Have you ever played soccer at a depth of around 300 meters? Or taken a walk down the dry ancient sea bottom? Imagine a maze inside a giant lump of salt with enough space not only for a human but for an entire nine-storey building… This is not a feature film setting but a real place one should necessarily visit when in Ukraine.
Soledar is a former mining town in the Donetsk region where salt mining started as long ago as the middle of the 19th century. Today it has acquired a status of a city and attracts tourist due to its unusual place of interest into which the old salt mines have turned.
The visitors go deep under the ground in a lift and find themselves in the atmosphere of the Snow Queen’s castle: white walls and ceilings, gleaming crystals, ringing echo of the long tunnels. It is of course not as cold here as in the fairy snow kingdom – the temperature is around 16°С all year round, and the white snow under the feet is usual rock-salt. However everything seems unusual here – even the common salt.
Walking down the spacious corridors and entering the huge halls you forget you are below the surface of the earth, because you get truly impressed by the unexpected extent of space and and uncommon sensations. The lights in the rooms make them even more mysterious. The cozy salt-café, the majestic hall with unparalleled acoustics, the real underground football field and the long passages with marble-looking walls – all these are indeed far from a regular tourist attraction’s parts.
By the way, there are some peculiar bas-reliefs on the walls of the cave created by the miners who used to descend here every day for many decades. These are images including the saints’ faces on the icons of the underground church. Surprisingly indeed, there is a real functioning church in the cave, where the orthodox rituals are executed by the priest of the local Holy Transfiguration church.
Another unusual creation of the workers’ hands is the salt palm tree. It is an underground analogue of the symbol of Donbass, the Mertsalov’s wrought palm tree.
The exhibition of the Artemsol company’s products works as a reminder about the importance of the irreplaceable mineral. The salt packs familiar to every Ukrainian seem strikingly unusual in these exotic circumstances.
However, the artificial caves of Soledar are not merely a place of interest worth visiting for a tourist. The underground kingdom also hosts a unique health resort for people with bronchopulmonary diseases. More than hundred people aged six to sixty can be treated simultaneously in the Salt Symphony spa sanitarium where non-drug methods of treatment and preventive care are practiced.
It won’t be difficult to get to the place from Donetsk by car or by bus. And if you rent an apartment in Donetsk you will have a possibility not only to join an excursion to the salt mine but also to do the sightseeing of the city itself to visit some interesting places.