Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A pinch of Salt

well...actually the title is a gross underestimation since I am going to talk about a place that has produced 70,000 tonnes of salt and can still produce salt for another 1000 years - the salt mines of Bad Dürrnberg, a few km away from Salzburg, Austria.

If you are ever in Salzburg and have an extra day, do not miss the Salt mines and why ?

- If you have never been in a mine, this can make the best first impression (like it did with me)
- The ride through the mines on what is called a pit railway (a motorized long cart that can take you into the mines and spare you the 5km walk !) gets you more excited than when you get to wear the white protective overalls before entering the mine. The warnings about the dos and donts gets your heart racing (you think if there is a warning, then there IS a risk :D !). Dark tunnels that seem never ending make you wonder about how miners worked in olden days
- The tour of the mines is made interesting with lectures from a multi-lingual guide and ours had a sense of humour and to add to it, you have interesting videos (not the national geographic kind but the story telling kind) to learn about the history of the mines
- You get to cross over the border into Germany without a passport, obviously while still being underground
- The best part: you get to slide down wooden chutes that are about 50-100 m long to go to different levels (exactly like miners did) and that too twice ! You would be amazed at the acceleration and I am talking about literally sliding (this is when you are thankful you put on the white overalls) !!
- Finally, you take a raft ride on a salt lake with music and lights that highlight the different kinds of salt formations.
- Once you come out of the mine, you can complete your day with a tour of the Celtic village (Celts settled in this area nearly 2500 years ago)

Some interesting facts:
- Salary is derived from the roman word salarium which was more or less the pay given to soldiers for buying salt or ''sal'' (coined from the fact that salt was a mode of payment in those days)
- Italian architecture: Prince Wolf Dietrich built numerous buildings and castles in Salzburg all based on Italian architecture that many times you stop to wonder if you are in Austria or Italy. Residenz platz, Schloss (Castle) Mirabell are a few of the examples.
- Crash course on salt mine formation:
continents drift -> ocean water trapped between land masses -> eventually trapped water evaporates leaving salt behind -> over years, geological layers form over the salt layer -> result is a salt mine within a mountain !

I have been in Salzburg in winter but visiting it in summer was a completely different experience. The water fountain in the Residenzplatz and the flowers in Mirabell garden were a summer treat. The stunning view from the top of the Fortress of Hohensalzburg was worth the climb and I couldn't help but compare the picture to the snowy white sheet and fairytale-like-view I had enjoyed last november.

All around the city, I noticed people getting ready, women in their traditional Drindl and men in their leather suspenders for open-air Mozart concerts...after all he was born in Salzburg. As I saw the concert stages being built and the instruments being lined up, my mind was once again looking at pictures of christmas market in these same places and I realised every season makes the city beautiful in its own way.

I finally boarded my train back to Munich with the satisfied feeling that it was a weekend well spent.....!
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Website Hit Counter I had decided to have a counter only after I hit a 1000 views and since it happened last week (as on 14 Dec 2009), now is the time to see some stats :)