Events

A quick intro to the Dacia 1100

Have you ever wondered what one of the first cars made in Romania looks like? It was first made in 1968 and it was called the Dacia 1100. It was a faithful copy of the Renault 8 and it was, in my opinion, a beautiful car. Perhaps it was under-powered, but given its chassis, suspension and brakes, that was a good thing. The production of the Dacia 1100 lasted from 1968-1972, after which it was replaced by the Dacia 1300, itself a copy of the Renault 12.

I always found the design of the 1100 much more handsome than that of the 1300 and since only 44,000 of them were sold, they’re quite the rare sight. There were almost 2,000,000 Dacia 1300 models made but given their age and poor construction, they’ve become a rare thing these days as well.

The Romanian Dacia 1100 Club paid a visit to Medias today and several beautiful Dacia 1100 cars were on display, including a couple of the more powerful 1100S variant. That’s where I took these photos, which I hope you’ll enjoy!

Here’s more info on Dacia cars, on the 1100 model and also on the 1300 model.

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Places

The Turda Salt Mine

The Turda Salt Mine (Salina Turda) has been in use since antiquity. The Romans most likely got their salt from there after they conquered Dacia. Although the deposits are plentiful, salt mining was stopped there in 1932. When I say they’re plentiful, I mean the salt deposits run underground from Turda to Dej and go as deep as 2,600 meters. They’re barely scratching the surface in the Turda and Dej Salt Mines.

When I talk to our friends from abroad about Romania, I talk about how rich it is in natural wealth. Salt is just part of that incredible wealth. The Romans and then the Austro-Hungarian empire were so keen to get their hands on Transilvania because of its gold and silver deposits as well and nowadays, a foreign gold concern is trying to scrape whatever gold is left, through whatever means necessary, including environmental disaster, from Rosia Montana. But let’s get back to the salt.

You enter the mine through a tunnel that stretches about 300 meters.

On the walls, the meters are marked with inscriptions.

After walking through the tunnel for what seems like a looooong time, you finally reach the inside of the salt mine, where everything is solid salt (the floor, the walls and the ceiling).

The main tunnel soon breaks off into different directions.

In one of the halls, the machine used to mine the salt, called a salt scraper, is on display. Initially, it was powered by men, then by horses. It would scrape horizontally and vertically.

Salt would then be loaded onto iron carts and pushed outside.

One thing you notice right away is how corroded all the metal is. Inside a salt mine, it’s to be expected. For some reason, fir wood holds up in that terribly salty environment very well, so it’s used everywhere for structural support and functional purposes.

The texture of the walls ranges from pure, translucent crystal to what we know as salt, little white crystals that can be scraped off with our fingernails.

After you ascend on the staircase shown above, you enter a lower hall where one of the walls does not exist. You walk to the edge and lo and behold, you find yourself centimeters away from a vertigo-inducing precipice. It’s a vertical drop at least 150 meters down and before you have a chance to recover from that shock, you see this otherworldly appearance.

At first it seems like a spaceship parked there. Then you realize it’s an underground lake with a manmade island and wooden structures, artistically lit.

So you look around to see how you can get down there and you see this.

The solid salt walls are carved straight down, as a ravine, and they open up into a huge underground hall filled with all sorts of playgrounds.

There are elevators to ferry you up and down but the lines are long, so we took the stairs. On the walls, the years in which those levels were reached are marked with inscriptions.

The view up from the bottom of the staircase.

Inside, this is how things look.

Just when you think you can walk over to that ET island, you realize you have to descend several more levels.

This is how things look like from down there.

Great artistry can be seen in the woodwork here.

Just so you get a sense of the scale of that place.

The solid crystal salt walls have an amazing texture and just imagine, those salt deposits run over 2.5 km deep in that region.

The salty water shimmers under the plentiful lights.

This is us, on the bridge.

The fir planks had gained an interesting patina from the rubbing of people’s shoes and the salt deposits.

On the walls, delicate salt stalactites had begun to form, as a result of the water condensation generated by all the visiting crowds.

As amazing as the Turda Salt Mine looks today, with its huge vertical drops downward on solid salt walls, just imagine how it would look if they’d mine the whole 2,600 meters and you’d actually look down that entire drop. It would be deeply frightening and amazing and otherworldly and spectacular, even more so than it already is.

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Thoughts

Emperor Trajan was a “real American”

As I think upon the wars and conflicts of recent times (Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria), and the reasons for their occurrence, I’m reminded of Romania’s past, and its conquest by a newly elected Roman emperor by the name of Trajan.

If the picture isn’t clear to you by already, let’s connect the dots.

Back then, the region now known as Romania was known as Dacia. It was a sparsely populated but very rich country: the soil was fertile, and I’m not just talking about agriculture. Dacia had incredibly large (and easy to get to) deposits of gold, silver and other important metals. The Dacian kings had so much wealth they didn’t know what to do with it.

