Troilus mine, at Tirgu Ocna near Slanic Moldova, Romania is a working mine where the salt is still being extracted by machine and manually. The mine area used as the sanatorium is 200 m from the surface, one of 8 levels and is reached by a tunnel 1.75 km long and wide enough in places for two coaches to pass each other.
The numbers of persons going to the 'salina' in any one week fluctuates. There is a system of allocation of seats on the two busses [one from Slanic Moldova to Tg. Ocna into the Troilus mine approximately 10 minutes] but is rarely adhered to. Consequently, arguments break out as to who has got whose seat and many people have to stand for all the journeys. Queue-jumping is a Romanian past-time. We, my friend who came with me and I, estimated that there can be between 200 - 300 persons on a busy week, that is three bus loads a morning, sent in at different times, and when there are a lot of children it pushes the numbers up.
Patients, once disembarked off the coach, are shepherded through iron railings. New persons are directed into a hut where they sign in and are given a helmet [I took my own]. People proceed through a blocked off tunnel with an iron door through which everyone passes. The salt bedrock underfoot is shiny from the constant passing of hundreds of pairs of feet and resembles marble with white and darker swirls in the salt mineral. The tunnel sloping ever upwards, some 200 yards long, has a dog-leg, presumably to deflect outside air which does contain some fumes from the coaches and mine machinery. Then there is another iron gate through which everyone goes that opens into the sanatorium itself which is made up of enormous chambers (estimated height some 12-14 m high) and separated by appropriately sized large pillars. Sections are boarded off to prevent 'escapees'. There is strip lighting around in certain chambers under which are placed seats of stoold and tables for use of the patients. Eating is prohibited to prevent vermin.
There are two sessions of gymnastics - breathing exercises - which are excellent. Titel (think it is a title, not his name) or his colleague organise the sessions. You are encouraged to walk, run or play table tennis in the mine. Patients stay underground for four hours. There are hooters which announce when each coach is about to leave an arranged time lapse between each group.
How do you become 'top of the pops' with at least three Ukrainians and two Israelis ensuring for yourself a seat everytime on the bus and your bag carried from then onwards. Easy - have the only torch in your group when you are shipped into a mine when all the electrics have gone - extraordinary, it could never have happened in Britain. For two and a half hours I held my caving torch onto the chamber ceiling to reflect light from the salt crystals. Only a few children whimpered at the darkness, everybody around resounded with Romanians lustly singing until we were ushered out once more with Sylvia leading the mass and lighting up the bus steps. Was I glad I had put a new battery in my torch.
Over 5000 people were treated in this mine last year alone. The Romanians are amazed that 'salinas' are not available in Britain. From the literature available from Eastern Europe, including the Proceedings of the UNESCO Conference in 1992 *) lots of people seem and, in fact, must obtain relief for asthma and other pulmonary symptoms; otherwise, Doctors would not recommend it or Governments pay out for patients to spend time in these underground sanatoriums!
The reasons given for the improved health, rise in immunity and cures in some cases of patients, is that the air contains no allergens, the temperature and humidity is constant, but the most important factor is that the salt gives off negative ions. I find this latter factor the most interesting, as I think electromagnetic forces play a part in some asthmatics and an Australian has just suggested there may be a possible link between radio waves and allergic reactions.
It was certainly an interesting experience. Although my bronchitis, sinusitis and asthma had not cleared on my arrival home after the three weeks (I had been advised that it takes longer in older people); a further dose of antibiotics, same variety, was prescribed (6 previous courses in nine months to no avail) when everything cleared up and two month later I was able to dance at our daughter's wedding. The literature points out that 'speleo-reaction' occurs in most people, they appear to get worse before they get better.
It seems that Italy and Germany are showing interest in such centres. Israel is proposing to open centres along the Dead-Sea. and a Doctor has just opened an artificial one near Tel-Aviv having imported salt from the Urals. Britain has over 3 million people with asthma with the numbers ever rising. I am trying to stimulate a response in our country which I know will take forever. As I am neither a physician nor a scientist it will be even more of an uphill effort to try and persuade Britain to hold at least a series of clinical trials in our country's salt mines.
*) Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium of Speleotherapy, Bad Bleiberg, 1992, publ. Wien, 1994. Commission de Speleotherapie de l'Union internationale de Speleologie (UNESCO).
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Last modified: 01/02/97