Saturday, August 4, 2012

Part 33: Berchtesgaden Salzbergwerk

June 22, 1991 - Hot weather! 
"Salt is the most valuable gemstone given to us by the earth."Justus von Liebig 

New Mexico Man - Miner Attire
One of my side-kick New Mexico Man's favorite things is salt.  He can't get enough of it.  Fittingly, we set off for a 4 hour tour of the Salt Mines. If you can't climb a tower, you might as well explore mines and caves...they are perhaps the next best thing.  We donned traditional miner's clothing (less than flattering over our already layered clothing) including a charming leather belt to protect the body when leaning against cold rock walls.  While hot outside, the mine remains a cool 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Next we rode an open mining train down, down, down, into the mine.  Of course I would have preferred going 'aus fuss' but had to admit the train was a more efficient use of the time within the four hour tour constraint.  The "train" was really more of a motorized sequence of benches to be straddled as you journeyed through narrow rock tunnels just big enough to pass through. 

enlarge & note the man's shoe

Some sections of the tunnel were lined with masonry, other sections were bare stone.  In some areas the roof and sides of the tunnel were less than 20" from heads and arms.  It was a very quiet ride as the other passengers held not only their tongues, but also their breath.  Out of reverence for out tour-mates, we refrained from shouting with glee.  

At the end of our ride we walked through dim mine tunnels until we arrived in a massive cavern and slid our way down two long wooden slides to reach the salt grottoes.  As steep as the varnished tourist versions were, the original banister slides were steeper, longer, and more splintered.  

original banister slide

Still a working mine, it has has been in operation without interruption since at least 1517.  In fact Austrian miners discovered a mummified Celtic man indicating use of the mine goes back many years before then.    

Click to enlarge
 After more exploring, we embarked on a ride across the underground mirror lake deep within the mine.  The lake was over 40 meters wide and 100 meters long.  How fun to glide across the lake in the ominous dark while listening to Mozart.  Then they hit the switch and flooded the cavern with lights.  The size of the lake vault was impressive - a glittering salt crystal lined cavern of solid rock with no supporting lumber.  

The tour guide was a fctcw fan (wouldn't you know it) and stopped the barge for an impromptu game of water polo with the saltwater troglodytes - a rare treat.  How lucky it was that NM Man had a pocket full of fish pellets and one of the layers I'd chosen for warmth was an arctic wet suit.  Final score: Troglodytes 7,  FCTCWNM Man 9.  Lessons learned 1) troglodytes cheat but not very well, 2) autographed fins don't stay autographed long in salt water. 

More tunnels, caverns, and salt; then an escalator ride to where else but the souvenir shop for the usual photo op.  We wrapped up by signing some 8x10s for the underground museum and were gifted with souvenir boxes of salts (which I still have).  What a fun day! 
fctcw's salt box souvenir, new mexico man ate his

~Most people are afraid of steep wooden slides and troglogytes. Admit it, I am Fearless.~


Anonymous said...

That looks neat, but kind of scary too!

Anonymous said...

That is so awesome!


Tara said...

This sounds like an amazing tour!! I love salt! You probably could see me off licking one of the walls beyond you picture!