Austria: Dachstein Eisriesenhöhle Ice Cave
Eisriesenhöhle literally meant “giant ice cave”. High up the Dachstein mountain at about 3000m in elevation lies a cave filled with ice stalactites and stalagmites (not to be confused with a similar albeit larger cave in Warfen in a different mountain). It takes a cable car and then a very steep hike up the mountain to the cave entrance. The temperature is zero Celsius inside (which I was utterly not ready for – in shorts and sandals and T-shirt for a 1-hour long guided tour – froze to near death! ). As water melts in the summer above the cave and seeps through the rock it freezes in the cold cave. In winter, the cave temperatures are much higher then outside and the cold air gets sucked in and then deposits more moisture onto the ice – so the ice is constantly growing – it’s at 9m deep at one spot. There are several sizable ice formations (one was officially supposed to look like a bear but it somehow resembled a phallus). The lighting is a bit over the top with changing colors. And the absolute best part is walking on a swinging suspension bridge high above the icefall over an abyss filled with ice – absolutely surreal!