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Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave

Listed under Caves & Caving in Salzburg Province, Austria.

  • Photo of Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave
  • Photo of Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave
  • Photo of Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave
  • Photo of Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave
  • Photo of Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave
Photo of Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave
Photo by gregorybrick
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This is one of the world’s premiere ice caves open to the general public, as its name, which means “World of the Ice Giants,” would suggest. It is located in the Calcareous Alps of Austria, near the town of Werfen, 40 km south of Salzburg.

The entrance to the cave is high on the side of a mountain and you must enjoy hiking upwards if you are to visit it, but I found this spectacular cave worth the effort, even if I had to crawl up on all fours. After spiraling upwards on the roads, you come to a parking lot where the hike begins. You ride a cable car to still greater altitudes, then hike some more. Upon arriving at the cave, especially on a hot summer day, you will appreciate the cold air. The 75-minute tours are conducted in German and English.

You are given a lantern, and consider yourself lucky if it doesn’t blow out when you encounter the cold blast of air that erupts when the door is opened to let you in. Here you meet the first of several long flights of stairs that run atop the steep ice slopes inside the gigantic chambers of the cave. Every so often the guide will light a magnesium taper, emitting brilliant white light, and use it to highlight especially dramatic ice formations within the cave. The ice formations come and go over the years, however, and one ice formation can slowly morph into another—thus calling forth a new story on the part of the guide. During our trip, for example, we were told that a polar bear’s leg had melted off, and it was now considered an elephant!

At one place there’s a niche in the wall containing an urn. This urn contains the ashes of Alexander von Mork, who explored the cave in 1912. He died in World War I, but his remains were placed in the cave he loved so well. The urn has prominent, ear-like handles, leading our guide, quite fluent in English, to jest about Mork’s big ears. Observing the rotundity of the urn, I ventured a jest of my own!

Written by  Greg Brick.

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