Tuesday, 9 August 2011

World of the Ice Giants

We headed to Eisriesenwelt today, the world's largest ice caves, along with every other rain-drenched tourist in the area. After turning off the motorway we were forced to park at the bottom of the mountain. Not wanting to wait for the bus up the mountain, we decided to walk the 20 minute drive. 30 minutes up the mountain, dripping from the rain and sweat, with 50 photos of the same castle, and 7 full coaches having past us, I was starting to regret 'our' decision. On reaching the top about an hour and a half after setting off we discovered the wait for the 3 minute cable car ride was 2 hours, so we decided to walk the next section too. The estimated time was 90 minutes. We nailed it in 45. Must have been the cheese kranski and jam donut - lunch of champions.

We approached the ice caves with a little anxiousness as we were already soaked and cold, without being surrounded by ice. We were unjustifiably grumpy when our English-speaking tour group was mostly made up of native German speakers. Our guide, David, started by explaining the stats of the tour: worlds largest ice caves, 42 km deep with ice for the first kilometre, 1400 steps (700 up and 700 down), and all at freezing point. The caves were first discovered by Anton Posselt, a natural scientist, in 1879. Tours were conducted from the 1920s taking up to 8 hours. Our tour took 70 minutes and my hands and nose were glad of the end. Our way was lit by small lanterns which every second person carried, plus strips of magnesium which David burned to light up himself and the towers of ice. It was all quite dramatic. When asked, David was quite proud to reveal he had trekked a further 26km into the cave, and beyond that point would require sleeping in the cave.

The caves were breath-taking and walking up the stairs in the dim with ice both sides was vertigo inducing. When our guide climbed up into the ice figures and lit up the ice from the inside the view was amazing (very blue). The inside of the cave was very changable, one of the biggest figures that we saw today was not there 90 years ago, and one of the floors we walked on would have been 10m lower when the tourists came in in the '20s. The oldest ice found in the cave so far is 1000 years old. This cave is beautiful and has been shortlisted as one of the 7 natural wonders of Europe.

Early to bed tonight and hopefully we won't awake as two giant balls of mucus again.

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