Friday, 17 September 2010

two days of playing tourist amongst more than a month of travel

When I first scheduled my late summer conference travel schedule it sounded like a good idea to attend first the IMA conference in Budapest, go from there to Vienna for a short-course on the Kinetics of Geological Materials, from there to the European Textile forum, and from there to the Italian SIMP conference. Indeed, I very much enjoyed each of them, in very different ways. However, after 3.5 weeks of non-stop travel and major time commitments happening each day (and, for the last couple of weeks very, very limited internet access), I find that this week has been one of recovery. I’ve accomplished the urgent tasks on my to-do list, but mostly I’m catching up on personal correspondence and basic housekeeping tasks. Now it is time to start blogging once again.
I will start with sharing photos from my weekend as a tourist. Since I had two whole days off between the Budapest conference and the start of the short course in Vienna I decided that it would make more sense to play tourist than to fly home and then head right back out again. Having many fond memories of a salt-mine tour I took with my father when I was a child of five years of age, I decided that I would take the train up to Salzburg and check out the mine again, now that I’m a geologist and will have a better understanding of what I am seeing. However, when I asked my mother she didn’t remember which of mines we went to all those years ago. Since there is more than one to choose from, I made the decision between them the easy way and went with the one recommended by my host—I choose to do CouchSurfing that weekend, so that I’d meet local people rather than staying on my own in a hotel room.
Since the weather in Budapest had been extremely hot and sunny, I was delighted with the cool grey clouds and gentle rain in the Salzburg area. Here is the view from the mine entrance in Hallein:

It was so very wonderful to be surrounded by mountains again—I have missed them so!
The rock in the mine has clearly undergone some deformation looking at the layers on the wall:

Being a tourist mine they have some old-style ore-carts full of rocks ready to haul away:

And a lovely display case of pretty samples from the mine:

Occasionally we could look up into a shaft reaching up to other levels:

They have a large lake in the mine that was used for mining—they put in fresh water, it dissolved salt from the rock, and they extracted and evaporated the brine. This silly statue has a slow, steady, drip of salt brine from the pump, and we were encouraged to taste it if we liked. Yup. Salty.

Alas, my photos from the rat trip across the lake didn’t come out. They do that part accompanied with eerie mood music and a light show. Made for an interesting effect, but felt like a scene from a fantasy movie, and not a real salt mine. This wall is from the far side of the lake:

Without a doubt the highlight of the trip was the slide between levels. This first photo is from the top of the shorter, warm-up slide:

And this photo is from the bottom of the longer slide:

It was so much fun that I climbed the stairs and went down the slide a second time. I can remember a slide from when I was a child, but I sure don’t remember it being this long or this fast. On the other hand, I do remember it as being a long way to fall sidewards if you weren’t wedged in between two grown-ups. This slide doesn’t have a place to fall to the side.

After leaving the mine I decided to walk the 3 km back down the hill to the town, rather than taking a bus, and I’m glad I did—I found a trail so that I didn’t even have to walk along the road.

And finally, the view back up the hill from the town:

I think that my early childhood visit to this mine, and the box of salt rocks that my dad bought me then, was a factor in my growing up to become a geologist. I loved my tour as a child, and found it just as delightful now. There is something comforting about having an entire mountain over my head. In hopes of encouraging the tradition I bought a box of salt rocks to send back to my nieces. This purchase was done with my sister’s encouragement, of course—she was too little to do the mine tour when we were there all those years ago, but she used to enjoy playing with (and licking) my salt-rocks.

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