A young Chinese girl screams. Her veil stuck in her hair was caught by a gust of wind and blown into the water of the green shimmering lake. In there the wedding picture! The groom scolds, in Mandarin, you can only guess what he says. Meanwhile, a friend tries to comfort the bride. It's just a fake photo - the real wedding is still celebrated in China, where then the pictures from Hallstatt are shown to the guests.
Hallstatt in the Inner Salzkammergut, Upper Austria, about midway between Munich and Vienna. Bad Ischl, a few kilometers further north, is a concept in many of Germany, through the Sissi films. Franzl stopped there for Sissi's hand. And Salzburg, of course. But Hallstatt? A place where salt has been mined for thousands of years, where once the Celts came and after which a period of the Iron Age is named - Hallstatt. And yet he is barely known to many.
16 picturesEast Asians in Hallstatt: The little luck in Austria
Lien Bo smiles. "Everyone in China knows Hallstatt," she says. "Everyone." The restaurant manager from the metropolis of Chongqing rummages her cell phone out of her pocket. Whether it's a travel app or social media - photos of Hallstatt appear everywhere: a friend who bites into a meatloaf roll. Another man drinking a beer at the lake. Wedding pictures of a befriended couple with Hallstatt in the background. "Hallstatt, for us that is little luck," says Lien Bo, "mountains, a lake, in between a pretty place where happy people live."
But not all 780 residents of Hallstatt seem to be so happy about the tourist rush from East Asia. This year around one million people will have visited the village, most of them day visitors coming by bus or car, once walking through the village and driving on. About 150,000 overnight stays will be booked this year. All record numbers. And there will be more next year. Many travel agencies that offer Prague, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, and Budapest as destinations also include Hallstatt in their program.
High revenue by toilet-Euro alone
The interest in Hallstatt from China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and other East Asian countries, but also from India, has increased enormously over the past five years. The most important reason for the popularity might be the dissemination of photos of the Berg-See-Dorf-Idyll via social media. But narratives of those who have been there, contribute to the visitor rush. "My mother was here two years ago," says stockbroker Dan from Shanghai. Together with his wife, he now travels the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Hungary in one week. Hallstatt is a stopover, stay: two hours, including lunch.
In China, however, a replica has also increased the reputation of Hallstatt in the Austrian village in the province of Guangdong. The marketplace and the surrounding houses were rebuilt one to one in 2012, but mirrored - and without the knowledge of the Hallstatter. Some have angered that, others just recognize the compliment it contains, in a Chinese way. And in South Korea there was a soap opera that was filmed in Hallstatt.
VIDEO: Hallstatt in China - the home plagiarism (2014)
Bernhard Zand / DER SPIEGEL
Alexander Scheutz, Mayor of Hallstatt, sees the tourism mostly positive. "We are a small place that was still in debt years ago and was in danger of being incorporated," he says. "Now we have a budget surplus of 4.4 million euros." This increase was generated by tourism. Only by the public toilets, whose use costs one euro, the municipality generates 150,000 euros a year. "That's more than the property tax," says Scheutz. All in all, the location is well-suited for its size: there is still an independent bakery, a supermarket, even a medical center you could finance.
Critics in the place see this less rosy. "With us there are almost only souvenir shops, nothing else," says a woman who lives in the middle of the village. The supermarket is geared towards tourism, there is water and fridge magnets. "But try to get something to cook in Hallstatt, carrots or salad, you will not find that, and if you do, it will be 30 percent more expensive than usual." Even bottled Hallstatter air is now available in cans to buy. "That's crazy, I do not think that's alright!"
Quality tourism instead of mass tourism
The proposal was to ask for an entrance fee for Hallstatt. That rejects Scheutz. "We are not a museum, but a traditional social democratic community," says the SPÖ politician. "We also do not want luxury tourism that a family with children can no longer afford."
But more expensive, it seems all agree, it must be - by the parking fees are increased, especially for buses. For a stop on the edge of the town, in which only residents are allowed to drive, are currently 30 euros due. Now you think about 100 euros or more. Salzburg does it. The citizens list Hallstatt, which is committed to, was elected in 2015 right away with 28 percent of the vote in the local parliament. They want quality tourism, not mass tourism, their members say. Say: Visitors should stay not just a few hours, but several days.
Now a traffic concept is being worked out to control this. The citizens of Hallstatt are just as involved as representatives of the tourism industry. Against tourism, everyone agrees, no one is. But you just have to steer it in the right direction.
"At the moment it's just way too much," says Andrea Zimmermann. She lives with her family exactly at that point of the village, which the travelers from Asia call "Fotopoint" - from where one has a view of the whole village and church. It is the motif that circulates most often on the net.
"The worst thing is the noise," says Zimmermann. "The first come to the sunrise, the last are still at night and take pictures." The terrace could no longer use the family. It is also problematic that many travelers did not respect the privacy and sometimes even in the garden or even in the living room. "And not infrequently a drone flies by and takes pictures or films."
For some time, signs of prohibition have been hanging everywhere in the village. They appeal to respect the privacy of the inhabitants, not to let drones fly and to be as quiet as possible. "Now it is said that we would ban everything," says mayor Scheutz. "But you also have to understand that the people who live here need a retreat." Some tourists would think Hallstatt was just a backdrop, a kind of Disneyland, and the people who work here live in high-rise buildings behind the mountains. "Sometimes they are really stunned when we tell them: we live here, in the middle of it!"
Little Hallstatt is experiencing the consequences of globalization, the growing prosperity of people in other parts of the world and increasing travel pleasure. The development that cities like Venice or Barcelona have been experiencing for some time now reaches a village in Austria. And yet it is only a small percentage of Asians who are already traveling abroad and exploring the world - as Europeans have been doing for a long time. The number of people visiting Europe in the future is likely to increase further.
"Yes, it has two sides," says Scheutz. "On the one hand, we have to see that we have reached our capacity limits." On the other hand, you do not want to be rude or unfriendly to guests. That some speak of "hordes" that would come, he finds impossible. "Something like the 'tourist, go home!' Campaigns elsewhere will hopefully never happen."
Yes, Lien Bo thinks the locals are a bit serious. But that, she believes, has something to do with the other culture. All in all, the people in Hallstatt are very nice. And above all, very, very happy.Keywords: