NaCl / Cluj-Napoca

Cluj-Napoca, in Northern Transylvania, is usually an energetic student town. But for the one night I was there, it was a bit deserted because classes hadn’t yet started.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Which Way To Go

In the afternoon, I took a micro-bus to Turda to see the famous salt mines. I somehow managed to get off at the wrong stop, and the mines were miles away from me. I started walking, but halfway up a long hill noticed that it was only 15 minutes until the mines closed and I wasn’t entirely sure where I was. I tried to flag down a car with the “pat the dog” hand motion used in Romania for hitchhiking. It only took a few minutes before one stopped and the family agreed to take me all the way to the entrance.

Access to the mines was via a long, damp hallway, and the temperature was about 20 degrees cooler than outside. Small passageways led to platforms overlooking a disorientingly enormous cavern. Fifteen stories below was a ferris wheel, a miniature golf course and arcade games. Children played with shovels and buckets in the sand-like salt, and there were paddleboats for putzing around the underground lake that had been formed so many meters below the surface.

Roxy Music – Grey Lagoons

See the little boats in the top right corner? This place was big.

See the little boats in the top right corner? This place was big.

It was by far one of the more surreal places I’ve visited. For an added dose of strangeness, my guidebook noted the following: “The mine operated from 1271 till 1932, after which cheese was stored here briefly. Try to note the odour…it’s said it’s not salt, but the lingering smell of decomposing horses who died decades ago from one salt-cart haul too many.”

Underground ferris wheel

Underground ferris wheel

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