Arriving in the beautiful and quaint town of Hallstatt Austria, nestled in the stunning Bavarian alps, you will find the oldest salt mine in the world, Salz Welten Salt Mine. It is crowned by the most breathtaking views imaginable. Along this journey I was drenched in the rich history of the land and its people.
As we arrived to the salt mine, we were perched 360 meters above the town, practically hanging off a cliffs edge.
I could feel the cool wind caress over my face. Taking a moment to glance out at the glistening lake far below, my eyes danced among the colorful glimmers of homes dotted along the shoreline. There is a different feel of aliveness here. A deep history winds among these ancient lands filling in the empty spaces.
The journey begins by walking along the same paths of the oldest salt mine in the world. These paths were trodden by prehistoric miners some 7000 years ago, and the people who once lived here for whom an entire age of human history was named.
You can almost feel the very breath of those far-distant times, as you roam the tunnels, gently stroking your fingertips along the roughly hewn rock walls. You can see the crystals of salt glisten along the crevasses. The reflective waters of the lake create an unearthly like landscape.
In the heart of the Salzkammergut, starts a journey to the origins of salt production.
The experience invites you to learn about the a rich history of salt mining and its production throughout the years. Salt mining included every member of the family. The men were responsible for driving the shafts and digging out the salt. The women carried the salt out of the mine. The children provided help as laborers and they brought in fresh supply of pinewood which was used for lighting. Up until the last century women still carried these rock salt from the high valley down into the town of Hallstatt. They were known as the rock salt women.
Today there are approximately 40 employees and they produce 605,000 m3 of salt brine annually, containing 180,000 tons of salt. To give a reference point, our salt cave is about 30 tons of salt. Amid the prehistoric tunnels, salt lakes, stalagmites and stalactites the oldest wooden staircase in Europe was discovered. It was used by people some 2800 years ago to carry “white gold” out of the mountain. To end the journey you are invited to an exhilarating experience that hurtles down a 64 meters-long miners’ slide.
This experience gave me a wealth of education on the history of salt production here, the local environment, the miners and their families, all seasoned with a healthy pinch of salt and enjoyment!
To learn more, or plan your trip, visit their website here.