Mining for salt
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
On 10th August, we left Sovata at just after midday after a massive downpour for the 3 hour or so drive (131km) to Turda. It also took me a lot of driving around the block and calls to the Airbnb lady to actually find the place but find it, we eventually did, parking at the ubiquitously named Pizza Planet. Now, for the hard part. You know when you don't read the small detail on the address which says "4th floor", and you don't realise this means it is up ten flights of stairs and there is no lift? Yeah that. So we parked up, I got Tiger on my back, and we set out to find the actual entrance, which involved walking around the back of the rather communist and run down looking building, up the ten flights of stairs and finding the key in the flower pot!
So really, it was fine, the so-called "Bonjour Salt Mine Apartment" was two big bedrooms so Tiger slept in the second one, it was beautifully furnished with a Parisian Eiffel Tower theme and cost £66 for two nights. Our host, Diana, was super helpful with endless Whatsapp messages and clear directions including paying for our parking as you can only pay by Romanian SMS. The kitchen was brilliant and the washing machine well used by us! It didn't have AC though and it was pretty hot versus other places we had stayed - we had to have the windows open to catch a breeze -, but the big thing was the steps... man oh man. I really put my back into it but with Tiger on my back the whole time, I carried first the big silver suitcase up ten flights of stairs (the apartment is literally on the top floor of the building), then down again to get the travel cot, up and down again to finally get the food bag and the laptop bag. I honestly was ready to collapse by the time I made the 4th trip up the stairs and any thoughts of going to the salt mine that day were banished.
Tiger napped in the second room in her own travel cot (double points for having quite heavy dark curtains in her room!) then we went down to the supermarket and the huge park / children's playground which we overlooked. It was brilliant, with a big fountain in the middle. On reflection, I wonder if I'd question staying in Turda to visit the salt mine (Cluj Napoca seemed nicer, but it is quite a bit further to travel back on yourself) but equally we didn't really make it out of the district we were staying in and downtown Turda sounds nicer!
On 11th August, after a massive sleep we both deserved (!), we headed off to the Turda Salt Mine "Salina Turda" which was about 2 miles drive away. The car park was right at the entrance (we paid 8 lei, £1.50) and the adult ticket was 40 lei (£7.50) and Tiger was free. One thing I definitely hadn't appreciated was to bring extra clothes for kids as it is 35 degrees Celsius outside but just 10 degrees Celsius in the mine. I hadn't brought jumpers etc for Tiger but I put her in an extra pair of trousers and a vest at the entrance.
Salt has been extracted in Turda since ancient times, and the mines were worked here until 1932, when competition rendered them unprofitable. After World War 2, the cool interior of the mine was used for storing cheese! It is now quite an interesting tourist attraction with mini golf, ferris wheel, ampitheatre, table tennis tables, a bowling alley, pool tables and even a boating lake at 120m under the ground, although all of this was not really why we were visiting and we mainly just gazed in surprise at it all!
Our trip started after some steps at the 917m long Franz Josef gallery, dug in the late 19th century. From here, we went down the steps 42m to the last of the mines to be constructed. The ceilings are spiked with salt stalactites and it's a truly beautiful and spectacular place to visit. We avoided the lift and walked down the stairs, and up again 13 floors to exit (after the ten floors at the Airbnb I think I was on a mission)! There is a further lift down to the boating lake, but we just gazed down at it.
After the salt mine, we left around 1.30pm ish to drive to visit Cluj Napoca, some 32km (45 minutes away), and the largest city in the region. It was definitely not as lovely as Sighișoara or Brașov but I definitely liked it a lot. Typically, our time ended with a visit to a children's playground in Cluj, and we managed to eventually escape the car park with a bit of drama (my ticket became unreadable!) and help coming via a car park man on an electric scooter! Finally, home to our lofty, hot apartment in Turda. I spent quite a considerable time trying not to think about carrying all the gear down the stairs but in actual fact it was a lot easier going down than up!