Lifestyle & Travel
Feb 1, 2015
Inside the old Salina Turda Salt Mines located in Transylvania, Romania, stands the world's largest salt mine museum. Originally established in the 17th century, the massive mines were formed completely by hand and machine rather than by using explosives. Visitors are invited to descend as far down as almost 400 feet into the Earth in order to witness the history of the trade.
Throughout the cool interior, which averages about 50-55˚F with 80% humidity, there are a variety of mines, rooms, and spaces to be explored. At almost 140 feet down, Rudolph Mine offers a 180-seat amphitheater, a carousel, ping-pong tables, basketball hoops, mini-golf, and bowling. Old machinery still stands within the underground expanse and some of it is used to lead people on tours.
Theresa Mine, at 370 feet deep, provides access to a small lake where boats can be rented and a rotating wheel allows visitors to see the stalagmites throughout the cave. Finally, the Gisela Mine (the stationary room) functions as an area for health treatments that draws upon and takes advantage of the mine's optimal climate.
Lying in the north-eastern part of the town the deposit covers an area of about 45 square kilometers while the average thickness of the layer of salt is around 250 meters. In the axial area of the fold average salt thickness frequently goes to over 1200 meters.The salt from Turda is a monomineral rock, consisting of mineral halide (NaCl) whose proportion surpasses 99%.
The terrigene formations at the surface are between 0.5 m and 20 -25 m thick. The salt coming to surface as a consequence of the erosion of the sterile rocks by Valea Florilor (Flower Valley) and Valea Sarata (Salty Valley) at the deposit's surface made it know from very old times.
The continual exploatation of the salt deposit, in the beginning through surface mining and later in the depth, started during the Roman occupation in Dacia, having a substantial economic function in the development of Potaissa. The start of the exploitation by the Romans can be spotted in the microplateau of the Salty Spas.
The Roman exploitations were rectangular in shape ,in a quarry with upturned steps. The extracted salt was conveyed on inclined planes placed at one of the quarry's ends. At 12-15 m depth the location was abandoned, because of the water accumulation on the quarry's floor and of the difficulty in conveying the extracted salt. It is assumed that the present swimming pool - The Roman Lake – could be a location for the salt exploitation of the previously described type. Traces of Roman exploitation in the depths were found in Valea Sarata (Salty Valley), precisely on the north-western slope when in 1867, the main gallery of Ghizela mine unexpectedly gave on to some underground former mining work of which there had been no awareness when the gallery was in project phase. The exploatation compartments were pyramid-shaped, placed next to each other and separated by wattle. When the compartments reached depths ranging between 17 and 24 metres the exploitation was abandoned, to be continued in a new location.This exploitation system ensured not only small expenses but also a massive exploatation of the salt.
After a time of progress between the end of the 14th century and the middle of 16th century there came a time of decrease in the mining rhythm in Transylvania. To get an accurate record of the condition of the salt exploitation the royalty sent inspectors to the Transylvanian mines. In a report made in the spring of 1552 royal inspectors Paulus Bornemisza and Georgius Wernher made reference to the quality of the salt, to the method of exploitation as well as to the number and quality of the workers. In the same document the salt mine of Turda is referred to as the most important in Transylvania and the main "salt customhouse"(a form of coordination of the salt explotation) was in Turda because its administrator (appointed by the King) controlled the other administrators.
The installing of the Habsburgs at the end of the 17th century and the growing demands of the society contributed to an increase in importance of the mining industry. The salt mines started being administrated directly by the Imperial Court.
In the year 1690 the first mining operations started in the perimetre of the actual salt mine, materialised in the wells from the compartment called "Theresa" (Terezia). Not long afterwards mine "St.Anthony" (Anton) was opened.