Thursday, July 14, 2016

From the Top of the World, to Far Underground! Day 1, part 2! May 26,2016

We had just finished our first stop at the breathtaking Eagle's Nest and had made our way back down. Our introduction to Europe had so far been wonderful! We were making our way towards our home for the next few days, Salzburg, Austria, and our next stop was going to be Hallein! Why Hallein? Well salt mines of course! 

The Celts were mining salt in Hallein in 400 BC! This area dates way, way back! When we arrived we purchased our tickets to the mine and had about 20 minutes until our tour started. There was an area set up that had a recreation of the Celtic town set up, which was quite fascinating! Apparently it was about now that the jet lag must have taken over because I don't have one single picture of this area. Very, very unlike me! Therefore, I'm going to borrow some pictures and credit them to their sources so that you can get a feel for what it was like there! A blog with no pictures would be pretty boring! 

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We spent about 20 minutes looking at the recreated village, and it really was quite amazing to think about how the Celts lived in 400 BC! 

Then it was time for our Salt Mine Tour! This was no ordinary mine tour, or cave tour! It was really an adventure combined with quite a bit of history!

Before going into the mines, we had to put on our miners clothing....

And I think they wanted us to know it may be cold in there, and to wear proper shoes!

And then it was time to go....our guide, David, hadn't been to the mines before, so he was coming with us. Before entering everyone got pictures taken, so we included David in our picture. It's a nice group shot!

So first everyone on the tour sat on these green "train" carts and we rode into the mine. It was pulled by an engine.  Off we went! 

When the train stopped we got off and walked a few hundred yards further. It was very quiet and you could picture what it may have been like to work in this mine. Then we went into a large chamber with benches. Here we'd begin our history lesson. Throughout the tour there would be vidoes that would show the history of salt mining in the region. The salt that was mined mainly went to finance the region of Salzburg - Salz (salt) Burg (castle). The salt was first mined by the Celts, but later, in the 1500s the mining was re-discovered and used by the Bishop of Salzburg to finance essentially everything in that region. It really is quite a story! 

So, the way the tour worked was that we'd watch a bit of the movie, learn some history, walk along, learn about how the salt was mined, see another bit of the video and so on. I'll admit I was tired at this point and I did miss some of the video. I think Alex may have caught it all though because later when we were in Salzburg, he kept telling me about different facts I was supposed to have known from that video!

At two points in the cave we crossed from Germany to Austria and back....the actual border sign!

Now, this mine tour wasn't all walking and watching videos and history - see, back in the day, the miners used these old mine slides to get to work apparently. So, these miner outfits we had on actually had a purpose. The bottoms of them had a "thick seat" so that when we went down the slides we'd have sort of a buffer ;)  There are two slides. The second steeper than the first. We went in groups of 3 or 4. So, Alex, myself and David went down each time, and it really was quite fun!  All of us had a good laugh as we slid down the slides! 

I didn't purchase our picture, because it really was just that bad...but here's what the promotional picture looks like of a group going down the slide....and yes, it really does look this silly!  The only difference is that there's no conductor with you in the real picture.

After the slides, next up was a boat ride!  Yes, a boat ride in the caves!

(photo hotel alpendorf)

Now of course there was originally not a boat in the mine, but the purpose of the boat ride now is to explain one of the most profitable methods of extracting salt from the mine. What they did is fill a large cavern, like this one where the boat ride took place, with water and allowed that water to sit for a couple of months. During this time, the water leeched the salt out of the rocks. After 6 - 7 weeks, the water turned to brine with a salt content of about 27%. Comparing this to the ocean, you will see that it only has a salt content of 3%. Now, after the water turns to brine, they drain the water out of the mine and send the salt to the town of Hallein below the mountain. There the water is evaporated off and the salt is left behind. It really was an amazing system that they had!

So, as we rode across this little lake underground, they had music playing and colored lights along the rocks.  It was very unique!

And we made it to the other side!

In some of the chambers there were statues and plaques, which I believe were gifts given to the Bishops during the time the mine was in use

We finished up our tour, and had only about a 30 minute drive to our hotel in Salzburg. Interestingly, the name of our hotel was the Wolf Dietrich, which was named after the Bishop who was the Bishop that the entire Salt Mine tour was about! We checked in, dropped our luggage and went out to get something for dinner. It didn't take us long to feel quite comfortable in Salzburg!

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