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.

Summer flowers

I wanted to show you the beauty of our summer flowers, particularly that of our red poppies. And if you recall my cherry blossom photos posted this spring, you’ll find a certain photo of ripening cherries posted below quite appetizing.

Lacul Oasa and Transalpina

The second leg of our trip through the Southern Carpathian Mountains, whose first leg took us through Obarsia Lotrului and Lacul Vidra, now took us by Lacul Oasa and the Northern portion of the Transalpina, a high-altitude road which offers unsurpassed vistas and which I documented through photos in late fall of last year.

This picturesque, unpaved portion of the Transalpina Road is also quite dangerous. The rocky cliffs you see hanging above it are eager to hurl rocks at passersby. It’s a situation made worse by man’s presence there. They blasted through the rock to make the road (a necessary evil) but they also set up a temporary concrete factory there and chewed through yet more rock to make the stuff. Until vegetation grows back on that slope to hold together the rocks, or measures are taken to reduce the rock falls, it’s a dangerous section of the road. Rocks were falling right by us as we drove through.

Be sure to view the full gallery posted below for more photos.

Sighisoara: off the beaten path

This Labor Day, we drove into Sighisoara and we decided to see it differently from the way most of its visitors see it. The typical route is to park at the bottom of the hill, walk up the stairs, see the clocktower, tour the piazza, buy some trinkets and go back down…

We drove into the outskirts, climbed up one of the adjacent hills, found a clearing, and got some interesting views of the city that way.

Afterward, we went up into the fortress to see if we could see some spots we hadn’t yet seen, and after walking up a well-known side street, were rewarded with the open gates of the rectory. We went right inside the courtyard and had a marvelous walk up into the gardens adjacent to the fortified walls.

We were greeted by a very pregnant and friendly kitty in the courtyard, who acted as our host for the duration of our visit.

The human hosts saw fit to ruin the architecture with polycarbonate sheeting as cover and communist-era poured concrete as a rude balustrade for the balcony. The satellite dish is apparently a modern pre-requisite.

Back to our walk in the beautiful garden.

In this view of the fortified tower, you can see the city and the river in the background.

Our feline host got a belly rub, which made her very happy indeed.

She then accompanied us to the gate.

We stopped at one of the local establishments for some lemonade.

Here are some more photographs from the streets of the Old Town.

In the hills outside Medias

It was the summer of 2009 and during a walk in the hills outside Medias, I recorded this video with a Canon G10. It was peaceful and quiet and a soft summer breeze helped take away the heat that rose from the valley below. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

The music is Rondo No. 3 in A Minor (K511) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by David H. Porter. It’s public domain, available from MusOpen.org.

And here’s a photo gallery from the same outing, including some panoramic shots.

Medias in 2006

Here are photos from Medias, taken in the summer of 2006. Back then, I used the Kodak v610 digital camera. If you’d like to learn more about the city of my childhood, I’ll refer you to its Wikipedia page.

Medias was famous during medieval times for its wine, which is even mentioned in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. Virtually all of the hills that surround the city (and there are many of them) are terraced or bear the signs of past vineyards. Nowadays, they’re barren. Untended, the vineyards withered away, past glories and all.

The outskirts of the city are interesting. The landscape is dotted with houses here and there, some deserted, like the one below. Houses like these exist in the city as well. If they aren’t reclaimed by their owners or restored, they will perish, and that will be a pitiable loss given their age and history.

Let’s look at more beautiful scenes from nature.

Winter in Poiana Brasov and Brasov

Ligia and I got to spend a bit of time in Poiana Brasov recently. Following are a few photos I took as we visited the mountain resort after some significant snowfall. Naturally, everything was blanketed in the smooth, powdery white stuff, and the light just happened to be perfect.

Incidentally, these are some of the first photos I edited with the new Lightroom 4. Enjoy!

Compare these photos with these, taken a few months ago in the same approximate locations.