The Austrian village of Hallstatt recently erected a wooden barrier to block the view of the Alps to protest against mass tourism. Hallstatt is a popular destination for many as it resemblances the landscape of Disney’s film ‘Frozen’. The village has even been copied in full size in China, and it is popular in South Korea since a TV series in which it is mentioned.
With its traditional houses plunging into the cliff side on a lake of pure water and the spire of its church pointing to the sky, Hallstatt, which received about a million visitors a year before the Covid-19 pandemic, continues to attract many social media users.
“We reacted to the complaints of the local residents,” an official of the municipality who does not wish to give his name explained to AFP. The barrier has since been removed, according to BBC, and it was erected in the hope that tourists would no longer flock to one of the most popular places to take selfies, generating noise pollution because of the traffic generated.
We want to reduce numbers by at least a third but we have no way of actually stopping them.Alexander Scheutz, Mayor of Hallstatt
In 2010, the number of visitors averaged 100 per day compared to the maximum of 10,000 per day that the village receives nowadays. Since the first Frozen movie was released in 2013, the Austrian village of Hallstatt has been visited by more than one million tourists. This surge in over tourism has caused a huge impact in small village of roughly 800 inhabitants.
Responding to the influx of tourists, the village’s mayor Alexander Scheutz is looking to reduce the number of buses that pass through Hallstatt, an astronomical 20,000, by a third. “Hallstatt is an important piece of cultural history, not a museum. We want to reduce numbers by at least a third, but we have no way of actually stopping them,” said Scheutz quoted by the Daily Mail.
The village has been classified by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The Hallstatt-Dachstein alpine landscape, part of the Salzkammergut, and thus of the Eastern Alps, is one of visual drama with huge mountains rising abruptly form narrow valleys. Its prosperity since mediaeval times has been based on salt mining, focused on the town of Hallstatt, a name meaning salt settlement that testifies to its primary function.
The beauty of the alpine landscape, with its higher pastures used for the summer grazing of sheep and cattle since prehistoric times as part of the process of transhumance, which still today gives the valley communities rights of access to specific grazing areas, was ‘discovered’ in the early 19th century by writers, such as Adalbert Stifler, novelist, and the dramatic poet Franz Grillparzer, and most of the leading paintings of the Biedermeier school. They were in turn followed by tourists and this led to the development of hotels and brine baths for visitors.
The landscape is exceptional as a complex of great scientific interest and immense natural power that has played a vital role in human history reflected in the impact of farmer-miners over millennia, in the way mining has transformed the interior of the mountain and through the artists and writers that conveyed its harmony and beauty