The Salt Mine of Turda

Turda. An unfortunate name for a town, but a great place for a day trip from Cluj. What does a town named Turda have to offer? My host Horia provided a few sayings about the place: ‘Never take a pig or a wife from Turda’, ‘In Turda, even the chickens are horses’. Well I’m not sure I ever got to the bottom of those mysterious statements. But we did go to the bottom of an old salt mine.

When I say old, I mean really, really old. Like 500 years old. This mine has been pumping out salt for a long while, which means its has a pretty huge undergound chamber carvered out. And apparently, they don’t like the idea of tourists going in and filling their table salt containers with a few whacks of the ole hammer — or at least that’s what that sign meant to me.

So when you cross through this door, you enter into a long tunnel. All ye who enter: Be Not Clausterphobic; it’s a long way horizontally out of that mine that’s for sure. It was very mesmerizing looking down this long tunnel with the lights every 20 meters. I thought that the white stuff on the walls was the raw salt that was being mined away, but actually it was not the same stuff that was being mined — the raw salt crystals that were being carved out of the deepest parts of the mine.

The main chamber has been getting bigger and bigger for hundreds of years. They just kept cutting out new horizontal slices out of the ground every few years (until the mine closed in the 50’s). The picture does not do justice to the size of the place — to get from the roof where you enter to the floor of the chamber, you go down a rickety 20 story staircase (seen in the background of the picture). The strands of fiborous material you see hanging from the roof are actually salt stalagtites of sorts — water has leaked into the chamber from the roof and has saturated the salt and formed those very dangerous stalagtites. They won’t let you into the space underneath them because it would be quite dangerous. It was crazy to think about the walls being composed of raw salt crystals, but it was true! You can lick the walls and taste the salt to make sure…

And who could miss this record breaking salt crystal that was taken from the mine. It’s a big load that’s for sure — a microwave sized, prefectly transparent salt crystal. I’ll never look at table salt the same way again.

Thanks to Stephan for driving us out there and taking us out for a great day in Turda. And that was only half of the day…

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