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Never thought I will visit a salt mine – let alone one that started in 1600’s and is still producing the product – sodium chloride.  This mine is located in the Swiss vallée du Rhône about 75 minutes drive from Lausanne.  Apparently, they have been welcoming tourists for many years – hence, this very informative website. You can even book underground trekking tours in the mine !  On display is a visitor book, in which Alexander Dumas signed when he visited – the guy had nice handwriting.

First, you walk in through this narrow entrance with wooden support beams, just what you expect a mine to look like.

Looking down one of the shafts, there is water at the bottom that you can barely see but can hear it.

To reach the center of the mine, we rode in these tiny train carriages, each carrying 4 passengers inside and two outside at either end. Since J and J came with us, we had our own carriage.

The train ran for about 10-15 minutes – so we did travel quite far into the mountain but without much change in elevation.

It can be quite claustrophobic as the ceiling is rather low.  The bench seats four with all facing one side of the carriage.

The guide spent lots of time explaining all aspects of salt mining, both the history and the technology, in French !  I only thing I learnt is that they pump water underground to dissolve the salt and pump the saline back up to the surface for evaporation.

There was a bit of walking after we got out of the train. The place is immense and there are tunnels in every direction.

I have no idea how they manage ventilation and humidity down here. Temperature does not change much at all.  

They have many exhibits explaining how mining was carried out and the equipment that was used, e.g., the history of lighting in tunnel.

Minerals exhibits too, some glow in the dark. In reality, the place was much darker than what these photos are showing.

They have an underground tavern that can cater up to 150 people !  It must be a prime middle-earth convention space.

And also a modern looking bar.

The mine is still producing salt and you can buy it at the shop.  But on foot, we never saw any of the working machines and there was no hint that there is a mine underneath it.  Google map shows a lot more above ground.

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