Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Berchtesgaden and the Salt Mines

Our group before descending into the Salt Mines at Berschtergaden - Scott & I are sitting on the train!

Jennnerbahn Gondola in summer
We could see hiking paths all over the mountains 
 Scott and I were still exhausted the next morning as it was hard to get to sleep - overstimulated and not adjusted yet to the time difference. But the great breakfast and coffee revived us (no decaf in Europe!). Our buses whisked us off to Lake Koenigsee and the county of Berchtesgaden. We passed Eagles Nest where Hitler vacationed (creepy). We never saw the lake; it was very overcast, but the trip up the Jennerbahn 2 person gondola was fun. The ground was covered with wildflowers and the views down the valley lovely. I found it very hard walking uphill to the lookout so we just enjoyed the area around the terminal. We only had a half hour on top as our tour of the salt mines was scheduled soon.  There was little time for lunch most days so Scott and I usually made a sandwich from the breakfast buffet. That worked out great.
The path trail up to the lookout 
The salt mine tour was a hoot! We donned our "miner's outfits", head to toe overalls and sat astride a tiny train, first to have our group picture taken and then to whisk us through a tunnel barely big enough to fit the "train" and us. The walls and ceiling were less than a foot away. My claustrophobia kicked in and I had to close my eyes and visualize the trip up the gondola earlier to keep from panicking.  Luckily there was a a rush of air around me so that made it easier.
We finally ended in a good sized tunnel which we walked through while our guide filled us in on the history. Salt mining began in Berschtergaden in 1193 and operations began at this spot in 1564. We saw the Reichenbach pump built in 1816 which brought the salt brine 357 Meters uphill and 29 Km to a processing plant. This pump worked continuously until 1927! No throw away machines then. The mine is now an adventure tour. The wooden slides that once carried the miners from one level to another are now a fun and quite exciting ride. Four at a time we sat on the wooden rail, squished against each other and plunged down into the dark. Wow! The second time, Scott and I did it alone. During the tour we also crossed a lake in one of the caverns while lights and music played over the water and walls - very pretty. Altogether a fun experience.
We got this far up the trail to the look out before deciding to turn back, but still the views were lovely.
And the wildflowers carpeted the ground
Looking down the gondola path from the top
Scott and I in our "miner's outfits"
The first big cavern we entered with the walkway down

The walls showed veins of salt. You could taste it!
The underground lake we crossed in a boat
A corner of the stage at the Mirabell Palace concert hall

Dinner that night was at a Sheraton Hotel as it was near the Mirabell Palace where we attended a wonderful concert with the Salzburger Solisten; violin, piano, cello and guitar. Not surprisingly it was mostly Mozart with a lovely classical guitar solo from Irina Kulikova. The Archbishop of Salzburg built this beautiful palace for his mistress Salome Alt (and their 15 children). The concert hall was gorgeous - all covered in gold with marble staircase and cherubs. Walking back through the quiet city was lovely but unfortunately one more difficult night sleeping for both of us.

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