Berchtesgaden salt mine

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Deep in the Alps, in the middle of the picturesque landscape of Berchtesgaden, lies a treasure that is not made of gold or precious stones, but of salt. The Berchtesgaden salt mine has shaped the history and culture of this region for centuries. In this article we will describe today's adventure mine, but then we will also delve into the fascinating history of salt mining and discover how it has had a lasting impact on Berchtesgaden and the entire region.

Salt has been mined in the salt mine continuously for over 500 years, making it the oldest active salt mine in Germany. With almost 400.000 annual visitors, it is one of the most popular excursion destinations in Berchtesgadener Land and definitely worth a visit. Once you get there you will be given a typical overall, so you no longer have to worry about your clothes. In addition, it warms you up because the temperature inside the mountain is only around 12 degrees, regardless of the season.

Image: Berchtesgaden Salt Mine, Südwestdeutsche Salzwerke AG

Take the mine railway into the mountain

After you take the mine train 650 meters deep into the interior of the salt mountain, the first highlight awaits you after a short introduction to the exciting history and technical development of the 500-year-old tradition of salt mining. A 34 meter long wooden slide takes you down to the so-called “Kaiser Franz Sinkwerk” in the Salt Cathedral. (If you prefer not to slide, you can also take the stairs, but how often do you have the opportunity to climb a wooden slide inside a mountain.)

The Spiegelsee in the Berchtesgaden salt mine

After further interesting and educational stations await you inside the Berchtesgaden salt mine, such as the “Magic Salt Room” with a high-resolution light show, you go down another slide, this time around 40 meters long, to the breathtaking Spiegelsee. This is 100 meters long and owes its name to the ceiling reflection on the water surface. However, you can't just look at this marvel, you can also take a ferry directly over the underground, wonderfully reflective salt lake. The crossing is definitely another highlight for young and old and an unforgettable holiday experience.

Before you go back by train, the lost meters in altitude are made up for using an inclined elevator.

Image: Berchtesgaden Salt Mine, Südwestdeutsche Salzwerke AG

Berchtesgaden salt healing tunnel

The salt healing tunnel is also located in the Berchtesgaden salt mine, where you can enjoy the salt air and relax on comfortable loungers wrapped in cozy blankets. If 2 hours of silence in the mountain isn't right for you, there is also the option of booking an entry with jazz music, fairy tale readings or even a concert underground.

Image: Berchtesgaden Salt Mine, Südwestdeutsche Salzwerke AG

Entrance fees for the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine 2023

Adults: €22,50
Children up to and including 3 years: Free
Children 4 – 16 years: €11,50

Family ticket: 2 adults + 1 child: €50,50
Each additional child: €6,50

Please note: You cannot take a stroller or a back carrier into the salt mine!

The beginnings of salt mining

Even in ancient times, people recognized the value of salt. Not only was it an essential element in the diet, but also an important preservative that helped people store food for longer periods of time. In Berchtesgaden, where the Alps hid rich salt deposits, the history of salt mining began long before our era.

The first evidence of salt mining in Berchtesgaden dates back to the pre-Roman period. Archaeological finds indicate that the Celts already mined the valuable mineral. These early miners used simple tools and techniques to extract the salt from the rock. Over time and with the influence of the Romans, the methods became more refined and more efficient.

In the Middle Ages, as cities and trade routes grew, salt became an even more valuable commodity. Berchtesgaden, thanks to its rich salt deposits, quickly established itself as an important center for salt production in southern Germany. Techniques were further developed and deep shafts were dug into the mountains to access the rich salt deposits.

The golden age of salt mining

The Middle Ages and the Renaissance were times of change and growth in Europe. Cities grew, trade routes were established, and goods were transported over long distances. In this context, salt became one of the most sought-after goods. Not only was it an essential preservative that helped people store food over the winter months, but it was also a symbol of wealth and power.

Berchtesgaden, with its rich salt deposits, experienced an unprecedented boom during this time. The wealth generated by salt mining was reflected in the city's architecture. Magnificent buildings, churches and monasteries were built and the living standards of the residents rose. The “white gold” made it possible not only to build buildings, but also to establish trade relationships and political alliances. Berchtesgaden became an important hub in the region, and its salt was exported far beyond the borders of the Holy Roman Empire.

Technological advances and challenges

With the growing need for salt and the increasing prosperity of Berchtesgaden came technological innovations. The miners were constantly faced with new challenges: How could they penetrate deeper into the earth without the tunnels collapsing? How could salt be extracted more efficiently while ensuring worker safety?

Over the centuries, increasingly sophisticated techniques have been developed. Pumping systems were introduced to remove water from the mines and ventilation systems to bring fresh air into the deep tunnels. New methods of producing salt were also developed, such as evaporating salt water in large pans, which significantly increased production.

But with technological advances came new challenges. Water leaks, dangerous gas accumulations, and the physical demands of mining posed constant dangers. Despite these risks, the miners' pride and community was unshakable. They developed their own traditions, songs and stories that reflected the hard work and dangers they faced.

The Berchtesgaden salt mine in the 20th century

The 20th century brought profound changes to Berchtesgaden and its salt mines. The two world wars, economic upheavals and the change from an industrial to a service society had an impact on salt mining.

During the wars, production was cut back and many miners were called to the fronts. However, after the wars and with the reconstruction of Germany, the salt mine experienced a new boom. The demand for salt increased again, and Berchtesgaden was able to consolidate its position as one of the leading salt producers in Germany.

With time and the rise of tourism, locals and those in charge of the mine recognized the potential that lay in the mine's rich history and impressive tunnels. The salt mine was gradually opened to visitors and became one of Berchtesgaden's main attractions.

The Berchtesgaden salt mine today

Today, the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine is not only a testimony to the region's industrial and cultural history, but also a popular travel destination for tourists from all over the world. The impressive tunnels and chambers that lead deep into the mountains offer visitors a glimpse into the hard work of miners and the importance of salt mining over the centuries.

Modern multimedia presentations, light shows and interactive tours make a visit to the mine an experience for the whole family. Particularly impressive is the ride on the mining train, which takes visitors deep into the heart of the mountain. Here you can marvel at the ancient mining methods, admire the crystal-clear salt lakes and breathe the cool, salty air deep underground.

But the salt mine is not just a tourist attraction. It continues to be an active industrial operation. Salt is still mined here using the most modern technologies and is sold throughout Germany and beyond. This ongoing operation is evidence of the continued importance of “white gold” to Berchtesgaden and its residents.

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