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The Filthy Lucre Tour
Our first traffic jam
29th May 2006 - 31st May 2006
Salzburg, the Stuttgart Philharmonic and some stuff about salt mining

We decided our next stop would be in Saltzburg, which had a few BMW dealers and looked like a splendid place to get the car serviced. On the way we experienced our longest traffic jam as yet - actually, pretty much our only traffic jam. We were held up for the better part of two hours on the A8 between Innsbruck and Saltzburg, for what appeared to be nothing more than roadworks. We stopped the caravan in a lay-by and had lunch in the middle of it, which made it marginally more bearable.

We went to two BMW dealers looking to get the car serviced, but neither of them could give us an appointment before at least a week or so, so we instead phoned one up in Vienna and booked her in for the 6th. This means we'll be in Vienna on the 6th of June, which gives us a bit of structure apart from anything else. As we were now ensconsed at a somewhat averagey campsite in Salzburg with a rather nice restaurant (Panorama Camping Stadtblick) we thought we might as well do something townish and cultured. We elected to go and see the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra playing a couple of snippets of Bizet and Berlioz followed by the whole of Mahler's first symphony. At EUR42 per ticket for a seat at the back of the balcony it was somewhat out of budget, but the Mahler especially was splendid stuff and we celebrated afterwards by spending even more money eating at a restaurant nearby. Once you've spent your daily budget you're in that pleasant position where spending even more money doesn't really count. Watching other people being creative always makes me feel a little inadequate, but I must say it was impressive. We're going to try and see something else in Vienna, most likely an opera, if we can find a way to book it.

When the rain refused to stop we upped sticks and moved from Salzburg down to Hallstatt, further south in the mountains. As I write this we're staying in Camping Am See, about 4km out of Hallstatt with splendid views of the Hallstattsee lake and up to the salt mines. And speaking of the salt mines, that's where we were today.

There have been salt mines above Hallstatt for a quite remarkeable amount of time - some seven thousand years. The parts you can visit as a tourist are based around a section of the mines which was opened in 1719 - practically yesterday. Salt mining isn't something I've dedicated a great deal of time to thinking about but here's a bluffer's guide. The salt found in mountains is there because natural salt flats were covered up by tectonic action. Until the Middle Ages, the best way to get this stuff out was to just digging out chunks of rock and then process them on the surface (presumably by soaking them in water and letting the salt crystalize, but we weren't told that so I'm guessing a bit). From the Middle Ages onward the concept of "solution mining" appeared, whereby you basically pump water into salt seams, let the salt dissolve into this and then pump the resulting brine back out. This still happens today in the Hallstatt mine, but the processing plant is now several kilometres away in Ebensee.

The mine tour was very interesting, and whizzing down a Miner's Slide was all rather fun. They were a bit vague about whether the miners used this slide to get to work or not, but the miners definitely did use a little sit-astride train like the one we were whisked out of the mine on. You can't go into the mines without a guide (presumably because other parts are in use), and I must say the tour was well organised and interesting. The only part I felt somewhat peeved about was their endless harping on about this mine being gloriously famous because of the legendary "Man in Salt". "Man in what?", I hear you say. Ah yes, but he's legendary. Apparently the perfectly preserved body of a miner was found here in 1734, actually embedded in salt. The miners of the time carefully removed the body from the salt, carried him down to Hallstatt and promptly gave him a nice pre-Christian burial. Nobody knows exactly where the body was buried, pretty much nobody saw it before they buried it and the miners who found him thought he was maybe 150 years old. According to our guide, though, "we now know him to have been from before 2400 BCE". How we now know that I have not the faintest idea.

In the early evening we headed to Sankt Wolfgang, which is a very tourist-trappish town north of here, with an attractive church and a million gift shops. Highlight of this trip was seeing a sticker on the back of a car which appears to represent something, but I've no idea what. Hockenheim racing circuit? Florida rotated 90 degress? You be the judge.

Next: Mozart in Salzburg, The Ice Cave, Toilet blocks, Boating, Buggying and Drautal Flitzer
Previous: Terrasencamping Sonnenberg - best campsite we've been to, and here's why

Diary Photos

Our first traffic jam

Panorama Camping Stadtblick

Salt mining outfit

Rock salt

Salt miners` slide

Modern salt mining equipment

Fairly modern salt mining equipment

Salt mineshaft

Kiki on miners` slide

Chris on miners` slide

From entrance to salt mine

Our caravan

View from church at Sankt Wolfgang

View from our caravan site

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