What is World Heritage?
The UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris, with its founding director Prof. Dr. B. von Droste zu Hülshoff, laid the foundation stone for the idea of protecting and preserving the cultural and natural heritage of humanity. The International Convention on Human Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted in 1972. It is a concept characterized by deep humanism, a call in mutual respect and esteem to preserve the heritage of past cultures.
Protection of culture and nature
Today in particular it is intended to remind us to deal responsibly with the legacy of many generations and, above all, to stop the destruction of our planet. Culture and nature are irretrievable elements of our existence. That is why we must protect them. Landscapes, cities, buildings, art and many intangible assets rich in nature and culture in particular are and have therefore been included by UNESCO in the World Heritage List of Objects Particularly Worthy of Protection.
The historical cultural landscape
Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut fulfils all requirements and is therefore a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of this region is so varied that it fills books, and so old that the history of settlement goes back to the early Bronze Age. The region is home to the oldest salt mine in the world, after which a 300-year era in human history, the "Hallstattzeit" (Hallstatt-Period) (800 to 500 BC), was named. The Dachstein area also has a great geological heritage, with rich fossil deposits from the Triassic geological age and testify to the Tethys, the great Euro-Asian Mediterranean of the Middle Ages.
For over 4 000 years people have lived here in the narrow mountain valleys and on the slopes of the Dachstein massif. In the field of tension between the grandiose nature with its beauty, which sometimes strikes mercilessly with snow, cold, avalanches and floods. Due to the isolation of the valleys and the special location, own ways of life, craftsmanship and customs have developed, which have evolved over the millennia, but have always included the old traditions and values.
The external influence of the Bronze Age, the Roman Age and the Modern Age have left many traces in the interior of the Salzkammergut. The people who live and work here have always remained true to themselves and continue to live the traditions and customs.
The four components that justify the high distinction awarded by UNESCO
The architectural heritage
As a successor to prehistoric mining, the salt industry under state leadership reached a centuries-long heyday from the Middle Ages onwards, leaving behind important representative buildings. Gothic, Baroque (the Trinity Column on the market square was built in 1744) and Historicism still characterise the appearance of the Salzkammergut today.
The natural heritage
The natural landscape of the Dachstein region, with its characteristic cave systems and karst phenomena, the diverse and unique ecological niches of flora and fauna, has the quality of a nature park of international standing. The rich salt deposits of this landscape create a close link between natural and cultural heritage. Salt and the salt industry have become the founders of culture and the driving force behind cultural development.
The cultural-historical heritage
The cultural-historical heritage in the broadest sense includes, for example, the specific forms of forest management caused by the salt system, which have marked the landscape in a recognisable way. Countless examples from literature, art, history of science, history of tourism and customs are directly related to the World Heritage Region Hallstatt - Dachstein/Salzkammergut and are still linked to it today.
The archaeological heritage
The salt mine in Hallstatt is the world's oldest mining operation still in operation today. The rich archaeological finds from the younger Iron Age gave an entire cultural epoch (800 to 400 BC) the name Hallstatt Period, which is internationally known. Due to the continuity of salt mining, the Salzkammergut is also the oldest industrial landscape in the world.
The fulfilled World Heritage criteria of the Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut region can be read at the World Heritage Convention.