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March 18, 2002
Berchtesgaden: salzbergwerk und Roßfeldhöhenringstraße (Russell)

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The view from the Roßfeldhöhenringstraße

On March 18th, we awoke to a beautifully sunny and warm day.  We were especially happy because today we planned to take a driving tour outside of Salzburg.

First, though, we had to run a few errands.  After another 8:30 AM continental breakfast in our room, we drove to the same section of Old Town Salzburg that we had walked to yesterday.  We thought that driving would be quicker, but we were mistaken.  Between the combination of one-way roads going the wrong way and the curbside parking (or "no parking") signs that we couldn't decipher, we ended up parking in a garage a few blocks away from Old Town anyway.  Once there, we mailed our accumulated boxes back to the US, then Russell updated the Website at an Internet Café while Gail and the boys watched another gigantic chess game.  Joss also purchased the newest member of his menagerie, a stuffed cat.  (He had actually seen it yesterday and wanted it, but we requested that he wait a day and think about it.  He thought about it.  He said that it would remind him of all of the cats he saw in Italy.  He named it "Speckles.")

It was noon (and 23° C) before we left Salzburg.  Our destination for the day was Berchtesgaden across the border in Germany, site of Adolf Hitler's infamous summer retreat.  Hitler's "Eagles Nest" is closed until May, but today we were interested in visiting a salt mine.  Our landlord Brigitte had told us that the best one around was the Salzbergwerk in Berchtesgaden, only a half-hour drive away from Salzburg.

The four of us dressed in the overclothes supplied (including leather fanny belts) so that we all looked like Russian peasants, then boarded the little train that took us into the salt mines.  During the course of the next hour, we got to ride a train twice, slide down into the mines twice, and take a boat across an underground lake of salt water.  We also met a family of five from Hawaii who are in Europe for a month -- the father took even more pictures than Russell did.

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A couple of "Russian peasants"

During the tour itself, the guide would gather all of the German-speaking folk around him and provide an explanation.  Then, he would push a button and an English tape recording would play for us tourists while he and the German-speaking folk went on ahead.  For some reason, his live narration always ended with a raucous joke, while our English tape would just end suddenly.  We figured that he was saying some variation of "Let's all run ahead and leave the Americans behind in the dark somewhere."  We learned just about everything there is to know about the history and techniques of salt mining -- all of us, that is, except Joss, who spent most of the time scraping the walls in search of salt crystals (he found quite a few).

By the time we departed with our free salt samples, it was still early afternoon and beautiful outside.  We decided to take the long way back to Salzburg by driving the Roßfeldhöhenringstraße, a scenic ring road that took us high into the mountains to Rossfeld outside of Berchtesgaden at 1,600 metres.  We used a little map supplied by the Berchtesgaden TI to get to the snow-covered ridge, where we were able to see absolutely breathtaking views of valleys and distant mountains on both sides of the road.  Joss (and Cameron, with a little prodding) got out and threw snowballs into the valleys.

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At the ridge summit of the Roßfeldhöhenringstraße

We arrived back in Salzburg just about in time for dinner.  After taking enormously awkward showers (at the zimmer, the shower's hot water runs on a meter -- you put in a coin, and you have exactly five minutes of hot water), we returned to the Bio Wirtshaus Hirschenwirt, our wonderful Austrian restaurant from two nights ago.  We returned mainly at the request of Joss, who wanted to have what his mother had ordered last time we were there.  Unfortunately, it had been a daily special that was no longer on the menu.  We also discovered why Cameron and Joss had not really enjoyed the apple dumplings they had ordered previously -- the staff had brought them the wrong thing.  So tonight, Cameron and Joss ordered a plate of meat dumplings in tomato sauce and apple dumplings in fruit sauce that they split between them; while Gail and Russell both ordered pork with dark beer gravy, bread dumplings, and sauerkraut (we usually try not to order the same thing, but it sounded irresistible to both of us).  Needless to say, we had another mouthwateringly delicious meal.

We took one last evening stroll on the now-familiar walking path along the Salzach River back to our rooms.  We have very much enjoyed our stay here in peaceful and relaxing Salzburg.  After our long stays in Crest and each of the villas in Italy, it's hard to believe that we are already leaving Salzburg after such a brief visit, and even sadder to realize that we won't be coming back any time soon.

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The Salzach River by night

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