The unique journey through the “Mountain of Treasures"
Prior to Corona, about 33,000 guests visited Salzwelten Altaussee in the Salzkammergut region of Styria annually through 2019. Here, in Austria’s biggest active salt mine, approximately 400,000 tons of salt are produced annually. Salt has been mined here since the year 1147, while visitors have also been welcomed to the mine since the 1920s.
In Altaussee, visitors walk the roughly 2 km tour route in around 90 minutes, with the mine galleries sometimes leading through pure rock salt. The guided tour focuses on salt mining as well as rescued art treasures. Highlights include the Barbara Chapel, built out of salt rocks 700 m deep within the mountain, 2 miners’ slides as well as a newly staged space, including multimedia presentation, where looted art treasures had been hidden at the end of World War II. The crowning highlight is a light show at the subterranean salt lake holding 6 million liters of brine, for which renowned up-and-coming composer Michael Frankenberger provided the perfect musical accompaniment. The underground lake stage is an extremely popular and exclusive event location for various concerts and special events.
Altaussee as art depot
During the Second World War, priceless art treasures, many of which had been looted, were hidden from the Nazis inside the tunnels of the mine in Altaussee. Paintings, sculptures, though also coin and jewelry collections from across Europe were stored here safe from bombing. Shortly before the end of the war, the intention was to destroy the artworks. Only the courageous commitment of local miners was able to prevent them from being blown up at the last moment.
The story of how they were saved from destruction is told in a new exhibition “The Fortunes of Art”. In 2019, the original 270 m² site in the “Springerwerk” where they had been warehoused was completely renovated and reconceived under expert guidance. The Tassilo Chalice from Kremsmünster Abbey, Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges, works by Vermeer and Bruegel as well as the Ghent Altarpiece are presented as replicas with the assistance of 3-D projections. In the course of research, two original oil paintings that had been rescued, actually resurfaced after many years, now taking their rightful place in the exhibition.
Every Wednesday in July and August, special tours on this topic are offered under the title “Bombing Michelangelo”.
Tours for children
In July and August, special children’s tours are offered with Sally. Accompanied by a Salzwelten guide, young visitors explore the mine tunnels in Altaussee. The playful tours