As we drove into Romania we had a complete change of plans. Our original plan was to drive from South West to North West but Jerome had just read about some crazy salt mine that was open to the public in a different direction. We would also then be able to travel through Transylvania. Our time was limited so we decided to wing it. Romania has a pretty interesting past, even before you mention the legendary Vlad the Impaler. On our most recent travels though Turkey and it’s neighbouring countries we had learnt a bit about the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire had once covered the Balkans and Central Asia. Romania was taken over by the empire back in the 15th century before gaining its independence again in the 1800’s.
When the Second World War came Romania supported Germany which lead to it becoming a communist state under the Soviets command after the war. This changed in the 70’s where it become a dictatorship and eventually just before 1990 the dictatorship collapsed and Democratic Romania began. It has been a member of the EU since 2007.
Anyways. We spent the night at a hotel just outside of Bucharest with the aim of reaching Pelisor Castle in Sinaia the next day. Pelisor Castle was built around the 1900 mark and was part of the larger castles of Peles. As we drove towards the area there was a lot of snow. Huge fluffy flakes poured down around us and the whole area looked like one big Christmas card.
Pelisor Castle is visually very attractive and sits on a slope surrounded by manicured lawns and trees. It was perfect weather to photo that place. The leafless deciduous trees were blanketed in a white carpet of snow which had also clung on to the castles spires and roof tops.
After Pelisor Castle we made our way through Transylvania and onto Bran Castle.
OK so I’m sure that most people have heard of the legendary vampire, Dracula. He is a fictional character from a Novel by Bram Stoker. Dracula was in fact a nickname given to Vlad the Impaler who was the Prince of Wallachia (A Romanian province) back in the 1400’s. Vlad cemented his name in Romanian history by scaring off his enemies in a rather gruesome way. Wallachia was being threatened by the Turks, who invaded the area back in the 1450’s.
Vlad and his army decided to make an example of anyone that they captured by severing their heads and impaling them on poles stuck into the ground in his territory. We are talking tens of thousands of heads here. When the enemy saw these heads and realised the brutality of the Prince, they soon retreated.
Bran apparently is the castle that Stoker based Draculas Castle on in his Novel back in the 1890’s. (Contrary to popular opinion, there is no one castle that Romanians can say was the inspiration for Stokers Castle).
Anyways, we stopped by for a cheeky picture of it on our way through to the Salina Turda; aka the salt mines!
The Turda salt mine is a disused mine that went back to the Roman occupation, but it was first mentioned in text back in the 1200’s. Nowadays it has been made into a salt museum so we parked up and went for an explore. Two heavy wooden doors marked the entrance to the mine. When we got inside, we were greeted by a narrow tunnel through the salt rock just less than 1km long and perfectly straight most of the way in. This section of the mine was built in the 1800’s to help get the salt out of the mine easily.
After completing the 1km corridor we came to the Josef Mine, aka the Echos Room. But when we opened the door there was a padlocked barrier in front of it! A sign claimed that the chamber was 112m deep but we weren’t close enough to do any ‘testing’ 😉 After a quick inspection it was found that the padlock was rusted almost through. With one tug I had the padlock off and Jerome wheeled on through and up a step into a little platform overlooking the dark, bottomless pit. Man that chamber was crazy! We screamed at the top of our lungs and counted over 20 echos easily. There was a pebble on the floor and I couldn’t help but chuck it into the mine. 8 seconds later we heard a feint thud as it hit the floor, followed by a wave of thuds soon after. So cool!
We heard some people coming up the corridor behind us so we quickly exited the platform and popped the padlock back on the barrier. We continued on towards the Crivac Room.
The room was almost octagonal and was home to a massive wooden horse-drawn winch, or Crivac. The horses would spend all day harnessed to the wooden winch system, walking around in circles as the pulleys leading to the winch pulled up carts of salt from the Rudolf Mine deep below.
The next room was the Extraction Shaft Room where the 3m diameter pulleys descended vertically into the mines through the tower shaft. Apparently the pulleys are still in good working order today.
From the Extraction room we moved towards the actual salt mine. The rooms were on different floors so Jerome had to negotiate his way down steep wooden steps to get to the lift that would bring us down into the base of the mine. On our way we passed a viewing platform which allowed us to look into the mouth of the mine from above.
Boats sat on the water at the bottom, and what looked like the remains of heavy machinery sat on a network of bridges and platforms over the water. When we eventually descended into the pit via the lift, we were a little disappointed to find out that there wasn’t any machinery left behind.
The structures that we had seen from the top were in fact well sculptured fairground attractions. There was a ferris wheel, a bowling alley, min-golf and billiards to name a few. So the place really was geared up for tourism.
I think that they did a great job of making the attractions almost fit in with their environment. The view was so weird that when we show people photos of the mine it’s kinda hard for people to understand what they are looking at for a while.
Unfortunately the mine was closing and we had to make the arduous journey up the elevator, 4 sets of stairs and through over 1km of tunnels to get back to the car. I wished that we had come sooner or on another day as I think we may have missed a room or two. But all in all we were stoked as Jerome had been able to see almost all of the mine despite the stairs and ledges.
The next morning we left Romania and crossed the border into Hungary. Keep reading for more updates.
**As you may have guessed, we are rather behind on our blog postings. Just wanted to say a massive thank you to a select few of our followers who have literally read most, if not all of our posts. One blogger in particular has supported us throughout our entire journey and actually sent us an email this morning asking for the next chapter! So here it is Anomiepete 😉 Thank you for following us so diligently we are happy that you enjoy our experiences and tales! **