The part of Austria that stretches from Salzburg to the peaks of the Dachstein Mountains is named Salzkammergut, meaning “Salt Chamber Estate”. And that’s where we’re heading in search of this important mineral.
Tucked away on the southwestern shore of Hallstätter See, and home to the oldest known salt mine in the world, is one of the most beautiful spots in Europe – Hallstatt. It has lingered happily in my memory since my first visit there in the early 1990s, so I was delighted to get back there this year on a quick trip across from Salzburg.
A short walk from the ferry terminal takes you to the funicular that whisks you up to a tantalising viewpoint over the town, from which you can take a pleasant walk up to the salt mine.
There’s a friendly but somewhat artificial man happy to point the way. Numbered signs along the path provide information and effective views of the surroundings, plus an excuse to take a break on this uphill saunter.
The walk takes you through the Hallstatt High Valley, and across an ancient cemetery that homed at least 1500 graves. Excavations have revealed a substantial quantity of grave goods, and the quality of these suggests that the population was above average wealth, due, no doubt, to the wealth provided by salt. What is more, the salt has preserved many organic materials, including shoes, pieces of cloth, and miners’ backpacks.
In 1734, three miners came across the remains of a body belonging, it is believed, to a loner from the 1st millennium BC.
After visiting the body, you can simply follow the signs to the top of this path.
The long history of the place is fascinating, but don’t forget to turn around and admire the view.
The old mine is open to the public, with an excellent guided tour, but we’ll leave going inside until next week.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 27 August 2018
Posted as part of Monday Walks