The Roman empire lay to the south of Dacia, and it took plenty of money to run it. They started to feel the bottoms of the coffers as they dug in for more aureus and denarius. The kings of Dacia weren’t exactly bright when it came to not advertising their wealth. They advertised it, alright — so much so, that the Romans, who were allies with the Dacians, knew exactly where to look when their money was no longer sufficient.

What did the Romans do? Exactly what the Americans did when it came to Iraq. They invented a reason for going to war with the Dacians. They manufactured a dispute over the border between the Roman Empire and Dacia and once the pretext was in place, they invaded. They were pushed back the first time, but Trajan was persistent. After all, he didn’t have a choice. It was either Dacia’s money or he’d have to run Rome on a budget, and we all know how budget disputes work (hint: just have a look at current-day Washington, DC).

Before long, he’d succeeded in invading Dacia. He didn’t stop there though. He murdered virtually all of Dacia’s nobility, tore down all its cities and temples, erased any sign of Dacia’s culture, and began a decades-long exploitation of Dacia’s mineral reserves, pouring all of it into Rome’s hungry coffers. It’s estimated that he stole over 3,000 tons of gold and over 5,000 tons of silver, all in all. And he didn’t stop there, either. No, he colonized Dacia with Romans. He took all sorts of people from all corners of the Roman empire, people who were more than happy to rape and pillage their way across Dacia, and he let them pick their favorite spot and settle down with their loot. But that wasn’t enough for him, no. He had to build a monument, Trajan’s Column, to commemorate his murderous deeds. It still stands in Rome to this day, a monument to his legacy.

The Bush administration tried to do the same sort of thing in Iraq. They wanted to get at the oil reserves, they needed a pretext, they made it up and went in. But you see, things are a lot murkier in modern times. These days you can’t massacre people and suspend human rights like you used to be able to do it in ancient Rome. So getting at the oil proved to be a lot trickier than the Americans thought. They had to tack on a bunch of other goals to their mission, like “installing a democratic regime in Iraq”, “restoring peace and order to the country”, “training Iraq’s police and army”, “restoring Iraq’s infrastructure”, etc. How many years has it been since they went in? I lost count. They’re still not out of there, and I don’t know how much oil they’ve actually managed to get out of the whole ordeal. And how much money did they spend so far? I don’t want to think about it, because as an American taxpayer, I have to foot part of the bill for it…

I have no idea why the Americans went into Afghanistan. I think they had to do it in order to pump new life into the pretext for attacking Iraq, which was WMDs and Osama bin Laden. They went in there to get him but over time they found they had to tack on a bunch of other goals to their agenda, like in Iraq… And we’re still not out of there, nor will we be out of there any time soon…

The Americans tried a different approach with Egypt and Syria. They encouraged revolts (the CIA’s good at that sort of stuff, they’ve done it plenty before) and let their chosen “rebels” topple those governments. They also co-opted NATO, so they could share the costs and (unfortunately) the loot. The idea was to install people who favored them and hopefully that would make it easier to get at the oil reserves. Things were hit and miss for a while, but so far, so good, sort of… Again, things are a lot murkier these days, you just don’t get the same bang for your buck that you used to get back in the day. Things are on track for the oil contracts, but who knows… these rebel governments often turn on you, as they’ve done in the past and history speaks for itself there. We’ll see.

Let’s end this little trip through memory lane, shall we? I hope I’ve connected enough dots for you to see the whole picture, right? Emperor Trajan was the mythical “real American”. He was a go-getter. His empire had a problem and he went in there and solved it within a few years. Became a hero. The Romans revered him.

It didn’t go the same way for Dubya, although he wanted it so badly. The guy even went on a battleship, flew a fighter jet and said the war was over… about a decade before it even started to end, but hey, maybe history will be gentler on him, who knows.

Back to Romania (or Dacia). Whichever. It’s all the same, even now. Romania still has some gold left, because Trajan didn’t steal all of it. The technology of his time didn’t allow it, or he would have. And this time, the Americans (or is it Canadians) want it. Actually, they want the money, not necessarily the gold. In the end, it boils down to yet another exploitation of Romania. Except these days things are a lot murkier (I keep saying that). And the company that wants to steal abscond take buy Romania’s gold has found that they too have to tack on a few extra goals to their agenda in order to sell it. So they’ve promised to set up a village museum, to make sure they don’t pollute (they will actually poison the whole area with cyanide), to do a bunch of other pointless things, etc, but in the end it still boils down to 96% of the gold for them and 4% of it for the puppet Romanian government. What a steal!

The moral of the story is this: it sucks to be Romania. Actually, it sucks to be a country with any important natural reserves, because unless you’re the bully on the block, you will be invaded, raped, pillaged, colonized, stolen and partitioned — and this will happen to you over and over and over and over, throughout history, until you will no longer have anything worth stealing, in which case you will then have to become a bully and start doing unto others as they’ve done onto you.

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