Hallstatt isolated little town deep in Austrian Alps is despite its size and tiny population of only few hundred people unique in many ways. It is home of the biggest charnel house in Europe with 600 painted human skulls, the oldest wooden staircase and the oldest salt mine in the world. Entire epoch in human history carries name of this town, thanks to the finds of the burial place from the Iron Age, where remaining of 2000 people were excavated. This lakeside town surrounded by the rough mountainous terrain is so beautiful that the Chinese have built full size copy of the town. Hallstat has been populated since prehistoric times and it flourished for centuries. The main source of wealth was the salt mines in the mountains above the Hallstatt.
In the 16th century production of salt increased and it was not anymore possible to produce all demanded salt on the spot. Therefore, it was decided to build new production facility some 40 km far in the area of Traunsee. To transport the brine, solution of salt in water, from Hallstatt salt mine to new production facility where the brine would be transformed into salt construction of a new brine pipeline was needed. Therefore, building of 34 kilometre long brine pipeline was commenced in 1595. After 12 years construction and the pipeline connected Hallstatt salt mines via Bad Ischl to town Ebensee. Ebensee on the Lake Traunsee was the main port for salt export. The brine pipeline was built from 13.000 wooden pipes and had the uniform gradient from the high mountain down into the valley. It was planned that the timber pipes should last 100 years; however the last wooden pipes were replaced after the Second World War, 250 years later.
As the demand for salt increased in 18th century, building of new brine pipeline connecting salt mines and Bad Ischl was commenced. The Gosauzwang bridge, which spans over the Gosaubach valley on five slender up to 40 meter high pillars made of limestone blocks, was the most daring technical structure of the new pipeline and one of the most complicated project to build in Salzkammergut at the time of its construction. This bridge is under state protection and still in use for the same purpose.
Up to today the brine pipeline still exist. Now it is made of plastic pipes and laid far below the frost line deep into the ground. It crosses under the big Gosauzwang Bridge. It is the oldest industrial pipeline in the world still in use. One more superlative of Hallstatt area.
Today the route of the old brine pipeline (Soleweg) is used for hiking. The Soleweg is one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Austria and leads alongside the Hallstätter See and the river Traun between mountains and villages through the Inner Salzkammergut.
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