Just 32KM or so south of Cluj-Napoca lies the city of Turda, a pleasant town of nearly 50,000 people. Wander its streets and you’ll find yourself in a fairly standard Romanian town, almost oblivious to the nearby presence of one of the world’s great underground secrets. The Turda Salt Mine often garners such plaudits, strong words befitting somewhere that has developed from a salt mine into a slightly bombastic underground city. SALT HAS BEEN mined here since people worked out how to mine salt, although the first written mention comes in the late 11th century. The mine has seen many uses over the centuries aside from salt, spending time as a cheese storage and also as a World War II bomb shelter, but it is its current incarnation that attracts the most visitors. Turda Salt Mine is now an underground city, with interconnected galleries leading visitors through rooms, mines and more, old mining equipment juxtaposed against bowling alleys, amphitheaters and even a Ferris wheel, although we’re not too sure how we feel about that. There are a number of panoramic points accessible, spots that go a long way to showing just how vast this underground world is.
HEAD 14KM WEST OF THE salt mine and you’ll be in an entirely different world. Where the salt mine is now ostentatious and almost gaudy in its presentation, the Turda Gorge is the visual and spiritual representation of tranquility and serenity. This karst landscape stretches over 3km and is a veritable buffet of nature, with more than 1,000 species of plant and almost 100 different species of animal living in the area. The hiking landscapes are second to none, taking you through mountain passes and streams, not to mention the many caves that all have different stories to tell. You might not get a Ferris wheel inside, but different strokes for different folks. This is the premier rock climbing spot in Romania, as much for quality as aesthetics.
SO HOW TO GET TO TURDA? Buses run from Cluj-Napoca throughout the day, and it is the ALIS bus (leaving from Mihai Viteazu Square) that you want. Ask the driver to let you out near the salt mines and you’ll have no problem. Alternatively, get the FANY bus from next to the National Theatre and follow the same protocol. If you want to check out Turda before heading to the mines, get bus number 17 from Turda once you are done.
Photo credit: Turda Salt Mine