The lovely German town of Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps has gained much of its wealth over the years by exploiting the local salt mine which acted as the backbone of the town’s economy, and in honor of that legacy the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine is now open to visitors, offering slides, trains, and a laser light show in lieu of back-breaking mine work.
Salt mining in the area began as far back as the 1100s, with mentions of such industry found among historic documents from the time. However the mine that exists today was not created until the 1500s, becoming a full-fledged state operation by the mid-1800s. While the mine was in operation, only special guests were allowed down into the depths, but as the mine’s operation has slowed over the year, the gates to the mine were slowly opened more and more.
By the modern day, the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine is a full-fledged attraction, open to all comers. The town is immensely proud of their “white gold” heritage and it shows in the enthusiastic displays. When visitors arrive to the mine, they are given mining coveralls before boarding a tiny train that takes them into the depths. Once underground, there are a number of old pieces of large mining apparatus on display, still holding much of their sheen. However if all of this bland mining history looks about to bore anyone, there are two wooden slides that amateur spelunkers can straddle that will slide them down to the lower levels. Once down there, there is a mirror lake that is beautiful in its own right, but which has been given some modern flair with a “light and sound” show that erupts all around the underground sailors.
Salt mining can be a grueling business, but the Berchtesgaden mine may be the only place in the world where that work can be a bit dancey too.