There is a reason why the Swiss excel at digging tunnels: they have been doing it for a very long time. In 1680, tunnels were dug into the Vaud Alps near Bex to get at salt buried there more than 200 million years earlier,
As indicated by legend, a youthful shepherd saw his goats liked to drink water from specific springs. Tasting the water, he discovered it was salty. Afterward, in 1475, Bernese trespassers heated up this salty water in enormous pots to extricate the salt. However, by 1680, the salty springs were evaporating. That is the point at which the burrowing began.
In those days burrowing was moderate and labourious. It took two men every month to burrow one meter. Today there is a labyrinthe of 50,000 meters of hand-burrowed underground passages, wells and exhibitions associated via trains, ways and stairways.
The visit begins with a short film in an enormous underground sinkhole. A multilingual guide with a learning of salt as profound as the mine itself at that point whisks guests through more passages and displays to a holding up underground train.
Once onboard, the train heads straight into the mountain. Far from any mobile phone signal, with overhead rock up to 800 metres deep in places, you get a real sense of how deep under the mountains you are.
There is a choice of enclosed or outdoor train seats. Riding al fresco lets you feel the breeze and take in the underground smells of salt, sulfur and other underground odours.
At times it feels like you might be on a fun park ride, except this is real! Weaving through the low tunnels gives a sense of how hard life was for the miners, working on their knees unable to stand up. These were tough times requiring a level of determination and tolerance for discomfort hard to imagine today.
After eight minutes the train arrives at its end stop, deep underground. A short walk from the train brings you to a large open cavern. Here the guide explains the surprisingly interesting history of salt.