When it’s hot outside, you can either refresh yourself at a cold lake and go swimming, or you could go underground – into a mountain. That’s exactly what I did together with my sister during the summer holidays: We visited the salt mine and celtic village on the Dürrnberg in Hallein, half an our away of Salzburg.
We both were there when we were still in primary school, but didn’t remember much – except for the big slides, which were (and still are) a highlight of the tour. But let’s start at the beginning. The salt mine already exists for over 2500 years. The celts discovered this great treasure and hammered the first tunnels into the mountain. Centuries later, the salt from Hallein helped Salzburg’s archbishops to turn the city into a glorious baroque jewel – it was shipped down the river and sold all over Europe. The miners of the Dürrnberg also developed a new way to extract the salt from the rocks: The pumped water into the tunnels and later cooked the salty water (brine) until the liquid had evaporated and only the white gold was left. (This was the main take-away, of course the mine’s history is much more complicated.)
The tour started with a fun train ride (according to my sister, this vehicle is called ‘Hunt’) and we went deep into the mountain right away. We even crossed the border to Germany – there was a special agreement with Bavaria, concernig the salt trade, made in 1829, and it is still in effect today (read a bit more about this here). There also were a couple of short film clips explaining the history of the mine and several artifacts found in the mine – as well as a (replica of a) salt mummy. As I already mentioned, the two long slides were one of the highlights – another one was the crossing of a salt lake. All in all, it was really nice to come back and see what has changed (spoiler: not much!) since we visited the mine years ago.
Since we were there last time, they also built a celtic village right next to the entrance to the mine. There were different buildings, depicting the lives of different people: a smith, a leather worker, a potter, a soldier and, of course, the chief of the village, who had the grandest house. It was really nice and sweet, you could touch everything and there were ‘typical’ background noises once you entered a house. I felt like in Asterix’ village… Thank god there was no fishmonger! :)