17 JAN 2017: A tiny village in Upper Austria on the eastern shore of Lake Hallstatt has a history dating back to around 900 to 400 BC, but the past few years the hamlet has received a disproportionate amount of attention from Asia. In fact, Hallstatt, the Unesco World Heritage Site, home to 946 residents has been the recipient of the sincerest form of flattery in that the Chinese have replicated the little hamlet.

In 2005, Hallstatt had about 50 visitors from China. Then in 2012 a town one hour outside of Huizhou in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong unveiled their own ‘knock-off’ of the Austrian town, recreating it in great detail.

Hallstatt wasn’t built in a year, but Chinese Hallstatt was! And for $940 million, the residents feel that it has captured the charm of Europe. And you know Europeans spent hundreds of years doing that.

When news of a village doppelganger was announced, Hallstatt’s mayor Alexander Scheutz was sceptical, as were the residents who felt that Hallstatt was original.

Well, the first Hallstatt has OEM (Original European Manufactured) parts like the backdrop of the Dachstein mountains and a subterranean salt lake. The clone has buildings that are built to scale and are lovely to photograph.

Alas, there is nothing like visiting a hamlet where actual people live in the houses and worship at the churches, so Hallstatt (the first) continues to see a high number of Asian visitors.

Churchgoers are displeased though. Visitors are taking photos during services, including funerals, with tourists said to be bringing selfies sticks and snapping up shots of people mourning their loved ones.

But the residents of Hallstatt are the salt of the earth (truly - they live on the world’s first salt mine) and they have overcome obstacles in the past. In the late 13th century they built the Rudolfsturm Tower, a fortification to defend the mining areas from invaders, so they are also adept at looking at the big picture.

Church authorities say that tourists are more than welcome to visit before or after, but not during a service at which time the doors will be locked.

In some cases bouncers will be hired to man the doors at the two churches and the cemetery.

Now, that’s original.



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Pam Stellini

Pam Stellini is an original. Her quirky outlook and wry humour defy categorization. Readers have compared her to Erma Bombeck and Art Buchwald with a travel spin – and we're not about to argue. 

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