Through the summer, until the end of October in the Hall-Wattens region of Austria, the Kristallwanderwochen - Tyrolean Crystal Hiking Weeks - offer a jewel of an opportunity for walkers and mountain enthusiasts of all ages. Following the natural trails in search of salt and rock crystals, hikers can explore the mountains and discover the region's history; and as if that wasn't enough, the Swarovski Kristallwelt - the Crystal Worlds theme park - offers a scintillating range of art installations, music and activities, glittering with imagination and magic.
Unlike the Bermuda Triangle, with its dark reputation and where things are reputed to disappear, Austria's Crystal Triangle sparkles with possibilities: here you're more likely to find magical multiple reflections and chances for fun. The whole family can join in with a range of guided tours and children's workshops that have made the area one of the country's major tourist attractions.
The small town of Hall in Tirol is surrounded by mountains; its medieval Old Town, the largest in western Austria, is full of quaint and interesting corners where you can learn about its past including finding out about the seventeenth-century hangman Othmar Krieger. Because Hall was the capital of the salt mining industry, it was an important trading centre. Salt and money are closely related - the word 'salt' is connected to 'salary' - and Hall is known as the birthplace of the 'thaler', a silver coin used throughout Europe for centuries, whose name lives on in the word 'dollar'. The famous Mint Tower looks out over the town of which it is the emblem.
Everyone who spends their holidays in Hall will automatically start to discover its historical treasures. Until the Sixties, rock salt was still being mined in the valley and a visit to the mining museum will tell you all about the history of the industry. Beyond the town, of course, are the mountains where the salt was found, and any 'seasoned' guide will take you climbing on the Wilde Bande Steig, the Speckkarspitze or the Lafatscherjoch.
Salt crystals are impressive, but even more so are the rock crystals that can be found in the magical Wilden Lizum in Wattental. So keep your eyes open when you go out accompanied by an expert guide, and see if you can find a few of these natural gems for yourself.
If you want to be certain of finding crystals, though, there's a sure place to look, and that's the Swarovski Crystal Worlds theme park. Just minutes from the city of Innsbruck, the centre pays homage to the beauty and enchantment of cut glass, and to the family whose name is connected worldwide with the word 'crystal'. Visitors enter a mysterious dreamworld of sound, light, movement and colour, guarded by a crystal-eyed giant whose mouth pours forth a sparkling waterfall. The space creates a symbiosis between crystal and art, where fabulous crystal pieces - many inspired by great works of art such as Dali's melting clocks - are on display. As well as a 300,000 carat gem - the world's biggest cut crystal - the centre boasts a mechanical theatre, a huge glass dome, the world's largest kaleidoscope and other wonders. The combination of art and music with the marvellous effects created by crystals provides something for everyone.
Tips & suggestions
For those interested in the Kristallwanderwochen, an organised holiday is available that includes seven nights' accommodation with breakfast or half board, two guided tours on the crystal trail, entry to the Swarovski Crystal Worlds and to the Mint Tower and Pavilion in Hall (Münze and Münzerturm), as well as a guided tour of the town including the Bergbaumuseum Mining Museum. The price per person ranges from 195 € in a private room with breakfast included, to 559 € in a four star hotel with half board. And for those who want to see more but prefer to conserve their energies, there's a wide range of motorised tours through the mountains and the valley in both Glungezer and Patscherkofel.
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