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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Back in the salt mine...

There is a working salt mine within a couple of miles from our Berchtegaden hotel so we took the tour. The mine has been in continuous operation since 1517 - that's a historical perspective that is hard for Americans to grasp, since to us something that is 100 years old is ancient. Anyway, the tour was a little over an hour and was more enjoyable than I expected. However, the tour guide, who spoke 95% in German and just 5% in English, solicited tips at the end which I always find to be bad form.

Here we are in our stylish protective clothing. It looks like we work in a nuclear facility.

Here is one of the rooms deep in the mine. It had some educational exhibits.

This is the small boat that takes you across the 100 meter underground lake in the mine. It's really cool. While you cross in the dark they have a laser light show. (I cheated and pulled this picture off the web).

This is a little grotto room. The tour guide gave an explanation in German.

From the Berchtegaden town web site (www.berchtegaden.com). The translation is a little stilted, even after I cleaned up some of the more confusing passages.

In former times, when Berchtesgaden was still "Fuerstprobstei", only chosen people were allowed to visit the salt mine. Today this vault is open to everyone and the attendance remains an unforgettable experience. Bringing in annually over 400,000 visitors in the mine, by the way in the same protective clothing according to the type of the old miner clothing, which have been already carried by kings and princes at the entry. And now a miner accompanies you through the fascinating world under days. You are shifted automatically into another time. With the pit-train you drive in the 600m long lug by the riding seat a into the "Kaiser Franz Sinkwerk", an enormous hall with a cover surface of 3000 square meter.

From here walk either on a comfortable or - which is still very beautiful - you slide down one of smooth-polished slides 34m down to the next station, a beautiful salt cave. In the cave you will be astonished, as the transparent colours of the rock salt lights up. Only a few steps ahead an instructive film continues to take up your attention over the emergence of the salt deposits and the production of the salt. Then the guidance continues: With a multiplicity of machines and devices the work is represented. In the salt museum you find among other things a chronicle of the salt mine, historical tools and lightnings, rocks and minerals and an earth tidal station. At an old "Handgoepel" you come past over a second chute down there to that 100m x 30m large, lit up salt lake.

With a raft you slide over the lake and arrive by a sparkling spring at the famous brine lifting machine of the royal upper mountain and saltworks advice George von Reichenbach from the year 1817. Now it continues to go with an inclined elevator uphill to a lug decorated with wonderful, old sinking factory boards and to the pit-train, which brings you in rapid travel back to the daylight.

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