What do you do on a rainy afternoon in Vienna, when you are stuck indoors as touring the city is just not as much fun in the rain. Well, we would say, drive down to Hinterbrühl, Lower Austria to explore Seegrotte, which is said to be one of the largest underground lakes in Europe.
History of Seegrotte
Seegrotte is a cave system located 27 kilometers away from Vienna city, which operated as a gypsum mine between the years 1848 to 1912. The ambitious expansion plan of the mine went haywire when the blasting operation resulted in the mine being filled with 20 million liters of waters! It was then opened to the public in the year 1930 as a mining museum and has been a major tourist spot ever since. During the World War II, the German army converted Seegrotte into an airplane factory to build world’s first fighter jet “Heinkel HE 162 Salamander” using about 2000 prisoners from the war. The underground lake was pumped dry to undergo the secret operation. After the war ended, Seegrotte was once again open for public, and currently has guided tour all throughout the year.
Guided tour of the Seegrotte
As we did not have many options of exploring Vienna city, we drove to the Lower Austria after an unsatisfactory tour of the Schönbrunn Palace (we had to entirely skip the gorgeous garden due to the rains). As a rule, we generally pre-book our tickets to such sights, but since this was an impromptu plan we bought our guided tour tickets on the spot and waited for our slot. Before entering the cave, you will be warned of the temperature inside (9° C, all throughout the year) and will be offered warm jackets but additional charges are applicable.
Our guide was a cheerful Austrian who spoke in English and German, made sure our visit was an interesting one. The tour began with the walk across 400metre tunnel which was the adit (passage) for the miners to carry wagons into the Hinterbrühl mountain for Gypsum mining. As we walked into the mine, the artifacts that are kept in display gave us a sneak peek into the fascinating history of the miners in the olden days, their mining techniques and tools used. During the old times, miners used horses to pull the wagons to the exit. Sadly, the horses lived in these dark tunnels for as long as 20 years that went permanently blind.
There was also a model of the “Heinkel HE 162”, and also, we were given a comprehensive info by our guide on how the old mine was converted to an aircraft factory. The mine has several tunnels that once lead deep into the old excavation site, but today they are not accessible to the public. There is a small chapel built in the memory of the miners who lost their lives in the mining accidents. There is also a spacious celebration room, where the owner of the old mine arranged for festivities for the miners every year on the 4th of December.
After completing the tour of the upper floor, our tour group was then taken to the lower floor through the incline ramp, which earlier used to carry ores from the bottom to the top floor. As we reached the base, we saw the underground lake, ‘Big Lake’ glistening in the soft glow of the cave lamps. Now, comes the most interesting part of the tour, the boat ride around the grotto. The lake is pristine and very pure, the soft lights give it a very mystical and romantic touch to the ride. We were so engrossed with the gorgeous lake that we completely forgot to change ISO settings of the camera, and ended up clicking real blurry pics of the lake.
One more interesting fact about Seegrotte is that it was the shoot location for the 1993 Disney Movie, “The Three Musketeers”. There is a replica of the boat used in the movie that is secured in the lake, a great photo op we must say!
The cave tour and the boat ride was a fun outing, and we are glad we decided to drive down to Hinterbrühl to explore it. The entrance fee to Seegrotte is €11 for adults and €8 for children. There is a family ticket (2 adult and 2 children), which costs €30. Please keep in mind that the cave temperature is 9° C come rain or shine, so be sure to carry warm clothes along.
Hope you guys enjoyed reading about our impromptu trip to Hinterbrühl, Lower Austria. Do share your experience of such unplanned visits while traveling. Also, do leave comments on your take on this gorgeous underground lake! Do share and subscribe to get future updates from Tales of Travelling Sisters!