Wednesday 30th May
Adventurous spirit is out in force today, plan to make use of the Salzburg card taking the Cable Car to the top of Mt Untersburg, then to revisit the Salzwerken Saltmine (which is a trip that Susie remembers from her Contiki tour of Europe, she seems to think it was a day trip from Munich.
An easy drive from the Stellplatz around to the town of St Leonard and ample parking available in cable car carpark.
Now if you are claustrophobic, don’t like sardine tin type situations with other people or simply don’t like heights this trip is not for you. The Cable Car ride takes about 4 mins and is literally up a sheer cliff, it is 1500mtrs vertical lift with only 2 span towers, so you have it all hanging out for quite a while. As you pass the returning car you suddenly realise how fast you are going as well as the fact your ears really struggle to equalise.
Compared to yesterday which was a cloud free day today there are a few clouds coming and going, there is a hiking trail that takes you about 1/2hr to the actual summit of Mt Untersburg, interesting this one as this is a pretty popular place but NZ Department of Conservation would have shut it down by now. It is also an active ski run, with ski lodges and actual alpine farms dotted in the most unusual and in my eye unaccessable places, there are still approximately 250 head of cattle summer grazed in this area, Obviously in barns over winter, no idea where the winter feed comes from.
The ride down was visually stunning with about ½ the passengers looking backwards and very obviously averting their eyes from the downwards.
From here it was a pretty easy 15min drive up the valley, back into Berchtesgaden, Germany ( we have crossed the Austria /German border about 6 times in the last 2 days, which actually makes it a bit hard to keep up with road numbers as they change between Austrian and German). I have digressed again, Saltmines, once again ample parking but we are the only MOHO, so wondering if there was another park somewhere that we didn’t see.
This is a real tourist trap, but done very well, and was the last use of our Salzburg Card (even though it was just outside of the 24hr period for the discount). We had about an hours wait for our tour so lunch was in order, (Bavarian Sausages, not the most appetising looking things, but man they were good and the obligatory beer, we have started to have a Radler at lunch (basically a Shandy , beer and Lemonade) as a normal 1/2l stein of beer at lunch makes me feel a bit drowsy mid-afternoon, not the best feeling on the autobahn.
The tour itself is worthwhile and very well done, this is still an actual working saltmine. Extraction process is as it has been for 500 years but obviously with better ways of mining. They mine tunnels and drill holes into areas that have a high content of salt, then basically add water and allow it to dissolve the salt into a brine before pumping this out and the the salt extraction happens about 30km away. The original drilling process of a new shaft takes about a year, then first flooding which forms a bus sized cavern a further 30 years and then these caverns are able to be worked for 100 years or so and become cathedral sized holes in the depths of these mountains. The tour took us about 650mtrs into the mountain and we were at about 130 mtrs below the surface at the mirror lake. Would have loved to have taken photos but was a no go here.
The plan now is to get into Austria properly, and after skirting Salzburg again on the A1 we turn into the Salzkammergut Area at Mondsee, this area is an area of incredibly beautiful lakes surrounded by near vertical mountains on all sides, It is reknown as a summer playground of this region.
Our plan is to freecamp for a few days now as have been informed by all this is accepted in Austria including most Parking stops, unless they have a definite no camping sign. This area is stunning with the rock faces literally down to waters edge, and the road carved into these rocks, big tunnels again.
Ended up traveling a bit further than we thought we would have to but eventually came into the town of Gmunden at the end of Lake Traunsee and able to park in a very nice parking area behind the Information centre.
A nice dinner, highlight of which was hot potatoes, we have pretty much been living on potato salad lately but ran out. Then some more exercise is in order, the trusty steads are out and a very pleasant bike ride around the end of the lake and main town promenade. This place gave a little reminder of Taupo, just bigger mountains and seemingly less people. (and so tidy.)
Unfortunately our nice quiet overnight park, also happens to be the boy racer hangout here in Gmunden as at about 1.00am through to 2.30ish we were treated to our own version of the Austrian Grand-Prix around the carpark, with Miss Stella getting the odd bit of sway on due to the slipstream. No harm done but lots of rubber left on the road in the morning.