Salina Turda: Romania’s Amazing Salt Mine turned Museum

30 December 2013

The historic region of Transylvania has long been associated with vampires. Yet there is something in Transylvania which predates even the legends of blood-sucking fiends: salt mining has been going on in the area since Roman times.

Salina Turda is an ancient and wondrous example of a salt mine, now a museum and center for halotherapy - with a distinctively modern twist.

Yet as well as the preservation of historic mining facilities, Salina Turda holds some unexpected pleasures. It now looks as much like the lair of a James Bond villain as a salt mine – albeit a very playful Bond villain.

It has, since it reopened in 1992, become something of an underworld theme park. Visitors play minigolf, bowls and billiards or simply relax in futuristic rest rooms and breathe in the salty atmosphere which many consider to be beneficial to health, all of this hundreds of meters below the ground.

Image Credit lickr User Ben Scicluna
Image Credit Flickr User Christian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
You can even ride a big wheel....

Image Credit Flickr User Christian Bortes
...or play a game of five-aside soccer.

Image Credit Flickr User Ben Scicluna
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Steve
Although archaeologists have found evidence of the original Roman mine, what we see today is the result of activity which went on in the 1800s. The mine is split in to sections which are mines in themselves. The one nearest to the surface is the Rudolf Mine, which can be reached by way of a panoramic lift (or you can take the stairs!). The cavern is 50 meters wide and 80 meters long and dates from 1868. Salt stalactites, which grow up to three meters in length before their own weight breaks them, form on one side of this vast cavern.

Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Ben Scicluna
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
For many, the real show-stopper is the Terezia Mine which was created in the shape of a vast cone and reaches 120 meters in to the ground. This part of the mine dates from 1690 when it was first exploited on a truly industrial scale. As well as the space age recreation areas this mine is home to a lake with an island in the middle. The island was formed by salt waste which was dumped there from 1880 (although it was used in the 39-45 war as an underground shelter for the local populace).

Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
However, the designers of the mine as it stands now did not wish to destroy the history, they wanted to make their own mark. James Bond aside, the recreational area of the mine now looks like something from the future let alone the past.

Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
There is even a theater which seats several hundred people...

Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
...as well as bowl for those more inclined towards sport.

Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Janrito Kamarzov
However, great care has been taken to retain the mine's historic aspect. The shrine created by the miners is still in place and much of the interior, encrusted with salt, is very much how it was at the mine's peak.

Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr user Janrito Kamarazov
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Although the mine operated until the third decade of the twentieth century, it was in decline since the 1840s when bigger mines opened in nearby Ocna Mures. The quality of the salt being mined had deteriorated as much of the deposit had been infiltrated by clay. However, that did not stop some immense work happening within the mine – in 1853 a conveyance gallery (called Franz Joseph) of almost a thousand meters was dug out to facilitate easier transportation of salt to the surface. Half of that gallery is now used to store cheese while it matures.

Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
The First World War (1914-18) saw a peak in production at Salina Turda when Romania’s armed forces demanded large amounts of salt. Yet once the war had ended the mine’s fortunes declined until the mine closed in 1932. One rumor has it that slave labor was used at the mine but there is no historical record to demonstrate this. In fact, workers were hired on a yearly contract even though they were not paid as much as agricultural workers despite the arduous and dangerous work they undertook.

Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes
Today, the subterranean world of Salina Turda no longer echoes to the sound of labor. Legend, history and incredible design merge together to provide a distinctive and unforgettable experience to its visitors.

First Image Credit Flickr User Cristian Bortes


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