The location of our adventure was Werfen, about a 20 minute train ride from our hotel. The name of the place: Eisriesenwelt.
Now, you may be thinking, what is this place?!
Eisriesenwelt is the largest ice cave in the world! Especially with all the hot weather we were very glad for the relief in heat...although it didn't come quick enough. In order to get to the largest ice cave in the world you have to take a 10 minute walk from the train station to wait for the vintage-looking bus
to transport you the 25 minutes up the steep mountain. Then you arrive at the visitor center, purchase your tickets, and begin the arduous journey up the 20% incline mountain for your "nice" stroll up the mountain (as you'll see in our next post, it seems we keep getting duped by these advertised "walks" and "easy" hikes!).
After a 20 minute walk up the mountain you arrive at the tram station. Oh the glorious tram station! At this point you think to yourself, "We're almost there! Thank God because I don't think I could have handled much more of this hiking in this heat!"
So you cram into the sweaty tram and enjoy the views for the next 3 minutes. At this point you are trying hard not to move much since you are sure this tram must be as old as the vintage bus you rode in on and you're quite sure if that man over there in the corner sneezes this tram will pop right off the cable and tumble right down the hill like a bowling ball. And, frankly, that would horrible because, God forbid, you would have to start your 20% incline 20 minute hike up the mountain back to the tram station again! Because, by golly, you are gonna go see that damn ice cave if it kills you!
*takes in deep breath*
Anyway, we obviously made it up the mountain safe and sound, all the while admiring the terrifying treacherous trails that were chiseled out in the side of the mountain. In our next post you will read about how we fell for the trick and took the aforementioned treacherous trails up a different mountain but, thankfully, survived to tell about it. Today, gratefully, we decided not to be cheapies and to take the gloriously, albeit dangerous, tram up the face of the mountain.
After 3 minutes or 180 seconds (depending on how you look at it), we arrived at the north tram station. The excitement of our arrival was quickly squashed once we realized we needed to take ANOTHER 20 minute walk up the mountain in an even more dangerous area!!
I'm going to be honest - at this point I was thinking "aren't caves underground...like..down below the earth?!" Apparently not.
Once we finally arrived to the top we were sweating like Sherpas going up Everest at this point. (that analogy does not work at all but I don't care!) As we were trying to compose ourselves I was noticing the people surrounding us were putting on parkas, scarves, snow boots, heavy jackets, long johns. For a moment I genuinely thought that perhaps we were actually climbing Mt. Everest. Now, Christopher and I had brought a sweater and jacket a piece and a scarf. That's it. Haha. Apparently we missed the memo that his ice cave is a blistering temperature of below zero year round!
After bundling up as much as we could we waited in line for our tour. Approaching the entrance of the cave you are met by your tour guide and since there is no electric light in the cave you get a carbide lamp to hold and the tour guide illuminates the cave with magnesium ribbon.
There is an actual door to enter into the cave because the cold air and hot air mix so intensely there is an incredibly powerful
cold incredibly freezing air current that nearly blows you over once you enter the cave. This is the exact point in the journey wherein you realize if you have packed enough warm clothes to wear or not!
After walking in the sites are absolutely incredible. I can't even describe it because it is nothing like you have ever seen.
The tour is 2 hours long and involves climbing, descending, ascending over 700 steps. So, ya know, after your make your intense journey up the mountain just to arrive in the cave, they make you walk more. Don't they know we are lazy Americans?! Soo much climbing and walking! Just kidding though, we loved it all!
The caves were discovered in the mid 1800s by a group of hunters. They obviously could not explore the cave very much at that time because they were ill prepared, plus the ice was extremely invasive at the time so there wasn't much of a "cave" to be seen. Not until 1879 did a scientist push 200 meters into the cave to "officially" discover Eisriesenwelt. Slowly but surely over many decades crews of people dug into the cave to the 40 kilometers deep expanse it is now.
Needless to say it was quite impressive and we enjoyed every minute of it!
See you adventurers soon,