallstatt.

The town grew up along the narrow strip between the steep mountainside of the Salzberg and the lake, and on the Mühlbach, an artificial promontory out into the lake resulting from the dumping of mining debris over the centuries. Here in the inner market town the houses, largely late Gothic, are ranged round a triangular market square. The typical Hallstatt house is tall and narrow, making maximum use of the restricted space and the steep topography. The lower storeys are constructed in stone with barrel vaulting supporting timber-framed upper storeys, as is customary in the Alpine region. Only a few preserve the original flat saddleback roofs covered with wooden planks or shingles. The southern part of the town, known as In der Lahn, located at the mouth of the Echterntal, is largely of 18th-century date, much of it built after the 1750 fire.

Among the more notable buildings are the St Mary's Roman Catholic Parish Church built in the late 15th century to replace an earlier Romanesque structure, parts of which survive. Having suffered only slight damage during the 1750 fire its only Baroque features are the roof and the multi-tiered spire. It contains a number of outstanding works of art, including a late Gothic altarpiece from the Astl workshop.

The small St Michael Chapel and Charnel House is a Gothic structure in the tiny graveyard immediately north of the parish church. Its basement, viewable at ground level, contains a neatly arranged assemblage of human skulls and long bones, the skulIs being marked with names and other details of the deceased.

The property also includes the Dachstein Mountains, rising to some 3,000 m, which form the highest of the karst massifs in the northern limestone Alps. They are notable for the large number of caves they contain, the longest being the Hillatzhöhle (81 km). Each cave is speleologically different, but the fact that they enjoy single management allows a range of information and experience to be made available in a coherent programme of conservation, accessibility and interpretation. The Dachstein-Rieseneishöhle is the most impressive ice cave in Austria. Some parts of the mine are now accessible to visitors, including areas made safe for displays arising from the continuing programme of archaeological investigation.

The Dachstein massif is exceptional among Alpine karstic areas for retaining its glaciation. Its landscape takes eight distinct forms: each of these zones has its own distinct climate and hence a characteristic flora and fauna.