Salina Turda and Hunedoara Castle

I’ve been to exactly one salt mine before (in Poland) and that was a fantastic visit. The underground caverns were huge and the place was set up to teach visitors about the history of salt mining in Europe and how prized it was as a commodity, as well as how it was actually extracted to the surface. This mine was somewhat different.

Salt was first extracted at Salina Turda since antiquity, and the mine continuously provided table salt from the Middle Ages (apparently first documented mentions of this salt mine date back to the 10th and 11th centuries) and was still in use in the early 20th century until 1932.

There are several different chambers open to the public the first of which are the two entrance tunnels – one ‘the OLD tunnel’ is about 700m long and accessed from a small car park and is called the Franz Josef Tunnel. The other is the cunningly named, NEW tunnel which is accessed from a larger newer car park and visitor facility and has only a 180m access tunnel. Yes, bet you can guess which one our hapless guide took us to. :/ To be fair though, he and the driver had never been here before, so I guess we were all pretty chuffed they found the place at all.

One of the main points of interest is the octagonal shaped, ‘Crivac’ room, which houses an enormous which called a ‘crivac’ or sometimes a ‘gepel’. It was pretty rudimentary machinery that was used to lift salt rocks to the surface – the one here presently was built in 1880-1881. This particularly machine is labeled as being the only one of its kind remaining in situ in a salt mine in Romania and possibly in all of Europe. .From the access tunnels, you traverse down some flights of steps to the Franz Joseph Gallery (I can’t see the words Franz Joseph ever written without hearing a thickly accented Austrian art gallery guide at the Kunsthistoiriches also mentioning the Empress Maria Terr-issa!) The steps are old and odd heights and not for the long of foot. This is a conical mine (bell mine). Salt mining in this type of room left behind underground halls of impressive dimensions: 90 metres (300 ft) height and 87 metres (285 ft) diameter. The depth from the mouth of the shafts to the base of the mine is 112 metres (367 ft). A “cascade of salt”, an underground lake, stalactites, and salt efflorescences complete the inert equilibrium of the giant bell. The underground lake is between 0.5 and 8 metres (1.6 and 26.2 ft) deep and occupies about 80 percent of the operating room hearth area. In the center of the lake there is an island formed from residual low-grade salt deposited until the late 19th C.

Now, it houses an odd amusement park having been refurbished to be a tourist centre in 2010 at a cost of $5.6M Euros.

The view from the Franz Joseph Gallery. At the far end you can see the 187 steps in 13 flights of stairs that are required to access the lower areas of the Rudolph mine.

Looking down at the paddle boats from the Gallery… weird. There is even a Ferris wheel down here, an art gallery, a cafe and a gift shop (of course!)Thankfully there is also a lift / elevator – if you do find the stairs difficult (and ffs when there is 187 of them, who doesn’t?) you can wait in line for the lift. The lift takes about 35 seconds to get from bottom to top and vice versa and fits only 7 people at a time, so during busy times you could have quite a wait. Thankfully for us, it wasn’t particularly busy this morning and the wait was barely two minutes. There is no mention on Trip Advisor or the website or any bloody google-able page as the existence of this lift… it’s kinda alluded to, but in a ‘you might be able to use it?’ kinda way. So it wasn’t until we got here that I discovered I’d actually be able to go in.

Worryingly… there is a disclaimer by the elevator saying that the management takes no responsibility if the lift stops working! It’s hard to get a feel for the vast size of this space. The enormous Rudolf Mine is 42 metres deep, 50 metres wide, and 80 metres long. It is the last place in the mine where salt was extracted in Turda. Rudolf mine is the last place where salt was mined in Turda.

On the northwestern ceiling, you can see enormous salt stalactites that are as much as 3m long… though you can’t get that from these photos at all.

Well worth a visit in my opinion and was certainly something different from the usual church tours we’ve been doing in each town.

