LivingTravelAltaussee Salt Mine Guide | The mountain of treasures

Altaussee Salt Mine Guide | The mountain of treasures

The opening to the Altaussee underground salt mines looks out from the shadow of the mountain called “Loser” in the Salzkammergut . It is the access point of a long tunnel gleaming with sparkling mineral crystals that splits and snakes beneath the earth to form one of the largest active salt mines in Austria. If you follow the main tunnel long enough, you can slide down the miner’s slides to the underground lake below.

There are almost 67 km of routes through my 18 levels (stories), of which 24 kilometers are open. The brine production per hour is an impressive 240 cubic meters. This is the largest active salt mine in Austria, and it has been around for a long, long time.

The mine was first mentioned in documents in 1147 with mining done by the Rein Monastery near Graz, but there is evidence that salt has been mined from these mountains since approximately the 7th century BC. In any case, the next big event occurred during World War II, when the Nazis began storing their looted art treasures in the caves of the salt mine, more than 6,500 of them, said to be worth more than 3.5 billion dollars.

The Hallstatt-Dachstein Alpine Landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site Cultural Landscape. And this landscape contains an interesting secret.

The war years

During the last days of World War II, staunch Nazis discovered the Salzkammergut region; Its alpine remoteness was the perfect hideaway. They built labor camps in nearby Ebensee to work on their secret missile program. Hope arose eternally in the Salzkammergut.

The Nazis also funneled stolen art into this salt-laden pastoral region, including one of Europe’s finest works of art, Jan van Eyck’s 15th-century Ghent altarpiece called The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb , which focuses on the central panel of the 12 work panel. (You can see the tiniest details of this painting at The Ghent Altarpiece at 100 Billion Pixels.) The altarpiece had made a very long journey; sent to the Castle of Pau in the Pyrenees for safekeeping during the war, it was stolen by Dr. Ernst Buchner, director of the Bavarian state museums and transported to Paris, then to Neuschwanstein Castle, where it was treated by a curator before being sent to Altaussee.

There it was stored underground in the salt mine with other works by artists such as Michelangelo, Dürer, Rubens and Vermeer.

With the war ending and Germany on the wrong side of it all, eight plane bombs crowded into the mine shaft to destroy the cache of art. The miners and the Austrian resistance, with the help of a command team led by Albrecht Gaiswinkler, managed to thwart the destruction of the works until the Third Allied Army arrived in Altaussee to secure the mine. Monuments Men Robert K. Posey and Lincoln Kirstein began the process of excavating the art, including the Ghent Altarpiece, which Posey personally delivered to Ghent.

All of this is documented in the book “Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World’s Most Coveted Masterpiece.”

Visiting the Altaussee Salt Mines

With the release of the film Monuments Men, the mine had added additional opening hours and tours, including visits on Wednesday nights. See the Salzwelten Altaussee Opening Hours page. A multimedia presentation provides information on the hiding and salvaging of stolen art objects.

The mine is very close to the popular tourist destination of Hallstatt, where there is also an interesting salt mine to visit. It is an easy trip between the two places.

For those interested in following the last days of the Nazis, when Hitler retired to the Salzkammergut still clinging to the desperate hope of a thousand-year Reich, the nearby lake called Toplitzsee was where the Nazis dumped much of what they had produced. . , including counterfeit currency and equipment they hoped would destabilize the British economy, a story told, with some liberties, by the film called ‘The Counterfeiters’, which won an Oscar for best foreign film in 2007.

Rumors that the gold had been thrown into the lake have made it a holy grail for treasure hunters.

The Altaussee salt mine is not so far from the Kehlsteinhaus, or as we in America call the Eagle ‘s Nest, a gift from the Nazi Party of Hitler’s 50th birthday. The nest is perched on a mountain peak near the Bavarian town of Oberberchtesgarden. It is one of the best things to do in Bavaria.

Get there

Public Transport : The closest train station to the Salt Mine is in Bad Ausee, a popular winter ski town. There are buses from Bad Ausee to Altaussee.

By car: From Salzburg, take the A10 motorway south to Exit 28 and head east towards Hallstatt (tolls), or take the scenic B158 towards Hallstatt.

The nearest airport is Salzburg Airport.

For terrain and transportation options with estimated prices, see: Altaussee Salt Mine Map and Guide.

The Altausee mine address is Lichtersberg 25, 8992 Altaussee, Austria.

Stay

Due to its status as a ski and recreation area, there are many hotels in the region. If you have a car, Hallstatt is a very good place to stay; Many of the hotels are lakefront.

If you just want to stop to see the mine and stay overnight, there are also hotel options in Altaussee.

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