Salt in the Wound? Or, Rescued by the Avengers on Cinco de Mayo

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May 5th 2015
Published: May 5th 2015
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So, this day was divided into three parts: morning, afternoon, and evening. Now, before you start calling me Captain Obvious, I'll have to tell you that each one of these parts had a very different character to it today. I will also say that the 6€ I paid for the hotel breakfast may be the best 6€ I've spent on this trip. The booking didn't come with free breakfast, but I'll be paying for it again, tomorrow. I always appreciate when I can look forward to good food when I wake up, especially since when I'm home, I have to make it myself, and it's seldom worth mentioning.

My morning, then, was spent in the hotel. As I mentioned yesterday, I booked a pretty sweet hotel. The room is totally livable. I had asked for breakfast at 9, so I went downstairs and I was the only one! I got to enjoy my food and they told me that since the only other people staying at the hotel had already eaten, everything was fair game! It was so good. After that, I had some travel business to take care of. I booked my final 2 hotels for this trip - so now I know where I'll be staying every night. That's a load off. And I'll still need to get a train ticket from Belgrade to Vienna for Monday, but I can't do that until I get to Belgrade on Saturday. But I've seen the train times, so I'm good. I graded a final exam (the only 1 submitted so far) and then did my stretches. I'm planning on being able to hike those cliffs and beaches of Cinque Terre in Italy with the best of them! I ate lunch in my room (the food I bought at the grocery store yesterday) and went downstairs around 1:30 to head out to the salt mine in Turda.

Yes, there's a town called Turda, so get that out of your system. I had to take a minibus, which dropped us off in the center of Turda, about 30 minutes from the town I'm staying in. What I didn't know, though, is that there are 2 entrances to the salt mines: one is somewhat off the path of the minibus, but before you get to the center of Turda, and they can apparently let you off closer to that. The other entrance is way out in the middle of nowhere. But my hotel people told me to follow the signs. I even got the idea to ask a cabbie to just take me there, but I poked my head into the passenger window of the nearest taxi and asked "a Salina?" ("to the salt mine?"), and instead of quoting me a fare or anything expected of a cabbie, he just pointed down the road that the signs indicated. Great. So I set off. Four kilometers later, through winding roads mainly uphill and through what could pass for any rural town in Georgia, I made it to the entrance of the salt mine. I was none too pleased.

So I paid the $5 to get in, and it really was a decent place to go. There's nothing else like it around here, and both the husband and wife hotel owners told me on separate occasions that this really is the best thing to do around here. It's definitely cool down there - around 50 F, which is what I needed after that walk. You descend into a long tunnel of salt. They give you a map, but it's really hard to get lost, since everything comes back to that tunnel. The main attraction is the Rudolf Mine, where they've got activities set up for all ages - some tables where old men were playing cards, some putt putt, a mini ferris wheel, and a small gift shop. But they don't sell snacks or drinks, because those are not allowed anywhere on the premises. And you're also not allowed to take any of the salt with you (intentionally). On a lower level, reachable by elevator, is an underground "lake" with little boats you can paddle around. Of course, all of this stuff costs extra. They've got thin tubes of light dangling from the ceiling in many places, so it's well lit. But most sounds make echoes, especially when you walk around the wooden dock of the underground lake - I swear, some of those middle school boys were trying to make it sound like the whole place was going to cave in. I walked down the 200 meters of stairs to get to the bottom of the Rudolf Mine, but I took the elevator back up.

When I was done with the mine, I walked out the other entrance, because I thought for sure it would take me closer to where I wanted to be. And maybe there would be a taxi there. It was about 350 meters from the last mine to the other exit, which you don't realize how far is, until you have to walk that distance in a narrow tunnel. When I got to the other side, there were no taxis, but I only had to walk maybe a single kilometer to get to the minibus location. It was scheduled to depart at 5, and I got there at 4:59. I guess it was just meant to be.

Back in Cluj, I got to wait around for the movies! There's a cinema at the place where the minibus drops you off and picks you up, and I had seen earlier that they were playing the new Avengers movie, which everyone in my Facebook feed has apparently seen and won't stop posting spoilers about, so I knew I needed to see it. They had 2 times posted outside the theater, but I thought those might just be indicative. Nope. They have only one screen, and the cinema is actually the bottom floor of an apartment building. So, the 3D show was at 2PM, and the 2D show was at 8PM. It was just after 6PM when I got there, so I went and got some food before deciding that I for sure was going to go. Yeah, I needed to see it. So I went and got a ticket - and this movie was worth every penny of the $2.50 that I paid to see it. I would've paid more, and indeed would have needed to in America, but that's Eastern Europe for you! Even the 3D movie was only $3.75. I thoroughly had a good time, and there were only maybe 8 other people in the theater with me. Plenty of seats, though a wide aisle up the middle meant you couldn't sit in the middle. It was divided into upper and lower, and the only seats with enough knee room for a person of my height to sit comfortably were in the front row of each section. And I was probably the tallest person there, too.

After the show, I walked back to my hotel, where I got all my stuff together for tomorrow - my train leaves a little after 10 AM, but not before I get another good breakfast and a taxi to the rail station - before writing all of this for my loyal readers. Moral of the story: if you're ever in Romania, be here when all the good movies come out, since you'll be able to afford to see as many as you want; and if you're ever in Cluj, get out and see the Turda salt mine. But you should probably rent a car here.


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