Today is a day off, and Eli and I went with Cristi to the salt mines outside of town. The mines were in use about 100 years ago, but when it became too expensive to harvest, they shut down. Shortly after (during the communist era, I guess), they reopened as a tourist attraction. A few years ago, they underwent renovation and are now quite amazing. When you drive up to the mines through the Romanian countryside, you are alarmed to see what looks like a UFO sticking out of the hillside:
It costs about $5 to go inside, and once you're in, you descend and descend, down a ramp, a long hallway, a flight of stairs, past a shiny rock, into an antechamber, past a small alter with icons and blue light, and down some more steps. Then, you seem to be in a small room, but it sounds much larger. If you walk to one edge, you can look straight down and see this:
That is an island in the middle of a lake, about 20 stories below the surface of the earth. Those yellow things? Two-seat rowboats.
You can take the stairs or an elevator down to the bottom levels, where there are places to walk and things to do like mini-golf, billiards, and even a ferris wheel!
The mine was beautiful. A stunning feat of human engineering and a beautifully well-designed (and well-lit) attraction. My only complaint was that there was very little of educational value in the mine. No diagrams, no text, no stories. I wanted to know more about how it was built, and why, etc.
After the mines, Cristi took Eli and I to a great Viennese restaurant, where I ate sausage and drank Stiegl beer. Eli had a salad. Like a good boy.
It occurs to me that I haven't posted many photos of people on this trip so far. So, here is some proof that we all went down into the mines: