Salzburg, Austria: I guess you can’t go to a town famous for salt without visiting the source, so for today’s adventure we toured the local salt mine. We walked to the Salzburg train station (less than a mile) and hopped on a local train to Hallein (15 minutes), on the German border to tour the SalzWerken mine.
Arriving just as the next 90-minute tour was starting, we jumped-in late to join about 18 others to explore the mine. Introductory video first, of course, in German with English subtitles, to explain about this mine which has been putting salt on tables since the Iron Age. Creepy but true, mummified bodies are occasionally discovered in the mine as the salty soil “cures” them perfectly.
After the video, we were all given heavy canvas pants and shirts to wear over our clothes. Not making any fashion statements today! Next we were taken to a tram where we were seated straddling a long log-shaped tube and began our journey via this rustic rail car into the earth. As we ventured deeper into the mine, it grew quite cold. The mine is a constant 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
And this is when I began comparing our tour with a visit to Disneyland. The train car ride was like Thunder Mountain Railroad - aka jolting ride in a mine tram car. Later we boarded a raft (Jungle Cruise) and crossed a lagoon (a salt-settling pond) while different vignettes displayed as we traveled through the water (Pirates of the Caribbean). Then we went down two wooden slides - again by straddling them (now we know why they had us wear canvas pants), and your photo is snapped to be sold to you later as you plummet down (Splash Mountain).
Well, except hardly. The children in our posse were loving it all, but I had a difficult time understanding our English-speaking guide, and I am afraid my knowledge of the German language does not include mining or scientific vocabulary. It was a salt mine, once chipped out by hand, and now by forcing water into the earth (fracking?) and settling the salt in underground ponds. The company produces industrial salt and salt for chemical usage. Just a bit is made for the kitchen.
During the tour, we crossed in and out of Germany (hundreds of feet underground). This is the oldest border crossing between the two countries in like forever. No passport needed.
The tour went backwards, showing us modern mining techniques, and then moving us to the Iron Age.
As we exited the tour, our garbled-English guide gave us each a teeny vial of salt from the mine. A blurry photo (below), but a Duck was spotted in the salt mine outside of Salzburg! GO DUCKS!
Included in our ticket price today was a stroll through the attached Celtic Village. Not a lot of info to report here, but 2500 years ago, Celtic people lived and mined salt here(?). A reproduction of their village is built above the mine with a woodworker and leather worker hut, a representation of a basic home, etc., in the village. There is a garden as well and a pretty waterfall behind the village:
Back to the Hallein train station and back to Salzburg. We had a full-day train ticket and first class is not available on the local trains. (No one ever looked/asked for our tickets. We never saw a conductor/ticket taker. Such newbies.)
Back to our lovely hotel for a rest and a cocktail in the lounge before heading out in search of a place for dinner.
The thing is... you walk past 30 restaurants, all with the same menu and basically the same prices. You only need to decide on one. I am ready after five minutes. My Driver needs to walk up and down and up and down the streets to choose. FINALLY, he decided upon a place near out hotel, Gablerbrau, with plenty of outdoor seating. I caved and once again ordered the veal schnitzel, while DT had a salad with a chicken schnitzel on top.
The best thing I have eaten in Salzburg was the potato salad served with my Weiner schnitzel tonight. Tender and just the right amount of vinegar. Perfect. My grandma would be happy to eat this.
We have enjoyed kids - locals and tourists alike - playing in this water feature/fountain every day since we have arrived in Salzburg. The usual mode is to float a balloon down the stream... or your sisters shoe... or an empty water bottle...
Another fun and interesting day in Austria. We are learning how to use the train system, learning how to get around, learned maybe about salt mining, and are learning to go to bed by 10p!
Until my next update, I remain, your Salzburg correspondent.
Pedometer: 14,000 step (much of this hundreds of feet underground).