We visited Eisriesenwelt, literal translation “World of the Ice Giants”. These are ice caves located south of Salzburg. The caves are inside the Hochkogel mountain in the Alps. It is the largest ice cave in the world, extending more than 42 km and visited by about 200,000 tourists every year.
The Van got us a long way up the mountain to the carpark. The advertising blurb implies that a cable car takes you up to the caves. When you purchase the tickets however it becomes obvious that this is not entirely the case…
The temperature was predicted to get to 33 degrees celsius today so we thought we were onto a winner visiting an ice cave where it would be zero degrees, but it turns out there is a 20 minute walk up a steep mountain side to the cable car which then takes you up 500m to a restaurant and another 20 minute walk up a steep mountain side to the entrance to the cave.
Despite the hot sunshine I was determined to make it to the cave without complaining. I set off at a slow but steady pace and we made to the restaurant at the top of the cable car where we have some coffees and lunch. I then set another slow and steady pace to the cave. Despite now being above the snow line it was really warm and sweaty.
The views on the walk were amazing but I didn’t stop I just kept walking leaving Dave to take the photos.
Once we reached the cave entrance the shade was most welcome and we got out our jumpers and gillets. We were first in line when the cave door was opened by the guide and the cold icy blast of air near knocked us off our feet. It also blew out the carbide lamps we had been given to light our way! Apparently this blast can be as much as 100 km per hour. Another thing that was mentioned at this point, no photos inside the cave!
Once inside the caves we were informed that there were 700 steps up and 700 steps down on this hour long tour. All this exertion was certainly keeping us warm.
The guide gave us a bit of history of the cave. The first official discovery of Eisriesenwelt was by Anton Posselt, a natural scientist from Salzburg, in 1879, though he only explored the first two hundred meters of the cave as the ice required ice picks and crapons to scale the steep wall of ice at that time. Now you can just climb up the many wooden stairs.
Alexander von Mörk led several expeditions into the caves beginning in 1912, which were soon followed by other explorers. Von Mörk was killed in World War I in 1914, and an urn containing his ashes is inside a niche in the cave as per his wishes.
The caves have beautiful ice stalactites and stalagmites along with large sweeping areas and steep climbs several metres thick. The guides show these off using strips of magnesium to lit them up. They really are magical to see, I think enhanced by the fact that the only light sources are the yellow carbide flames of the lamps and the bright white light of the magnesium strips.
Once the tour was finished we made our way back down the mountain stopping at the shop and cafe for drinks. I had an Almdudler, Austrians second favourite soft drink after Coke. It’s a herbal extract carbonated drink and was quite refreshing!
Once we’d slowly walked back to The Van in melting temperatures, we drove ‘around the corner’ and back in to Germany…