Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The mineral and silver mine at Monteneve, and the town of Vipiteno

From Bressanone we took a day trip to the mineral and silver mine at Monteneve in the mountains above the Passiria Valley. The mine itself is one of the oldest on record in Europe and was operational until about 50 years ago when it was shut down. Located at more than 6,000 feet it functions as a tourist attraction today, allowing visitors to explore the labyrinths and discover the mining process.

A picture of a helicopter flying large bags of rock up the mountain. We're not sure why, but it looked like some sort of erosion prevention perhaps.

Part of the wooden railway built to accommodate cars loaded with ore coming down the mountain. This track was the largest of its kind in Europe. (It extends for quite some distance beyond what you see here.)

Mined rock was taken first to this machine which crushed it into manageable pieces. The pieces tumbled out the chute below, into the cars, which ran down the track. The guide turned on the machine and crushed some rock for us - wow, what a noise!

The crushed rock was then taken into these machines which crushed it even further.

Each of the machines above was filled with around 6 tons of iron balls like this one (each ball weighs about 15 pounds).

Samples of various minerals that were extracted from the mine. Chief among them were lead, zinc, copper sulphate, and silver.

Because of the distance of the climb, miners lived in close proximity to the mines most of the time, only descending to their homes in the valley occasionally. Sometimes they would work up there for 5 months at a time! Because of the constant presence of the miners, a sort of village developed near the mine entrance, which included this tiny chapel dedicated to St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners.

This is a diorama of the track, with our guide explaining how it worked. The loaded cars descending down the mountain provided the force to pull the empty ones at the bottom back to the top.

After learning how the rock was treated after it was extracted, we donned hard hats and smocks to go into the mine and learn just how the rock was blasted out. Philomena posing in her hard hat....

Dad and Augustin, all ready to go.

Conditions inside the mine were cramped, to say the least. This is one of the ratways that passed as a tunnel. If you look at the ground, you can see the twin rails which loaded cars passed on.

Augustin powering the bellows which were used to pump air down into different sections of the mine.

This exhibit recreated what the bored holes into the rock would have looked like when filled with dynamite charges.

Before miners went to the expense and danger of blasting out rock, they needed to know if it was worth it. This machine is a compressed air drill used for taking core samples. It bit away into the rock and extracted a core sample about an inch in diameter, and more than 3 feet long. By examining this core, miners knew just what was inside the rock they were blasting.

Another one of the tunnels in the mine, this one shored up with pine logs.

Wow! This is a picture from an unusually tall woman that lived in the village in the valley. Talk about not wanting to meet her in a dark alley!

Outside the mine we took a walk and ate a picnic lunch, complemented by some wild blueberries we found growing.

After lunch we went to the pleasant mountain town of Vipiteno (also known as Sterzing). It is a very picturesque, if not large place. This is the main street running through the town, lined with lots of shops, bakeries, and clothing stores.

Andrew taking a drink from one of the flower-decorated fountains.

A statue of St. John Nepomucene in the town square.

Augustin found that the pigeons in Sterzing were just as hungry as the ones in Rome, and enjoyed munching on a few crumbs of his pretzel.

Mom enjoyed perusing some of the lace and line shops, including this one selling handmade German lace.

After passing a lovely afternoon we hit the open road back towards our residence. This is a shot of the road leading out of town, with the mountains in the background.

1 comment:

Storys mom said...


Howdy. Love the pictures of Austria- oh my! FYI- the very tall woman in your picture here undoubtedly has Pituitary Gigantism. This is caused by a tumor of the pituitary gland at the base of the brain which secretes excessive growth hormone beginning in childhood, before the growth plates of the long bones have closed. In addition to the excessive height, she has all the facial features, which makes the diagnosis certain. Enjoying the blog!! Mrs. Dr. Story