This was to prove to be a very special day in many ways. We started early with the goal of doing the ice caves, Berchtesgaden salt mines and the Eagles Nest. I am glad we decided to do the ice caves first. The drive to the caves was exhilarating. We climbed to an enormous height way above Hohenwerfen castle which itself stood on a hill above the town, then after paying for our entry we walked up what must have been a 25 degree slope for 10 minutes then through a tunnel in the mountain for another 5 minutes then climbed again on a steep twisting trail for another 10 minutes to reach the cable car which took us up to 1500m. There we climbed again for another ½ hour on a twisting trail partly sheltered by concrete to protect against rock slides before we got to the mouth of the cave.
There were groups of school children as well as tourists so we had about a ½ hour wait (to catch our breath) before we were given our kerosene miners lamp and entered the cave with a mixed group of German and English speakers and our guide. No photos allowed inside so I have cheated bought a series of post cards photographed them and they appear below. However the thing you need to know is that the cave is cold – below freezing obviously and the trail is for the first ¾ of an hour made up of ladders climbing 700 steps up or the equivalent of 145m up through the caverns. After the climb to get there this can be quite a strain. Then of course you have to come down and walk back to your car. We thought we had earned a hot chocolate which we consumed before taking the cable car down to the last stage of our walk back to the car.
We lunched on Austrian baguettes (a bit tougher than the French ones) after climbing down from the Ice Caves looking at Hohenwerfen Castle and then travelled to Berchtesgaden. Kerry’s IPhone must have been playing a joke on us as we took the most circuitous route through villages to end up on a main road beside the tour buses at our destination, the salt mines. I was very surprised that we were standing in front of a glass and steel building with a train line poking out of it.
We encountered another Aussie Bea out for the day with her Austrian friend of 40 years. They joined us and we dressed in our overalls along with a tour bus of Chinese to head off on a tour in German with audio guides for those of us who did not understand German. No photos permitted of course but this did not stop the Chinese so I got a bit of the action half way through. The museum is an old salt mine and the tour went through its history and the mining process. The mine is still in use today and is likely to continue for many years yet and the stores of it are immense.
One of the photos shows Kerry me and Bea on one of the slides. I cannot tell a lie this was the highlight shushing down the slides. The tour included a boat ride on one of the lakes formed underground by the mining process of dissolving the salt and pumping it out and some of the photos are of the light show you watch from the boat. The picture of the church is just random – we saw this as we followed Tommy’s directions to the salt mines.
We had planned to visit the Eagles Nest. This is the resort built for Hitler on top of a mountain above Berchtesgaden which today is a restaurant and visited by many tourists but not us today as we are too late. Ah well we have done some amazing things today so I cannot be disappointed.