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Eurotrip 2012 – Day 7

July 25th, 2012 1 comment

20-June-2012

Chris writes, “We were off to an excellent start before our day’s journey began. Stumbling out of our temporary fabric homes well after the sun had risen, we set out to get ready for today’s adventure. After reaching a bakery slightly after 10 o’clock and devouring our share of food, we ventured down the road where we found an intersection. And in this intersection we waited as truck after truck spontaneously appeared. After the logging truck in front of us finally moved through the crossroads at least another dozen trucks must have passed before our eyes.”

We are driving south of Salzburg to visit the salt mines . The mines were originally started by the Celts and later became a major source of income for the archbishop of Salzburg. It was +10°C in the mines and quite cool.

The tour started with a train ride through the mining shafts deep into the mountain. Later we rode a couple of slides made of wood downhill. I wonder how far underground we are. We had an opportunity to taste the brine water which was 27% salt compared to the oceans that are approximately 6%.

The Celts extracted salt by manual labor and at one point abandoned the mines. Having been closed for a long time, the mines were nearly forgotten. Later a new technique was developed and the mines reopened. This new technique uses water to dissolve the salt which is then collected in large pools underground. The tour took us on a boat trip across one of these rather large pools.

At one point a mummified body from the Celtic era was discovered by the miners. When brought to the surface the decay processes began very rapidly. However, while the body was underground it was preserved by the salt.

While we were underground in the mines we crossed from Austria into Germany and then back into Austria. As salt was such a valuable commodity as you can guess there were a number of disputes about which region had mining rights.

After the mines we drove to the Königssee Lake. Along the way we see another large pole, this time covered with rings that looked like Christmas wreaths with white balls where ribbons were once attached. Atop the pole looked like a Christmas tree. We’ve come to the conclusion that this is representative of the May Pole.

The boat trip along the lake was very beautiful. The water was so clear you could see the fish swimming. From the lake we had a spectacular view of St. Bartholomew’s Church as the boat approached. We stopped and enjoyed lunch under the shade of the local tress. The trout and salmon were excellent! After lunch Chris wanted dessert. We suggested that we wait until the end of the day as we wanted to continue to the end of the lake, to this he was agreeable.

After lunch, we caught the boat to take us further up the lake. From there it was a short hike to the tallest waterfall in Germany. We had to hike briskly as we needed to be back at the dock by 5:40 to catch the last boat back. If we missed the boat, it was a five hour hike or a several hundred Euro fee to get back. Oh, at the lake by the waterfall, there were these black things swimming around that we think were leeches. So we take in the view but no swimming allowed.

We made the hike quickly and had time to spare to get back to the boat. As the boat trip progressed, it started to rain. Chris kept promising that it looked clearer at our destination (where the ice cream was).

But the rain kept coming. As we docked, the rain was coming down at its heaviest and the lightning and thunder have added their presence. The lightning was near, and now the hail is beginning to fall. The hail is roughly marble sized and making a tremendous din against the roof of the boat. We watched the hail bouncing off the dock and splashing into the lake.

The captain opened the boat to allow people to leave. But no one dared leave the safety of the boat. Why run in the rain and get soaking wet and pelted by falling ice when we can instead stay dry?

After a few minutes of watching the storm and nobody getting off the boat, the captain then proceeds to move the boat to the boat house as their shift is coming to a close. While in the boat house, the hail stopped but the rain continues. The winds were not bad, but the rain, hail, and lightning rivaled some of the worst storms I’ve seen in Florida.

Eventually the captain has the boat secured and it is now time to secure the boat house. Time to leave…

It is a good thing that we are (now) in shape as we had to make a mad dash to the car. We found shelter along the way as we ran from building to building. But there was no avoiding getting totally soaked as the total distance back to the car was on the order of a mile.

Having made it to the car, we began the drive back to the campsite. We started about 7:00pm and it’s a two hour drive back. As if driving wasn’t already difficult, now it is dark from the cloud cover, rain is coming down in sheets, and small streams are running across the road. I begin to dread what some of the country roads are going to be like.

We made it back to the Salzburg area on fairly good roads, but this is surely a flood. As roads join in from uphill areas a gushing brown river crosses our road in front of us. I suggest we find a gasthof for the evening and not worry about trying to make it back to the camp this evening. Looking through pelting rain and fogging windows, we find a gasthof, but when Vicky runs in we learn that it is already full. A little further down the road, we get the last available two rooms at the next gasthof. Time for hot showers, dry clothes, hot food, cold beer, and a good night’s sleep… Well it would have been a good night’s sleep except for the cat in heat right outside our window.

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