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The Chinese replica of a picturesque Austrian village opened its doors to the public over the weekend. While the first Chinese visitors took in the spectacle, the inhabitants of the Austrian original had mixed feelings. Here's that story:
The UNESCO World Heritage village of Hallstatt in Austria has been around for a couple of thousand years. But, its much newer Chinese look-a-like, built near the prosperous town of Huizhou, has just opened for business.
China Minmetals Corporation spent roughly $960 million creating a replica of Hallstatt—hoping to attract homegrown tourists and investment.
Brand new homes built in the vintage European style lay empty, awaiting wealthy Chinese to snatch them up.
But back in Hallstatt, Austria, residents aren't completely comfortable with their Chinese twin.
[Karin Holl, Hallstatt Resident]:
"I don't think that it's a good idea. Hallstatt is just unique with its culture and traditions. You cannot copy that. I saw a report and the photos, and the copy seems different. In my opinion it is unacceptable."
Many aspects of the new Hallstatt are exact copies—like the village's iconic church clock tower.
Hallstatt's director of tourism, Pamela Binder takes a positive view of the situation.
[Pamela Binder, Hallstatt Director of Tourism]:
"At first everybody was surprised. We wondered if that's really possible to realize. And than we recognized that it's really happening. For Hallstatt, it's the best promotion ever. A random city could never afford such kind of promotion."
And she has a point. Tourism records show the number of Chinese visitors to Austria's Hallstatt has jumped from around fifty in 2005 to thousands per year.
Whatever the Austrians think, visitors to the Chinese Hallstatt seem impressed.
[Zhu Bin, Huizhou Resident, Tourist]:
"The moment I stepped into here, I felt I was in Europe. The security guards wear nice costumes. All the houses are built in European style."
The Chinese Hallstatt stands as proof of the modern Chinese's penchant for all things Western.
But, time will tell whether this Hallstatt is a winning investment or just a bizarre project.