We believe advent time is story time. That's why we've come up with something special for you: an audio play! So, get cozy with a hot tea or cocoa and a snuggly blanket, and listen attentively to the story. Because in the end, you'll have the opportunity to answer four questions and participate in a giveaway. Enjoy and good luck!
Leopold Schiendorfer was born in 1940 in Bad Ischl. After completing an apprenticeship as an electrician, he obtained his master's certification in 1966. In 1971, he joined the Saline Austria and worked as an electrical engineer in the Ischler Salzberg. From 1981 to 1994, he was primarily responsible for the Sondenfeld Bad Ischl. He is a father of three children, and both his sons followed in his footsteps, working as miners in Bad Ischl. The proud Pernecker now has 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, with the 11th on the way. He is a founding member of the IGM Mitterbergstollen (www.viasalis.at) and the author of the Pernecker local chronicle. During his active years at Salinen Austria AG, he contributed numerous articles to the company's newspaper.
Our Advent wreath story originates from one of the issues. We extend our gratitude to Leopold for his storytelling and wish him all the best and heartfelt for the future! Glück Auf!
The Story Part 1
Yesterday, a blanket of snow covered everything, and today it keeps falling, light and steady. Here in the village nestled at the foot of the Salzberg, people are calling this a picture-perfect Christmas Eve. Darkness has already set in as I hike up the steep path to the mountain lodge. A special evening awaits me: I'll be tagging along with my uncle for his night shift in the heart of the Salzberg. It's a long-awaited wish of mine, and in a way, his personal Christmas gift to me as well. I step into the lodge and see the kitchen light on. My uncle and one of his colleagues are there. The colleague looks up, a bit startled, as I come in and greet them. "Company makes Holy Night pass quicker," he comments dryly to my uncle. He's just emerged from the mine and is changing into his regular clothes. My uncle is at the stove, pouring batter into a pan. "Want some?" he asks, half-joking, "so we don't starve!" I had my fill at dinner, but the aroma of his dessert—infused with vanilla, cinnamon, and apple—is irresistible. As I enjoy the treat, the miners chat briefly about work, exchanging jargon I can’t really wrap my head around. After his colleague leaves for home, my uncle and I head out of the lodge, trudging via the snow-covered stairway to the mine's entrance. He hands me a miner's lamp, and we enter the tunnel, him leading the way, me following, walking between the train tracks.
The wooden planks beneath us are slick from the drip of the limestone above, and only our lamps cut through the surrounding darkness. After about thirty minutes, the tunnel opens up, and a set of tracks tells us we've arrived at the station. From here, a shaft descends into the depths, leading to either new tunnels in progress or to where our forebears once harvested the precious salt. My uncle starts his work, turning a big valve to adjust the water flow. Surprisingly, there's no salt in sight. "The old miners took 70 years to reach the salt in this tunnel, using nothing but hammers, iron, and black powder. They knew where the treasure they were after was hidden," he explains. He invites me to sit on a sliding bench behind him, and we slither deeper into the mountain, from limestone to salt. In the lower tunnel, now surrounded by the salt mountain, or "Haselgebirge" as the miners call it, we stop to marvel at its sparkling splendor under the lamplight. The air breezing through has polished the tunnel over time, with only the drill's scrape marks visible. We come across another large water trough, with water flowing through various compartments and over whimsical obstacles. Moving on, we enter another gallery. This one towers over us, at least four men high, where we see two stout ropes – the mountain's lifeline. These ropes are used for hauling carts filled with mined material from deep below. We follow these ropes down a wooden staircase, delving further into the earth's depths.
Today, the mine is eerily quiet. No clanking of shaft machinery, no capsules transporting materials. Just us, in the silent heart of the mountain, watching the water and brine making its way through the darkness. This constant flow, day and night, is essential for extracting the salt from the Haselgebirge. Stepping out of the shaft, my uncle announces, "Here we are." Side tunnels branch off, each named for easier reference. We leave the main path and descend into a leaching works that's just being filled with water. My uncle carefully scans the readings from a measuring trough as water cascades into the empty facility. We find ourselves standing in an enormous room, so vast that our lamps fail to fully illuminate it. Bizarre rock formations hang from the ceiling, casting ghostly shadows in the lamplight. A thought strikes me: over time, the relentless flow of water will reach the ceiling and start its transformative work. After taking in this sight, we climb back up the many steps to resume my uncle's duties. He has much to do: opening a pump to fill a conduit here, drawing brine from a pool there. Eventually, we reach a spot equipped with a simple bench made of two boards, where we take a seat. My uncle suggests unpacking the snack I brought with me. My mother had packed us apples and a loaf of bread. The snack tastes exceptionally good in the depths of the mine.
As I look around in the glow of our lamps, my eyes fall on a plaque embedded in the rock before us. It reads "Heldenwerk" with a list of names beneath. Curious, I ask my uncle about it. He explains, "Years ago, management installed this plaque. These men, listed here, worked in the Salzberg before they were called up for the war. They were all my colleagues, close friends. I climbed the Dachstein with this guy," he points to a name familiar to me from our neighborhood. "They were in their prime, never to return from the war. This mine is dedicated to the memory of these heroes. As long as it operates, miners will come here and remember them, just as we are doing today." My uncle suddenly interrupts my thoughts, urging me that it is now time to head home. Finally, back at the station, a train awaits to take us out of the mountain. In a whirl of noise and speed, we reach the tunnel's entrance. The early hours of Christmas Day greet us with a biting cold. I thank my uncle for the unforgettable experience, realizing only now how tired I am. On my short walk home, my mind still lingers in the Salzberg, the sound of flowing water still echoing in my ears.
Years have passed since that Christmas Eve as a schoolboy with my uncle in the Salzberg. He has long since left the mine, but this story is dedicated to him and all the other miners.
Alright, who's been paying attention?
Answer the following 4 questions correctly on Instagram & Facebook, and win something great:
1. What are the uncle and
How they celebrate Christmas
2. How long did it take the 'elders'
3. What does the bench look like
It's just two planks
4. What does the narrator 'hear'