National Geographic : 1951 Jun
790 Economic Cooperation Administration Fair "Ski Rabbits" (Amateurs) Hitch a Tow up Gentle Slope Sixteen cable cars and 83 ski lifts make climbing easy in mountainous Austria. Snow is thick from Christmas through Easter. Skiing on the highest slopes continues through May. Room and board at the most expensive resorts cost no more than $6 a day. times. Five Salzkammergut mines still pro duce more than 220,000 tons of it a year. Donning coveralls and carrying miners' lamps, we explored the biggest, in Hallstatt, which has been in constant operation since 1285 and was first worked some 3,000 years ago. Deep inside the mountain our guide ex plained the mine's workings. Miners blast tunnels to big salt pockets and dig chambers in them. Water, pumped in, slowly dissolves the salt. Time and again the ever-growing chambers are drained and refilled, until the deposit is exhausted, which may take as long as 25 years. A hundred finished caverns and 65 "live" workings honeycomb the mountain like holes in a Swiss cheese. From those still productive a river six times as briny as the ocean pours forth and is piped to Ebensee, 25 miles away, for evaporation. On this mountain 2,000 graves of prehistoric lake dwellers have been discovered. They yielded such a wealth of salt-preserved early Iron Age artifacts that Hallstatt gave its name to that period of Europe's development, roughly from 1000 to 500 B.C. Occasionally a Hallstatt miner will still find an object that belonged to an Iron Age predecessor. When he does, he merely shrugs and says it belongs to "the old man." Into the town museum it goes, for the enlighten ment of Atomic Age visitors. Returning to Salzburg, we picked up a young couple hiking along the road. Their idea of a vacation, we discovered, is to put on stout shoes and camping clothes, shoulder rucksacks, and see their native land on foot. "Each year," the husband told us in Eng lish, "we take two weeks and explore some part of our country we're not acquainted with. On every trip we discover places that seem lovelier than those we saw the year before. "Perhaps I shouldn't be the one to say so," he added, "but it's a very beautiful country." Not only did I agree, but, after two months and 3,000 miles of travel in this Alpine re public, I thought his observation a modest understatement.