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Does this city belong to Austria or China?

The town of Hallstatt, Austria. (Photo: Claire Lambrecht)

Most tourists leave Hallstatt, a city in Austria's picturesque lake district, with a piece of its most famous export: salt. As UNESCO details, humans have been mining the crystalline mineral from the mountains above the city since the Middle Bronze Age (about 2,000 B.C.E.). Of late, however, the export of salt from Hallstatt has been overshadowed by a much more substantive souvenir: plans to the city itself.

As Reuters pointed out June 5, a replica of Hallstatt, Austria, now stands in Huizhou, China, just 60 miles from Hong Kong. The Chinese version, built with the intent of attracting tourists, features a spire inspired by Hallstatt's iconic church and a marketplace matching the pastel-colors of the Austrian original. Similarities between the two cities trickle down to fake flowers and apparel worn by Huizhou policemen.

While some, like Alexander Scheutz, mayor of Hallstatt, Austria, are "proud" to inspire a city in China, others are less enthusiastic. Monika Wenger, owner of the Seehotel Grüner Baum, told the Associated Press,

“They should have asked the owners of the hotel and the other buildings if we agree with the idea to rebuild Hallstatt in China, and they did not.”

Others have followed suit, going so far as to call the Chinese version a "clone," a "copycat," and a "knockoff."

Whether a convincing replica or not, it's difficult to remain unimpressed by the sheer scope of the project. With a $940 million price tag, Hallstatt, China, might even impress folks like Sean Parker, Eduardo Saverin, and Mark Zuckerberg. And the pastel colored buildings? That's an added bonus.

[Reuters]

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Claire Lambrecht

Contributing Writer

Claire Lambrecht has written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, The Nation, and CBS MoneyWatch. Previously, she taught English as a Teach for America Corps Member and Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She holds degrees from Cornell University, the University of Hawaii, and the Arthur M. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure