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March 2, 2019

Austria: Eisriesenwelt

Filed under: Austria, Europe, Photography, Travel, Travel, Writing — Tags: , , , , , — anotherheader @ 7:20 pm

The trail winds up the side of the mountain to the entrance of the Eisriesenwelt cave.

Roughly forty minutes by car from Salzburg Austria is Eisriesenwelt, the world’s longest ice cave. A two-kilometer portion of the 42-kilometer-long cavern is open to the public for guided tours from May until the end of October. In late September of 2018 Becky and I detoured on our way from Munich to Salzburg to check it out.

The entrance to Eisriesenwelt is located 3,600 feet above the village of Werfen near the German-Austrian border. Most visitors reach the cave entrance via a combination of a switchbacking mountain road, a cable car, and a 20-minute trail hike. The more intrepid can climb the 3,600 feet from the valley floor to the entrance of the tunnel on a combination of benign mountain trail and a more exciting section of via ferrata (in German: Klettersteig), a climbing trail with a fixed steel cable safety support. (The via ferrata bypasses the cable car.) No matter the route, getting to the cave’s entrance takes effort.

Visitors climb to the mouth of the cave:  According to Oscar Hammerstein the hills in this part of the world are alive with the sound of music.

Protected path

Guides meet the tourists at the cave’s mouth and take them through the door installed at the entrance of the cavern. Inside there’s more climbing. The two-kilometer long cave tour follows a set of fixed staircases that climb and descend 700 steps, in the process gaining and losing 440 feet of elevation.

On the inside Eisriesenwelt is a wonderland of ice formations. Indeed, Eisriesenwelt translates from German as “World of the Ice Giants”. Centuries of ice have left many spectacles, from convoluted frozen flows to ice stalagmites and stalactites. Here it would be best to let the pictures do the talking but photography is not allowed inside the cave. Picture taking slows the tours, we were told. It’s probably just as well, as the burning flames from portable lanterns are the only light inside the voluminous cavern. Under the circumstances taking quality pictures would be challenging at best. So the easiest way to see what Eisriesenwelt looks on the inside is to look elsewhere on the Internet. Better yet is to see it first hand.

A section of the via ferrata

Approaching the entrance of the cave

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