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Tuz Cave; If you’re visiting the northern Anatolian town of Çankırı someone is bound to mention the spectacular Tuz Mağarası (Salt Cave) to you.
If you want to visit you must leave your details at the entrance gate before driving down a hill and right into an enormous gash in the earth. This is the single largest reserve of rock salt in Turkey and it’s thought that it was being exploited as long ago as Hittite times.
Today 15 men still work in the mine which produces 500 tons of salt every day. It’s sold all over the country for cooking, although some people locally also carve it into bedside lamps and other souvenirs.
It’s awe-inspiring to drive inside the mine, then get out to inspect it. With a constant temperature of 15 degrees Celsius, the interior os pleasantly cool in comparison with the sweltering heat outside.
One gallery has been fitted with a small exhibition of rock-salt sculptures by students from the local art school, as well as with reminders of times past in the shape of a battered old landau that once belonged to a mine owner and a stretch of the railway track that used to convey the salt to the entrance, now some 1.5 km from the most distant diggings.
One rather sad reminder of the past takes the shape of a naturally mummified donkey believed to have fallen through a well into the mine some 250 years ago. The hare in a case above it was placed there recently to keep it company.