Sunday, September 04, 2005

Salt of the Earth

Every time we go to Marosvasarhely we pass through the town of Praid (Prajad) which has at its heart a large salt mine. I didn't really know much more about it than this, and the fact that you can go there for treatment of respiratory ailments. In fact, its mere existence on our doorsteps seems to mean that if you have so much as a cough the doctors here will prescribe a week down the salt mines.

Well, yesterday we actually went there. And it is not exactly what I expected. First off, you buy your ticket to go down and then wait for a bus. I expected just to wander off down some stairs or take some kind of lift, but no, this is a bigger operation that I had assumed. So the bus shows up and you climb on and then are transported into a tunnel which descends at an angle through the mountain side for about 10 minutes, before arriving at a door, where you are chucked out. Then you do walk down the stairs and finally arrive in this vast hall. There are play areas with swings and slides and the like, churches carved into the rock, shops, cafes, a museum and a hospital. It's stunning. It smells kind of weird, like being under the sea without the drowning problem. And the salt looks like marble. It's polished and shiny and, well, marbled. It's quite amazing. Bogi loved it, running from slide to swing and angling for a game of ping pong or billiards. All of these things are there because if you go for treatment you have to spend weeks underground (well, you do come up every evening, but you spend all day every day down there so I guess they need to create something for you to do). After a while you start feeling all heavy legged. It's dead odd.

There's enough salt there to supply all of Europe for 100 years. That's what the sign said anyway. No idea what that means. Does it assume a relatively static amount of salt use continent wide? Have trends in greater or reduced salt use been factored in? If there is a future gastronomic fashion for Portuguese style bacalhau, will they have to revise that figure down to about 90 years?

I think it's probably indicative of the modern world when a salt mine has a website. It's here if you're interested. Though I ought to warn you that the translations on the English language pages leave something to be desired.


Noah said...

The site also doesn't work in Firefox.

Andy H said...

Salt mines, eh? Unable to adapt to the modern world. Shocking it is.