The brine pipeline trail
Most of the salt mining in these mountains has to be extracted using water, by pumping it into the mines. The salt dissolves and the solution is later boiled so that only the salt remains as the water evapourates. A brine pipeline has always been important to the economic and political status of Hallstatt. Just as important however where the forests of the Salzkammergut, as they provided the energy resources required to extract the salt. One cubic metre of wood was burnt for each tonne of salt.
As they ran out of wood
An end to the abundance of wood available was already predictable at the end of the 16th century.
"So I command, let the brine follow the forests if the forests in our mountains are scarce." This was the decision of Emperor Rudolf II in 1595.
This imperial command was put into action rapidly. The forest in question was in Ebensee and seemed to be inexhaustable. This was the start of Ebensee's status as Saline capital of the Salzkammergut.
The mine surveyors with their measuring equipment marked the route of the pipeline from the top of the mountain down into the valley with an even descent. Along cliffs, always careful to predict areas at risk of crumblin away. Soft, slose-to-nature building techniques is what this method would be called today. And so they went from the Lake Hallstatt down to Bad Goisern, past wild Lauffen towards Bad Ischl and eventually Ebensee - in total 40 kilometres.
A gift from the mountains
The foresters chose the trees most suitable for the building of the pipe, 13 000 trees with similar strength. The workers in the meantime had prepared drills of various calibres. The trunks were cut so that they were water and airproof. After all, the resulting pipeline was intended to last for the next 100 years. Recently the pipes were last renewed after the second World War. The power to transport the brine solution is a gift from the mountains, the natural slope into the valley. In 1607, the first brine arrived in Ebensee.
The bridge "Gosauzwang"
Where the Gosau valley meets the Hallstatt valley basin ("Gosaumühle"), the brine trail was interrupted. The pipes had to go deep down into the pass basin and then steeply back up into the cliff. The "zwang" created pressure to push the water back uphill. Unitl 1775 this was the main concern for the workers on the Brine trail, since the upkeep of the pipe in this area was far too demanding. Emperor Franz Josef II decided to have the Gosauzwang bridge built in order to beat this challenge.
The bridge made from five, up to 40 m high columns with a length of 25 m and a framework made from tree stumps became a symbol of the Salzkammergut art of contruction.
The oldest pipeline in the world
Win certain areas, the construction of charming brine huts was needed, in order to help control the flow of the brine along the way. They were also used to warm up in the winter, to avoid frost damage. The pipeline was at risk of blockage without this prevention.
And today the pipeline is still there. Made of man-made materials, it is buried deep below the frost line in the ground. The Ebensee saline was also renewed. From the first round pans to an entire Saline production, that provides the salt needs of all of Austria, 370 years have passed.
The other use of this brine trail has not yet been mentioned. It is one of the prettiest and most peaceful trails in the Holiday Region Dachstein Salzkammergut. Fields and forests lead you along a wonderful and unique, record-breaking journey: the oldest pipeline in the world.