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Report 866: Castles, Caves and Cablecars

By wendy lynn from California, U.S.A., Spring 2005

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Page 5 of 16: Eisriesenwelt and Hohenwerfen

photo by Wendy

Julia on the walking path to the ice cave near Werfen, Austria

Another day with Joe up early and everyone else doing their best to keep up. We’re all apparently over our jet lag, though.

First stop is Eisriesenwelt near Werfen, the largest Eishohle (ice cave) in the earth (or so we are told on every postcard.) The cave was not a far drive from Salzburg and took us through some of the most beautiful countryside we’ve ever seen. The morning sun and the dramatic Alpine peaks made just the drive there the experience of a lifetime.

We were able to park at the closest parking area. We wondered how hard it would have been to park had we come during the high season. Once parked, the Eishohle was a bit hard to reach: First, a 20 minute uphill hike, then a cable car ride up a few thousand feet, then another 20 minute hike up a steep incline. It doesn’t sound too hard, but Joe had to carry Alex the whole way because (1) he was claiming to be tired, and (2) the cliffs were so precarious that we were deathly afraid that he would plummet if we let go of him. Wendy held hands with Julia and silently prayed that no one would slip under the guardrail.

When we got to the opening of the Eishohle, we could tell it was going to be cold inside because we could see our breath, especially when the guide opened the door to the cave. (A side note: everyone thinks we are German and speaks to us auf Deutsch… must be the blonde kids and the corduroy blazers.)

When we entered the cave, there was a dramatically cold wind that scared the heck out of Alex who promptly claimed he needed to go potty. The guide handed out oil lamps and carried a magnesium strip for more heavy-duty illumination. Brother was so scared that he whimpered quietly the entire way and wouldn’t let us put him down. Joe toted Brother up and down at least 650 of the 700 steps.

It was worth it. The glacier-covered walls and ice tunnels were as cool (indeed, cold) as one might imagine they might be. The guide did a good job of being pleasant and informative while catering to the tourists’ multiple language needs. Upon leaving, Julia burst into quiet tears claiming that she feared she would never feel her fingers again.

We had lunch about halfway down the mountain (at the point where the cable car stops taking you up). The Austrian food (and beer) was good, and everyone felt satisfied. The view from where we ate was a nice panorama of the mountains and valleys below. The sun was warm, and we were happy.

Then off to Festung Hohenwerfen, a dramatic castle just across the valley, maybe 20 minutes away. Although the 22 Euros it cost to get in seemed steep, it was pretty neat. Falconers put on a show. Wendy and Joe had another beer in the warm sun while the kids enjoyed popsicles. Then, the long walk down. Julia complained the whole way down about what a hard walk it was. To be fair, however, we had picked the wrong way down the hill while Julia was right.

Once we got back, we stopped at a little playground nearby. Like most Austrian playgrounds that we had found, it had an obligatory cable slide that was fun for all of us. Across the street from the park, Alex went crazy over the heavy equipment trucks parked at a construction site. We used their portapotty that had been installed nearby. (Observation: European construction workers just dug a hole and parked a potty over it.)

We returned to the Simmerlwirt. Joe and Julia went out for petrol and pizza. Julia cried at the gas station when Joe went inside to pay and didn’t come out right away. The pizzas were good--Brother liked the pepperoni. (He is the “hunger Junger” after all.)

We went to bed relatively early and were sad to say goodbye to our last full day in Salzburg.

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