Tuesday, December 28, 2010

19 Dec 2010 Sunday @ Salzburg 0 to -10 C windy, clear

I have earlier booked a Panorama Tour to the Bavarian salt mines from their portal, said to be friendly and reliable in their service. It costs 45 euros per person, admission to the mines included. The plan was to have a care free visit to 2 different places in the comfort of a tour van with narratives and no worry of fighting with the elements.

At 8.30 am, the tour guide came to pick us at the hotel lobby. Along the way, a New Zealander family of 4 and a lone HK girl joined us. We went past Untersberg and beyond into German territory in Berchtesgaden. The landscape was indescribably beautiful as we passed snow covered forests and running brooks with ice floes.

Eagles nest at the top of the hill was inaccessible to traffic in winter
Our first stop was  midway in the mountains to view the resort home of Hitler, famously known as Eagle's Nest, from afar. There was not much to see from where we were, the road being cut off from the snow. But what was most breathtaking was the snow covered peaks surrounding us in the shadowed alpine valley, with aquamarine blue skies as a giant backdrop.
A pit stop, before the Saltmines ,in Berchtesgaden
We wondered about aimlessly , without our guide, around town
Unremarkable little place with no activity on a Sunday

Another pit stop in a little town to walk around for half an hour and then we were off to the Salt mines. We could only enter the mines with the clothes on our body minus bags and parkas, as an overall is provided for visitors. A short train ride and all of us were herded to learning stations where the workings of the mine was briefly explained. When it was time to go down the slide to the next lower level, all of us chickened out. I made the poor HK girl our leader and all of us clutched the overalls of the one in front and zipped down the wooden slides, unscathed.

Some more walking in the 12 C saltmines, licking walls and scrambling to follow the guide and then it is another steeper but shorter slide down. Luckily, the HK girl offered to buffer the scary slippery descent down again but her overalls was nearly 'ripped' off as we who were behind her were lifted off into the air by the steep descent. Thankfully there was only 2 slides, so all of us breathed a sigh of relief.

Some more chemistry lessons on the nature of salt and this time, it was a boat ride across an underwater lake. This lake was created when workers used water to flush out the salt and send the brine to the salt works for salt extraction. We sailed in total darkness, with cheesy and kitschy  light shows on the cave walls, so nonsequitor!

Our ride out of the mines was by means of a cable car up and then a train ride to the world of the living. The visit make me appreciate the efforts of those who risk their lives extracting salt from the belly of the earth. We reciprocated their efforts by making a quick purchase of salt in various forms, 20 euros in all!

Quickly we were herded back to the tour van and dispatched to town, where the next tour awaits. It was a pity we did not spend more time in Bechesgarten, and soak in its postcard scenery. The tour was too hurried, the guide not adapt at ice breaking and too much politics about the second world war was mentioned which 50 %  of us could not follow. Had I known, I would have taken a bus there instead and spend a leisurely day ourselves. The moral of the story : we are definitely not cut for guided tours!
The second half of the day saw us eating our way from the old town all the way to the hotel
To eat this cheese sausage with horse radish again speaks volumes about how delicious it is
This puppet show attracted the most audience despite the long performance in the bitter cold
Gluh Wine stalls selling the hot red wine can be found everywhere
Our mascot, Mr G, loves to be in the limelight. Behind, the Salzach
Sitting pretty on the Stadbrucke, Mr G pretendds to be pensive
We walked along the river from Old Town back to the train station, a good 3 odd km
Walking all the way saps Mr G's energy, what more without winter clothes
The end of Monchsberg glows in the sun at 4 pm
Goodbye, Festung! Hope to come back to Salzburg again one day

The day ending early, we lunched in the Old Town and walked all the way along the river back to the hotel in frigid weather. It's our last day in Salzburg and one of the most interesting. My mission for Salzburg, the second leg, is a success and I hope it will happen again in our final leg in Vienna.

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