Today, we’re going to continue the walk into the ancient salt mine at Hallstatt, in Austria. Last week we took the funicular up from the town and walked the scenic route up to the entrance of the mine.
One more look at the glorious view, and we pop inside to meet our guide and don a pair of protective overalls – protection against both the salt and the cold.
There are interesting pictures and items set out in the main building, giving more information about the history of the mine, from its start way back in 5000 BC; through its heyday between 800 and 400 BC, known as the Hallstatt period; until the present day.
Now we head out of this building and into the mine itself, walking carefully down the centre of the dark path, being careful not trip.
Gradually, our eyes grow accustomed to the darkness and we appreciate the glisten of the salt in the walls and the texture of some immense blocks of salt.
There are 65 km of tunnels in the mine, spread over 21 levels, with over 12 km of the tunnels being walkable. But don’t worry, we’re not going to trudge along them all on this tour. And we do get a bit of downhill aid, too.
The miners have long had steps and slides to help them transfer between levels, and now they come to our aid too. We start out on a gentle slide, sitting down on the wooden slope, pushing off and leaning back! Technique under our belt, we are ready to enjoy the high speed 64 metre slide further into the walk. Great fun and a very smooth way of getting around.
400 metres down into the mine, there is the Bronze Age Cinema, where we take a rest and learn more about the life of this place. The history of the mine and its importance to the area, and further afield, is fascinating. And I have to say that the layout, the light-aided presentations, and the bilingual guides are top class.
At the end of the brief cinema show, we learn about the world’s oldest wooden staircase, used by miners in the depths of this mine in around 1344 BC. And for the grand finale, the screen rises and there is the 3,350 year-old flight of stairs, itself.
I’ll leave you to imagine the conditions back then, and the miners trudging up and down those stairs with their loads.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 3 September 2018
Posted as part of Monday Walks