Continued from Part 1…
After a wonderful time in Croatia and Slovenia, we took a short flight into Munich. We landed in Munich an hour later, after a surprisingly peaceful and calm flight. We rented cars at the airport, and drove straight to the hotel.
Third stop: Austria
We started early the next morning. After getting a heavy breakfast, we settled in for the long drive to Hallstatt. A small (Really small! The population in the year 2014 was 788) and picturesque town, it is settled along the banks of the Hallstätter See lake.
Upon arriving, we went straight to the Hallstatt salt mine. Following a very steep funicular ride which boasted breath-taking views (pictured below: first from left), followed by a 15 minute uphill walk, a 20-30 minute standing wait and another 5-10 minute steep uphill walk, our tour began. We were given colorful overalls to wear, which served to protect our clothes from water droplets containing mineral deposits that might stain our clothes. The tour started with a 15 minute walk deep into the mountain.
As we went deeper, the temperature dropped drastically. It was also interesting to note the changing materials and forms of the support structures of the mines (pictured above: second from left). We walked through the mine, learning about the deposits, and how they came to be since the formation of the earth. We also learned about the so-called Hallstatt Era when the importance of salt (or white gold, as they referred to it) made this place very significant.
Apart from the educational aspect, there were also a couple of fun elements mixed in. For example, we rode Europe’s longest underground slide (pictured above: top right). At 210 feet long, this wooden monster shoots you through the cave, breathless and screaming. Once it’s over, you only wish you could do it again. The entire experience probably lasted an hour and a half, and culminated in a fast mini-train ride that leaves you freezing because of the cold winds, and then deposits you just outside the mine under the scorching sun.
After the mines, we went back down to Hallstatt. This quaint town seems miles away from any worries or bothers, nestled comfortably between mountains. We sat by the lake, dipping our feet in its cool waters, watching the fish and duck swim by. We lay in the grass, and enjoyed the tranquility of the lake. We also enjoyed walking through this old-world town, taking in the charming pedestrian-only streets, rustic houses and the endearing city center (pictured below: first from right).
Fourth Stop: Germany
The next morning we only had a few hours in Munich before our flight back home. Due to the short amount of time we had on hand, we weren’t able to get in any sight-seeing, but we didn’t waste our time lazing around either. There was absolutely no way we were leaving Germany without downing some local beer. So, we headed straight to a nearby beer garden, where we enjoyed great beers in the famous Maßkrugs, magnificent 1 liter mugs, and munched down on delicious German pretzels.
Over cold beers on a hot day, we bid adieu to this great little summer family vacation.
(Cheers in German)