In Romania there is an old salt mine in the town of Turda, that hasn’t produced since WWI, but it was recently opened up as a very interesting tourist destination. It is now a museum, a theme park, playground, even health spa, visited by tourists from all over the world. It came a long way since I first saw it.

I grew up close to Turda, and although I’ve always known that there was a salt mine in town, we even knew its location, we never tried to visit it, since we knew that it had been closed for decades. It opened up for tours in 1992, when I took my family (my kids as toddlers at the time), and though it was interesting, it seemed dangerous and it was hard to see anything in there.

The mine was a totally different place this summer when we were back.  It has been transformed into a veritable underground wonderland, with a children’s playground, boat rides, plenty of lights to showcase the salt on the walls, a glass elevator in addition to the now renovated staircase.

It dates from 1075, and since its very beginnings it was one of the most important salt mines in the area, until the 1840s, when a new salt mine in the vicinity opened up and was able to produce more. However, the mine in Turda was still operating until 1932, when it was closed down, after reaching a depth of 354 feet.

Later on, the salt mine had other uses. During WWII it was opened for the population of Turda to use as a hiding place during air raids. Then in 1950 they started using it as a cheese storage for the town, up until 1992, when they opened it up for visitors.

Although there is a nice, built-up, entrance to the mine at this time, we used the old entrance, since that was the only one I knew about. This one leads through a very long tunnel, or gallery, with the walls made up entirely of rock salt. Of course we touched them constantly, getting some salt on our fingers. Outside was a hot summer day, but as we entered the tunnel, it started to cool down, and we needed our jackets after a few minutes in there.

We experienced the Echoes Room, with a very deep opening, that ensured our words to echo through the room.

The crivac room houses the oldest contraption with this name,the only one still in its original place in all of Europe. It is a contraption used to bring up salt from the depths of the mine,using horse power.

The most spectacular room by far is the area called Rudolph and Teresia Mines. This huge area is large enough for a true underground wonderland. The walkway on top assures that the visitors can go around the area and look down into it, as well a marvel at the stalagtites growing on the ceiling.

A glass elevator takes you down into the depth, where there is plenty of entertainment available. The elevator only fits seven people, and while we were lucky enough to get in without waiting, on the way up we took the stairs, since it was a very long line of people waiting for it. We climbed 30 flights of stairs, and noticed numbers of years on every flight. Later I found out that the years denoted the time they had mined salt in that particular depth.

Once on the bottom, there is plenty of entertainment available, however, we were only interested in the children’s playground, and just looking around in this huge earth cavity.

Still further down, accessible through another few flights of stairs, or a smaller elevator, is a beautiful underground lake, where we rented a boat, and rowed around to marvel at the swirls and cascades of salt on the walls of the cavity.

We had a wonderful time visiting one of the places of my childhood, totally different now than I have ever remembered it.