Cheile Turenilor

Anna and her two sons write about their experience of Cheile Turenilor, a hidden gem not far from Cluj. They set out to visit Salina Turda in Cluj County, a good tourist attraction for rainy days but they decided to skip it because of the mask mandate inside the mine:(

Cheile Turenilor

And a Walk Down the Memory Lane in Salina Turda

One downcast morning a few weeks ago we decided to go and visit Salina Turda. We were thinking that if it is going to rain, why not go somewhere inside, somewhere exciting.  Salina Turda is a salt mine (first mention of it in documents dating back to 11th century) but is used now as a tourist attraction, an enormous underground amusement park. It is near Turda, in Cluj County, Romania. We visited it on a previous occasion and we loved the experience.

The salt mine features a very large underground main gallery with several smaller chambers. When I first visited Salina Turda, it took me by surprise, the sheer size of the mine, the tunnel, everything. It felt surreal that such an exciting underground world existed under our very feet outside the mine.

The tunnel to the main hall
it is a long tunnel 

It feels like the tunnel that takes you to the heart of the mine goes on forever, it is carved in salt. The walls are salty, the boys tasted them once to convince themselves of the fact.

salty walls

At the end of the tunnel we get to the main gallery of the mine which is very large, very tall, completely underground. The only light is artificial light showing off the salt layers in the smoothly cut walls .

a billiard table on the floor of the main gallery

From the main gallery, Terezia mine chamber is right next to it. This mine chamber is the oldest one and has a bell shape. It is around 400 feet in height from the floor to the shaft in the ceiling. The bottom of Terezia chamber is covered by a lake with a maximum depth of 8 meters that was formed by the build up of infiltration water. In the middle of the lake there's a small salt island. From the island you can take a boat and row around on the eerie, dark water bordered by the tall, salty walls  of the mine. This part, I thought, was the most beautiful of all the mine.

the boys in the boat. next to the entrance to Terezia mine. 
view from boat.
view of the island from the balcony above

The main gallery is also very impressive in size. From the bottom of the gallery you can take the panoramic lift to the upper part where you can see everything on the bottom from above.

the lift to the upper part of the mine

Even though the lift tends to become very crowded, we used it to go upstairs just to have the experience of being elevated up and seeing the mine through the transparent glass of the pod. On our way back to the first floor we took the stairs, an idea very much enjoyed by our energetic boys who like exploring. Going downstairs on the walls of each of the 13 "floors" we could read the markings of the year when the respective level was opened.

View of the main gallery from the balcony at the top of the mine. 

From the balcony at the top of the main gallery you can see from above what's there to do below: there's a mini golf course, a ferris wheel, a small playground area for the little ones, etc.

awed by depth of the mine.

We would have loved to visit Salina Turda again this year, but this time masks were mandatory inside the mine and we decided to do something else and skip the visit. We couldn't condone the stupidity of this restrictive rule in the mine or accept the idea of inhaling the air in the face diapers, um, ahem, masks, instead of using the opportunity to breath in the healthy salty air of the mine. But such is the silliness of covid rules...

Still we didn't give up on the idea of going somewhere outside and making up for the disappointment of having to leave Salina Turda. On the way back to Cluj, not far from Salina Turda, we stopped at Cheile Turenilor, a small canyon on Pârâul Racilor (Crabs' Stream).  Nobody was there when we got to the trail head so we had the feeling that we have the place exclusively for ourselves, a good feeling as we soon discovered when we started exploring the place.

the entrance to the canyon

The trail as much as we managed to hike was quite challenging, unexpectedly so, to the excitement of the kids who had just practiced their extreme hiking skills at an adventure park with  zip lines and not too easy tree top courses just the other weekend. From time to time, in order to cross the stream or very narrow ledges above the water we had to use wires pinned to the walls of the rock.

The boys enjoying themselves on the wires, we took an easier path to cross the stream using some stepping stones in this particular spot. 

The hike is not recommended to the general public if it is raining or if the stream has a lot of water in it. By the looks of the trail, we could tell that at times we walked through the dried up bed of the stream. We were fortunate enough to stumble upon this place in a dry season when the place can be explored by beginner hikers like ourselves.

I was having a blast, too. 

Unfortunately we didn't make it to the end of the canyon because it started drizzling and we got put off by the idea of walking in the rain on the slippery rocks and muddy path. We didn't even have the proper shoes for the hike. Anyways, we loved every bit of the walk and we promised ourselves we will come back one day to finish what we started, maybe explore a cave or two that are said to be located along the stream in this area.

On the way back I came across something that sparked our curiosity and imagination.

Could this be a foot print of a dinosaur?

Imprinted in a ledge inside the stream, but surfacing out of the water now because of the shallow water in dry season  I spied with my little eye something that looks like a foot print of a dinosaur. We speculated that perhaps, during the flood a dinosaur remained stuck in the dirt when cataclismic events happened quite suddenly in that particular spot. With time the dinosaur disintegrated leaving behind its foot print in the petrified dirt, haha who knows, right?

Cheile Turenilor for me is:

Excitement awaiting behind every rocky corner;
The story of the rough walls whispered by the stream;
The tough, cold wires digging in the palms of my hands;
Walking along the same path dinosaurs strolled on a while back;
The winding path through trees bent over by rushing waters.

Mihai, 14

The road leading to Cheile Tureni trail was a dirt road, probably not a good idea to go there in a regular car, but doable with a higher SUV.

An ominous signpost at the beginning of the hike tells us that the trail will require bravery, nerves of steel and special equipment (-ahem- just special equipment). We soon discovered that we would not only have needed special equipment but also bravery and nerves of steel.

In the beginning of the trail.

The beginning of the trail is quite easy, but the difficulty soon jumps from one to ten - insert maniacal laughter here - now you have to climb on the SIDE OF A CLFF. Or you can if you want to. I and my brother decided to choose the foolish path of the cliffside, even though it rained half an hour ago.

I got to the end, but Paul had to turn back, he was defeated by a particularly hard part of the climb.

Only Mihai did that part on the cliff side. 

The next part of the trail was very easy (the difficulty goes back to about two) until, after you take a nice, relaxing walk through the grove, thinking that nothing bad might happen, it does -  a short maniacal laughter later, we now have another cliff climb. This time we did not have any way to get past this obstacle, the climb was the only way to proceed.

I suggest that you should not come here if you don't want to climb a lot.

After the "ordeal", we had to go back because it started drizzling.

Cheile Tureni is:

The steep cliffs with cables strung on them.
The gritty dirt on the path.
The tiny snails on the top of the grass blades.
The smell of car exhaust offroad.
The sound of rushing water.

I would go again to finish the trail and do some more climbing.

Paul, 10

Cheile Turenilor is a secluded canyon next to Tureni Village in Cluj county, Romania.

At the start of the trail, we spied a sign that told us that we needed equipment because we would have to do some rock climbing. We didn't mind the rules and continued on the trail to see what was all about.

After about 5 minutes into the hike we arrived at the first metal wires in the rock which you had to hold on to in order to cross the stream at the bottom of the canyon. The metal wires felt to me very rough and scratchy so I feared that I would get  badly injured.

being brave

In spite of that fear I continued on the trail and arrived at some more wires that I passed with exceeding grace. I liked going on this trail even though it felt like doom was around every corner.

I would go again and this time come one hundred percent prepared and with new and exciting equipment.

Cheile Turenilor is for me:

The rough metal wire pinned on the rock.
The rushing of the nearby stream.    
The brown dirt pathway twisting here and there.
The many blooming flowers waving in the wind.
The ancient paw print of a dinosaur.