Salt Mine, Iron Age & Bones

October 16, 2007


Okay, the skull and bones were macabre, but the views from the “Beinhaus” and metallic grave stones were charming. We hiked up to the parish church (Pfarrkirche) and its miniscule cemetery, filled with flowers and wrought iron crosses, overlooking the calm lake, just to see this strange, eerie sight.

For a small price, one can look into and enter this bone house filled with rows of decorated skulls and bones from the 15th century and later. We were stunned to find out that because there is no room for cemetery plots, they exhumed the bodies of their loved ones and decorate the skulls!

Hallstatt has a lot more history than most small towns and is one of the oldest in Austria. There is evidence of human settlements that goes back 7,000 years. Salt has been mined here since 1000BC, starting with the Celts. This period of the iron age is now called the Hallstatt Period and there have been many archeological discoveries here.

The ancient saltworks are perched on the mountain above the town and we could see it from our campsite along with the thrilling funicular that takes people to the top. This is the oldest working salt mine in the world and Hallstatt literally means “salt place”. I knew this would be a great educational experience for Mozart, but I also knew with my claustrophobia, that all that underground activity was not for me, so I let this be a dad and daughter moment.

The ride up the funicular alone is a treat with spectacular views of the mountains and lake and it goes surprisingly fast. It was almost a mile hike from the funicular landing to the mine, but Mozart came upon some alpine goats to feed that added to the fun. Mozart and DaVinci, like everyone else who tours, had to put on miner's clothes, oversized pants and a big shirt.

DaVinci was amazed that early man just used elk horns to dig out this huge space and Mozart absolutely adored the huge, well varnished wooden slides that they took to get to different levels. It is a well done program including Disney-like robotics demonstrating the mining story, cruising a subterranean lake, screaming down the slides while one was timed and photographed, seeing the worlds oldest staircase, as well as learning about the mystery of the man preserved in salt.

They were surprised to learn that salt came in different colors and learned about the other minerals that created that color. In town, there are lots of shops that make all kinds of beautiful things from this lovely colored salt and I especially loved the amber-rosy colored items. There are several places in and near Salzburg where one can do salt mine tours, but we are glad that we waited to do ours here.













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