When you get to plan a holiday to Europe there is so much research that goes into it. What more can I see? Is there anything special in a place here? With Salzburg as my first stop, during my research I stumbled on a Pinterest page talking about the commercialization on this salt mine town called Hallstatt. My ears and mind perked up and started to do a bit more research and the more I read the more I wanted to visit this place. As always travel involves people and I had to get my travelling partners to read and be curious about this place as same as me.
When we all had excitedly gushed about knowing this place for different reasons: Caro and me for the simple fact that I had never seen a salt mine, Manisha because the entire “show” included slide down a 40-meter wooden slide I decided to go ahead and pre-book this outing from India itself. There was a lot of discussion about how to get there. Whether driving down by car or breaking the bus journey to explore other places such as St. Gillean and Fuschil-Am-See was a good idea? We left these questions to be answered when we get there.
When we reached Salzburg we decided to just use the public transport to get there and despite all our research, we were shocked to realise, we had to take a bus get off at a stop and alight a train which then will stop near the ferry which will take you to Hallstatt. All 3 modes of transport in a single day for a single place!
Our journey was filled with scenes out of a postcard. Snow-capped mountains, blue-blue waters that reflect the skies above while the trees zoom by.
Our pre-booked appointment for the salt mine tour was 2:00PM and though we thought we had a lot of time, by the time we reached the far end of the journey i.e ferry it was already 12:00. My dream of having a leisure lunch before joining the tour was dashed as we kept walking and walking just to get to the salt mine office. Once in the salt mine office we were given a map and directed to walk more until we reach the top of the hill.
Despite huffing and puffing the trail was sprinkled with interesting facts about the ancient discovery of the mine, a natural spring water fountain, lots of green coverage for Bangaloreans is rare.
Once we reached the top we were met by the team of guides, who gave us a change of clothes – making us look like new age salt miners and the trekking started.
By this time, I had climbed thousands of stairs, climbed mountains and was thankful I was in a building and assumed the tour starts now. Hell was I wrong! With my leg protesting and my lungs refusing to work, we had to trek many more miles before entering the wooden door which was the marker for the start of the mines.
The mines were cool, fitted with latest holographic technology that took us back to pre-historic days. Our multi-lingual guide was fun and informative and was easily answering many questions and offering explanations and taking us further into the mine with ease. While enjoying the narrow passage walks through the mine suddenly there it was the wooden slides I had read so much about.
Whoosh I went! Against all my trepidation, my adventurous self was elated and sad that it ended too soon. After more historic data and visualizing old times, they opened up about that this is an active salt mine, and this mine exports many tons of salt. Every summer archaeologists and students come and explore these mined caves and find bones, ancient tools giving us interesting insights of how much the scene of mining technology has changed through technology. And no, they did not give out any secrets!
While the tour was just ending, there it is the 40-meter slide for us to go down again! It was fun to slide down dark and tunnel with gravity and well-polished wood pushing us right till the base. At least I am glad that my fear of getting stuck mid-way never saw the light.
The adventure did not end there, to get us out of the mine, they had a rackety open carriage going at high-speed to get us out of the wooden doors in seconds!
Happy that the salt mine tour was great we dallied back to the centre of the city to grab some lunch in the many small open cafes and restaurants. Pizza in Europe seemed to be the only choice as it was almost their dinner time and all the kitchens were closed.
We took photographs of this picturesque place with every building acting as a B&B we walked up to see which is the last ferry so we can spend more time here and imagine our surprise the last ferry was just 15 minutes away from leaving.
Thanking our stars, we clambered on the last ferry, rushed to buy tickets for the last train and finally waited and took the last bus and made it back to Salzburg happy but tired!
Photo Courtesy: Nidhi Berera