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When I finally got to Hallstatt, Austria, after a picture captured my imagination, it was just as magical as I'd always dreamed.
After a few days in London, my friend Chris and I went to Vienna and caught a train to Hallstatt. The ride through the Alps was beautiful. Clouds hung heavy halfway up the craggy peaks, a mist shrouded each passing valley, and impromptu waterfalls swelled in the rain and cascaded down rock-strewn mountainsides. We took in charming Austrian chalets and scenes of cyclists halted on rural trails by our passing train.
We disembarked in the woods after our huge train pulled up to a tiny platform hewn into rock. We wound down a dirt and gravel path to a dock. Rain continued as we were ferried across the lake.
We enjoyed the hillside hamlet, complete with a roadside schnitzel stand. The whole place looked Photoshopped. Even in the rain, an amble along Hallstätter See is unforgettable.
Main attractions in Hallstatt include Franz Joseph salt mines, can't-miss viewing platforms called the Five Fingers, and feeding the lake's famous swans.