After the salt mine it was back on the bus – to be sure tours like this involve plenty of bus trips, but I’m honestly not sure how many more bus trips I can spend in close proximity to the particularly odious Annoying American we have in this small group. Ten is a great group size to travel with, not too big, but when you’re on a small commuter bus, suddenly ten feels way too small and you can’t get away from each other. AA has this habit of listening to her music and singing along (no, she can not sing, but that isn’t what is so offensive, it’s just the disjointed noises of someone trying to sing along when they obviously don’t know the words that is so annoying). And when she’s not singing she’s watching comedy videos and laughing out loud at full voice… honestly this woman has no inside voice, no inner monologue and if I have to hear her saying “I need to go potty, Mr G?”, one more time, I’m going to go stark raving mad. She’s just so damn inconsiderate. At the salt mines, she just fucked off – didn’t tell anyone where she was going and when we were all ready to leave we were stood around like idiots wondering where the hell she was… several jokes about 10% attrition was considered industry norm were bandied about. But it turns out she whipped in and out of the mine super quick and the decided to go looking for local shops – without telling anyone and not replying to the WhatsApp group messages. 😐 Several of the young people on the tour had already had more than their fair share of her bullish behaviour and complaint emails have already been sent by several to the tour office to try and have her reprimanded or something as it seemed Georgi was none too keen to be confronting her. Me? I’m just biding my time until it’s my turn to write a letter – and we all know how those go. 🙂

Anyway, where was I? Back on the bus and off to Hunedoara to see the famous castle variously called Corvin’s Castle, Hunyadi Castle or Hunedoara Castle (I know not why). This castle is one of *the* largest castles in Europe. It is considered one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Romania’ – though apparently so are the salt mines, so two in one day is pretty good going.

It sure looks pretty – pretty fantastical that is. The castle was originally designed for this site in the mid-15thC and was partially built between 1440-1446. Building continued on it in 1458-1480 and then there was a huge building spurt on the place in the 17th century and even more done in the 19th century – the result of which is a hodge-podge of ‘architectural improvements’ rather than any determined or cohesive intent to keep building a 15thC castle. There were the obligatory dungeons complete with torture implements which were very easily accessible right at the front of the castle, being directly off the portcullis entrance tower. I don’t know what it is about seeing dummies in medieval castles that immediately sets your expectations for a less than informative visit. That and people dressed in medjieval clothing – which this place had (one guy in Rus pants, a 14thC men’s shirt, a 15th Burgundian pouch and a seax on his belt… should have nabbed his photo). Anyway, it was still fun even if I knew the entire place had burned down in 1876 and the current castle is effectively a fanciful recreation of some modern architect’s idea of what it should look like. Gothic-Renaissance castle bits ahoy…Turrets and gargoyles…

The Legend of the Well

It is said that the well was dug by three Turkish prisoners, to whom lvan of Hunedoara promised their freedom if they found water. Hoping to be free, the prisoners dug in rock for 15 years and at 28 meters deep they manage to find the precious water. In the mean time lvan of Hunedoara had died and his wife, Elisabeth Szilagyi decided not to respect her husband’s word, and instead decided to kill the three

prisoners. As a final wish the three Turks asked the permission to write on a piece of stone in the well an inseription

that said: “You may have water, but you have no soul”, as a reproach for a promise given but not kept. It’s lovely in here and I imagine it’d be great to hold events etc., but it is so bothersome looking around and knowing very little of it is original or even in keeping with the original plan for the castle. Now this looks like a perfectly SCA throne.

After wandering through the castle we all congregated near the long drawbridge, with was out timed collection point – only to find once more that fucking AA had fucked the fuck right off. No one knew where she had gone, where she was or when she’d be back. We stood around getting crosser by the moment knowing this would cut into our time in Sibiu tonight. When she eventually resurfaced, not even an apology just a ‘Oh I went for a walk down by that creek (the moat) and laid down and had a nap. I feel so much better after having my nap, you guys!’ Well, you can imagine the deadpan reception that declaration received and the guide, he just kinda stammered through a ‘Emily, you really shouldn’t wander off like that.’, and quickly shuffled us all onto the bus. Jesus – if that was me and that was my job I’d be giving her both barrels… as it was I pointedly said to her, ‘Thank you for keeping us all waiting, no one knew where you were – you could have been dead in a ditch.’ *mutter mutter*

Anyway, after visiting our fantasy castle we had another drive to Sibiu where we were staying for the night. Now in Sibiu we were supposed to be going to the Brukenthal Palace (which is a museum), the City Square , the Holy Trinity Cathedral, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul Church – all of which were closed by the time we arrived… So we checked into our hotel and AA must have been wondering why no one messaged her to make a dinner plan with her, here. Cos OMG did the little turd have a massive dummy spit on the group chat! Wheedling, cajoling, then abusing everyone and attempting to gaslight everyone. Without coordinating anything and without being aware of what the others were doing – it turns out nearly everyone on the tour wrote complaints about her that night (and Georgi didn’t get off Scott free either – it’s his job to herd the cats and he most certainly was failing to herd that one!)

Tell me what you think