On Saturday, February 11, one of our group members, Haley, turned 20. For her birthday, she decided she wanted to learn more about the salt mines in Austria and invited anyone who wished to join her. The end result was a day trip to Hallein consisting of Haley, Evan, Matt, Michael, Sarah, and myself.
We got a combination ticket at the Salzburg main station early that morning that included tickets for the train to get to Hallein, the bus to get to the salt mine tour, vouchers for the tour, and free entrance to the Celtic Village and the Silent Night Museum all for around 30 Euro.
As the tours began on the hour, we had a good 30 minutes to explore the Celtic Village, which was just above the salt mine. Basically an open-air village, it was rather geared towards young children and personally for me, extremely underwhelming. It did provide some nice views of the surrounding area, however.
As for the actual salt mine itself, I have never been on such a crazy, interesting, and hilarious tour. To begin with, we had to dress in one-size-fits-all white shirts and brown pants. Let’s just say these were a good ten sizes too big for me; Michael was the only one who managed to look normal in them.
We then entered the mines along with our tour guide who was dressed in a traditional miner’s outfit. To get into the mine itself, we had to sit on this log-like, train-like machine that drove us down a tunnel. We then began the actual tour.
These mines, located in the mountain of Dürrnberg, which was also where we went snowshoeing, were used for over 2,500 years to gather salt. In the late 1500s, Wolf-Dietrich von Raitenau,the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, promoted wet mining which led to massive amounts of salt trading. The money gained from this was used to create the Salzburg known today. We learned all of this through a series of comedic videos and information given by the tour guide. Also included in the tour were two slides (this was how we got deeper into the mine) and a “romantic” boat trip over a salt lake. Truly this is something to experience in person to really understand what an adventure this was.
As we were leaving, we all got a free salt samples. We then changed out of our miner’s outfits and caught a bus back to the main city and then a train to Salzburg. There we dispersed our separate ways until later in the evening.
We met up again at 8pm, this time all dressed up and with the entire program, at Zum Zirkelwirt, a traditional Austrian restaurant that was first mentioned in 1647. Here, we celebrated Haley’s birthday with a great meal before heading out into the city to experience some of the nightlife. All in all, Haley laughed more on her 20th birthday than the whole week before, making it by my count, a great day.
Header (L-R): Myself, Michael, Haley, Sarah, Evan, and Matt. Photo courtesy of Sarah Simon.