Cities have been named on it. Economies have been built on it. Wars have been fought for it. And your life depends on it. If you haven’t guessed it already, it’s Salt. And ‘Salzwelten Hallein’ translates as Salt mine of Hallein. A visit to Salzburg is never complete without visiting their Salt mines. The Salzwelten Hallein is the first mine in the world, to open its gates to the visitors.
The History of Salzwelten Hallein
Salt mining began at Hallein as early as 6th century BC, in the Neolithic Age, and is going on for more than the 2600 years now. At every step of your walk through the dark mystical tunnels of Salzwelten Hallein, you will find some or another thing that goes back in history.
The ancient monarchs of Salzburg very well understood the importance of Salt and named it ‘The White Gold.’ This white gold led them to years upon years of prosperity. When you see the city of Salzburg, you really know it. The Mirabell Palace, it’s Gardens and the magnificent baroque buildings of the city tell it all.
The Journey Underground
As you approach the Salzwelten Hallein, you are first required to wear the miner’s clothes or the white shirt and overalls. This is to protect your clothing and also for safety purposes. It’s easy to spot you in a dark tunnel if you are wearing something white, right?
Then begins a great train journey. You just have to sit on a long bench with your feet on either side. The train transports you deep into the Salzwelten Hallein. Quite an exhilarating journey, even if you are not a kid!
The Man in the Salt at Salzwelten Hallein
Just at the beginning of the tour, the guide tells you the story of the ‘Man in the Salt.’ Years ago the miners found a man deep in the mines. When they carried him outside, his skin was pale but not yet tarnished. When checked with the doctors he was found to be dead years ago. The cold weather of the mines and the Salt had preserved the dead body very well. This incident gave rise to rumours that dead men walked inside the mines.
Today, ‘The Man in the Salt’ is still there in the Salzwelten Hallein. However, this is just a replica of how they had found the real man years ago. So there is no reason to fear.
Underground Classrooms and Miner’s Slides
Then after you get down from the trains, you get to explore the dark tunnels by taking a walk. At various places, the tour guide will stop at the Underground Classrooms where you get to know a few facts about their history. The Salt trade and the politics associated with it. There are also some steep Underground Slides which the miner’s used. Going down these slides is really fun and very safe. But if you are still not convinced or still not up for some underground slides, you have the option to take the stairs.
Germany Austria border at Salzwelten Hallein
The fascinating walk underground leads through the borders of Austria into Germany. It is interesting to walk from one country to another with just a single step. You only realize that you have crossed the borders when you see the boards mentioning the fact.
How they extract the Salt?
After the chills from ‘The man in the Salt’ die down, the visitors are taken to the next Underground Class where the Salt mining is explained. The Salt is found here in every nook and crevice of the rocks, the roof, the floor. In order to extract the Salt, they fill the rock chambers with water. The water would dissolve the salt and brine. Over a few days of time, the brine settled down at the bottom. Followed by salt on top of it. And at the top is of course water. Thus, the miners would collect the Salt for their masters.
Salzwelten Hallein, over the years, has produced 45 million m³ of brine and some 12 million tons of Salt. At present day, the Salzwelten Hallein is not operational. There are many salt deposits still present. But the cost of extracting this Salt outweighs the profits earned. So they discontinued Salt mining.
Underground Salt Lake at Salzwelten Hallein
As you process your thoughts further, next up, is the Salt Lake. The Salzwelten Hallein is the oldest salt mine in the world. But the technology here is up to date as of today. There is a boat underground which carries around 50 people across the Salt lake at Salzwelten Hallein. The boat glides slowly across the Lake. And they provide you with the most mystical multimedia experience, as you go.
Be it the summer or the snow the Salzwelten Hallein is open to visitors all around the year. Moreover, this is a perfect place for a rainy afternoon. This is the gift of the ancient Air circulation system which operates even today.
In summer the fresh air comes from the mountains, is cooled down inside the mine and circulated and released out the lower end. In the winters, the system operates the other way round. The air enters through the lower end, heats up in the mine and is released out the other way. Around some places are wooden doors with tiny shafts that can be opened as required to regulate the draft of wind coming through. This way the miners were able to maintain the temperatures all around the year, in winter and summer alike.
Souvenirs from Salwelten Hallein
The Salzwelten Hallein has a shopping area where you can get your share of Salt, Brine stones or other regular stones from the mines. There are several other keepsakes and souvenirs and gifts you can find here. Additionally, the Tour guide will give a small pack of Salt from Salzwelten Hallein as a souvenir. Furthermore, if you are willing to shell out 7.90 euros, you will find some great photographs that were clicked when you were busy inside the mines.
You may have to book the tickets in advance to avoid standing in queues later. Below is the link for the tickets Salzwelten Hallein.
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