Getting shafted in the salt mine

Trip Start Dec 20, 2010
Trip End Jan 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
Arena City Hotel

Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Monday, December 27, 2010

So today, on the recommendation of my father, I took a tour of the salt mines for which Salzburg is named.  Before I go on, I would like to compliment the tour operators at Panorama Tours.  They are excellent, well organized, informative and friendly. Thank you.

Now,  The tour began at 8:45 with a pick-up directly at my hotel.  I was taken to the meeting point where I boarded a bus with about 15 other people and the bus began with a small introduction and overview.  As we drove out of Salzburg and into the Bavarian countryside, many important points were shown to us.  Beginning with some old pubs and restaurants that are over 100 years old.  Basically, just beyond the city limit of Salzburg, we turned a corner to a long country road and right on the side of the bus was a small pub where we were told has been serving their own brand of brew for several hundred years!! As much as I would have loved to visit here later and get more information, I just didn't have the time.

Then we drove high up into the Bavarian alps to a small town that was Hitler's hometown and later his hideout.  A place called the crows nest was our actual first stop.  Located at the highest point in the summit of the Bavarian alps, with sweeping views of the mountain passes and valleys below.  The history is directly tied to Hitler as it was built for and presented to him for his 50th birthday.  The technology used to build the roads and buildings was quite simple but ahead for the time.  We were only able to get to the gift shop and parking structure because of the seasonal snowfall.  But at the gift shop a brief video was shown explaining the history of the area along with a 3d demonstration on an interactive map.  It did give an informative description even if we didn't get to see the structure.  Hitler's last hideout with Eva Braun was bombed out by the allied forces during wwII and later used as a resort by the US military.  After the military left the area was opened up for tourists and has been used this way ever since.  I don't care much for Hitler but I feel it is important to learn about him in order to be able to be aware of people like him when they come along.

We drove through a beautiful area of countryside with magical views of the snow covered mountain peaks jutting up to the sky until we reached a very quaint town/ski resort called Berchtesgaden near where the mines are located.  We stopped for 45 minutes for a quick lunch and bathroom stop but it was super cold.  I stopped in a nice cafe and sat down for a hot apfel strudel with some cream on top.  Oh my they do it well here!!  The town itself was quite quaint with brightly painted buildings and again, the sides were painted with interesting murals depicting stories from the region.

Next we arrived at the salt mine.  This is the oldest active salt mine in the world operating for at least 20 centuries it was first discovered by Celts who were living in caves in the area. the mine was discovered by following animals into the underground "brine" lake.  In the earlier times of man, salt was considered to be like gold and in areas rich with salt, trade routes developed and entire communities and societies have grown up around these deposits.  
The mining tour is set up in an interactive way and is designed to bring the tourist into the mining world as much as possible.  It is both educational and entertaining.  Interestingly, you must wear mining clothes to enter the mine which is still in use today.  I think part of the fun for some of the folks, myself included, was to fit into these costumes.  The woman who was working at the counter was very good at choosing sizes by eye.  So we entered the mine on a small train in which we mounted horseback style and went down, down down.  When we finally emerged from the dark tunnel we ended up in the "Salt gallery".  A large cavern with salt crystals growing everywhere.  Using some modern technology to illuminate the salt deposits while explaining the mining process to us.

the next part was amazing...we slid down a long slide in the dark to the bottom of the shaft where we were then taken through some long tunnels to other parts of the mine.  As we briskly walked through a maze of long tunnels, again modern technology was used to make the information more interesting and kid friendly.  Lazer lights and other special lighting and sound effects were used to both inform us about the workings of the mine and also to help create the feeling of working in a mine.  Another tunnel and another slide and we were at the "mirror lake" a large underground cavern illuminated by lazer lights to highlight the glistening salt chrystals.  a small boat gently glided us across this lake while playing some relaxing music and a sort of light show (highlighting the salt again).  As we drifted serenely across the mirror like lake, we were informed about the salt extraction process which uses water to leech the salt from the mine and is later pumped out and dehydrated to remove the salt.  This "lake" we were floating on was actually a large pool of salt brine, water used to leech the salt.  The salt content in the water makes it reflect eerily against the ceiling of the cavern thus naming it mirror lake.  At the end of the journey at the opposite side, we were allowed to taste the water.  YUK!! too much salt.

 Then we found  we were in a museum like room with some hands on equipment to demonstrate the mining technique.  A modern facility built in to the ancient mine in order to demonstrate what a salt lab would be like.  Actually these labs are above ground but it did enhance the experience to be still in the caves.  In fact, this type of interactive 3d display was very effective in creating a full on experience and when I emerged from the mine and the tour, I felt that i had had an actual experience of mining life.  

When we reached the end of the tunnel, there was a train waiting to take us back up the long tunnel to the end of the tour which ends at the gift shop. We were given a small bag of salt rocks as a souvenier. !!!

The gift shop itself is designed out of glass and actually mimics salt crystals.  It was a fully immersing experience all together.

This tour gets an A+ !!!!!!!  very interesting, fun and informative.

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