We have already talked to you about Tellure Park on this blog but here is a focus on an unusual activity proposed by Tellure: an underground via ferrata. In addition to the discovery of the interpretation center and the classic visits of the old silver mine, Tellure offers more “immersive” visits (to say the least) such as the underground Via Ferrata routes of different levels. These follow the routes of the old galleries and will allow you to become aware, to a certain extent, of the conditions in which the miners of the 16th century worked.
More concretely, it is a part of the old mines that has been fitted out with ladders, steps and secured by cables. I opt for the 2-hour discovery course (a more athletic 3-hour course is also available).
After getting equipped (full wetsuit, harness, helmet with headlamp and boots. You will see that all the equipment is necessary), Pascal, my certified caving guide, gives me a first advice : open your eyes to not miss anything and to get the atmosphere of the place. After a few dozen meters of walking (which allows us to acclimatize to the temperature of about 10° all year roundIn a modern gallery, Pascal gives us the safety recommendations: hang the lanyards well and leave space between the participants. After some historical and geological explanations, we left!
Thrills in the silver mine of Sainte-Marie aux Mines
A first small horizontal section just to get into the swing of things and we attack a verticality! We quickly take the good habits and we are surprised to observe around us (oxides, small stalactites,…). Pascal explains to us that the miners of the 16th century did not evolve in these large vertical underground cavities because these were divided into floors by a kind of wooden scaffolding connected by ladders. Still, what working conditions in this temperature and humidity!
We are not at the end of our surprises because after a first level, the guide lets us advance alone in a “renaissance” gallery. We quickly find ourselves in the narrowest of spaces because these galleries allow us to pass, sometimes we have to bend down or squeeze our shoulders to slip through: claustrophobic people should not go!
A historical dimension: in the mine with a guide
These galleries, the oldest, were dug with a hammer and chisel, explains Pascal. The relief of the chisel strokes left on the rock faces can be seen very well. It’s impressive to think that a miner made them 500 years ago by the sweat of his brow. Working an 8-hour day, he was only advancing a few inches a day! It must be said that the rock here is particularly hard (Gneiss) …
Harrowing days of work in dark and humid galleries. In return, the miners were rather well paid compared to other trades and benefited from other advantages (tax exemption, assistance fund,…). After this first wave of silver mining (in the mountain called Atlenberg) which lasted until the end of the 16th century, the miners attacked the Neuenberg in which silver lead was found from which no silver could be extracted before.
After various twists and turns (loss of my camera bag in a hollow,…) the gallery takes us to a cavity that must be crossed by a zip line. I had already tested it, but not in such a small space! We are not at the end of our surprises because hardly received Pascal equips us for the abseiling of about twenty meters.
The descent by abseiling goes smoothly, as does the return through the modern galleries, which offer the opportunity to discover reconstructions of installations, period photos and explanatory panels. A welcome addition to the background of this visit which has been rather sporty so far.
A little more than two hours underground and, even if the visit was beautiful and interesting, we are happy to find the light of the interpretation center… I have a thought for the miners who, 500 years ago, spent 8 of them by the light of the flame to exploit the veins of ore… It seems that the immersion worked!
- the fairly complete course
- the welcome of the guide Pascal and the material
- the atmosphere that reigns underground, rather impressive
I liked less
- the telescoping of several groups in the galleries causing short waits
My photos of the via ferrata in the Silver Mine of Tellure Park
Rates and schedules
Here you can find the rates and schedules of the Tellure Mine Park. The standard visit is free for Pass Alsace holders. Don’t forget to book if you want to do a caving tour, a via ferrata or an escape game!
You can book your tickets directly here.
The address is as follows: Lieu-dit Tellure 68160 Sainte Marie aux Mines. Tellure Park is located in:
- 37 km from Colmar (about 45 minutes)
- 77 km from Mulhouse (about 1h15)
- 78 km from Strasbourg (about 1h15)
By public transport
This is not possible 🙁
If you’re hungry, Tellure Park has a food court. I have not tested it.