We do, because every single tour guide we talked to told us that tidbit at least twice, if not thrice. We were taken on a personal salt mine tour by Markos – our tourguide from Bob’s. While we were once again in a taxi-van instead of the orange tour van, Markos at least seemed a little more legit. He took us to Hallein, a city on Duerrnberg (a mountain near the German border). Hallein means a Salt City, just like Hallstatt did. Oh the Celts and their “hall” meaning “salt.” It will be the one fact I remember from this trip, since we heard it approximately 207 times.
Upon our arrive at the Salt Mines, we bought out tickets and spent a few minutes wandering the Celtic Village outside the mine entrance. Salt has been mined here for over 2000 years. Even though there is still salt to be mined, it was discovered that the mine was more profitable solely as a tourist attraction. Once we entered the tour, our first stop was to put on a set of white coveralls over our clothes; very attractive. Actually, a bit creepy to see all these people dressed in white herded together. And hard to keep track of Rachel, since when we got separated she looked just like everyone else in the dimly lit mine.
It was really quite amazing in the mine. I’ve never been in anything like it. We took this train in, where everyone straddled a green bench and was careful not to lean in either direction, lest they fall off or bump their head. We got off the train and walked 1 km into the mine, stopping along the way to watch overly dramatized movies teaching us the history of salt mining in Hallein via conversation between Arch Bishop Wolf Dietrich, who owned all the mining rights back in the day, and Jakob from Duerrnberg, who apparently was clumsy and burned down half of Salzburg once upon a time. There was fighting, seduction, greed, death, and salt. What more do you need in a movie? Oh, and it was divided into three cliffhangers that we watched at various stops throughout our walk.
The tunnels we walked down were just like you imagine – narrow, curved tunnels, and a bit muddy. We walked on the tracks and it was quite dimly lit, especially when someone was tall and blocked the light for a stretch. We also went down two wooden slides. You go down in groups of 2 or 3 and sit with your legs on either side of two wooden beams. Then you lean back, put your feet up, and enjoy the ride. It was SO fun! I think that one slide was 27m and the other was around 42 m long.
We also went on a slow boat ride across a tiny lake in the mountain. There was a trippy light show and psychedelic music playing on our journey. Crazy sauce.
After much learning and much journeying, we took the train back out into the light of day. It was a really neat experience! Definitely a trip highlight! And I was glad to be safely outside the mountain again. They say, “Glueck Auf” which basically means “good luck coming out of the mountain again” – success!