Picturesque Alpine Village and UNESCO heritage site
Hallstatt is an idyllic and unbelievably charming Austrian village in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. This tiny town consists of traditional 16th-century alpine homes built on a narrow strip of land nestled between the adjacent towering Alps and the beautifully tranquil Lake Hallstatt.
Hallstatt is known for its salt mines, which are the oldest in the world and date back to prehistoric times. The mines have been worked since the Neolithic period (Late Stone age, 7 to 10 thousand years ago!), and flourished during the Bronze and Iron ages. The early Iron age is actually known as The Hallstatt Period (800 to 400 BC) in Europe.
Hallstatt is so spectacular that in 2012 a Chinese mining company built a $940 million “clone” of Hallstatt in the Guangdong region of Southern China. I hear that the views through the smoggy Chinese industrial heartland are not quite as spectacular as the original.
Vater-Müller organ, Oude Kerk Amsterdam
The Oude Kerk (“old church”) is the oldest building in Amsterdam, founded 1213 (>800 year old!) and consecrated in 1306. The wooden roof is the largest medieval wooden vault in Europe, and the Estonian planks (1390) claim some of the best acoustics in Europe. Rembrandt was a parishioner the Oude Kerk, his children were all baptized here, and his wife was buried here in 1642. It is the only building in Amsterdam that remains in its original state since Rembrandt walked its halls.
Above is the Vater-Müller organ, built in 1724 and regarded as one of the finest Baroque organs in Europe. It was acknowledged by the church Commissioners as “perfect.” Click here to see an interesting demonstration of the organ accompanied by a Taiko, a traditional Japanese drum.