Locals had no idea their city was being meticulously copied by Chinese architects intending to build a doppelganger.
"Architects secretly set their sights on the picturesque town in recent months, said Mayor Alexander Scheutz on Wednesday. "The people are not very amused that this has happened behind their backs," he told German news agency DPA.
The leader of the lakeside town in the picturesque Salzkammergut region heard about the plans coincidentally in May through an Austrian economic delegation in Hong Kong where the Chinese real estate company responsible inquired about arranging a partnership between the two cities.
But a few days ago Scheutz discovered what he called an "indiscretion" -- the plans for the Chinese version of Hallstatt were apparently far more advanced than he'd been led to believe. "I'm stunned, but not outraged," the mayor said. He has since alerted both UNESCO and national authorities."