Sometimes work takes me to some pretty interesting places. This weekend I’m at a conference in Parador del Cardona, a castle in the town of Cardona in Catalonia. The hotel is actually a castle (my room is behind the rightmost tree in the picture) and is a very interesting place, with a lovely chapel that I’ve only had a glance in so far, and conference facilities that feel like they’re in the old castle dungeon. However, the real interest is why the castle is here at all – Cardon is famous for salt, which is how the local Dukes made their money. The salt comes from Muntanya de Sal, the mountain of salt, much of which has been mined away, but the remains of which are on the edge of town and are now a museum which includes a guided tour of some of the mine tunnels. It sounded too interesting to miss, so I escaped from the conference for a couple of hours.
The tour starts with a ride to the entrance down the side of a huge pile of tailings. The entrance itself is a tunnel into the hill on a flat, white plain of salt. The salt rocks themselves are various shades of red due to iron impurities, but when water seeps through them it dissolves the salt and then redeposits it, just like in a limestone cave, into stalactites and other formations made from crystals of pure white salt. The combination of the red and white is spectacular, and the different forms of the white salt are fascinating, from smooth flows, to incredibly thin columns.
The underground tour takes about an hour, and was all in Spanish on my visit, so I didn’t understand much, but the sheer beauty of the mine makes it very much worthwhile, even though you only see a fraction of the total area. For most of it you aren’t allowed to take photographs, but happily there’s one chamber where you can – all the pictures here are from that one chamber, which has fantastic white formations, but doesn’t quite do the red of the undissolved salt justice.
If you’re ever in Northern Spain, I thoroughly recommend a visit to Muntanya de Sal in Cardona. It perhaps wasn’t much of an adventure, but is certainly a unique experience – it’s not every day the guide insists that you taste the walls as they show you around!