Where You Can Hear the Salt Crystallize
the Salt work Museum, Lera, where the salt is produced in a traditional way, and an area which is less protected and allows farming. After many years of decay, the Salinas were bought by one of the Slovenian mobile phone companies. Things are turning for the better, at least for a part of the 30 kilometres of small dams, channels, bridges, gates and pools. "In the old days" Richetto, whose real name is Odorico Gei, is a real legend among the salt-makers. His image was even printed on the salt packages. He's been working at the Salinas since 1949. Despite his venerable age, he was the first to produce the salt among all this year. The years have brought experiences and knowledge, which encompasses oceanography, biology, chemistry and meteorology. "If the sky is black over the Punto Pirano, it is certainly going to rain," he says in a mixture of Istrian, Slovene and Croatian. The discipline and perseverance are also important. He achieved his personal record in 1950, when he harvested 337 tons of salt. "Richetto told us that perseverance is a virtue of the strongest," says a 25-year-old Marko who has been working in the Salinas since March. Perseverance is especially necessary when the working day starts at six and finishes late in the evening, and when your boss is the relentless nature. The Salinas are factories under the sun, where the norm is determined by the capricious nature. In Salinas, there is always enough work throughout the year - when the last salt is harvested in the autumn, the preparations for the next season start. The pools need to be prepared and the dams repaired. But the most important thing is the preparation of petola - it's a kind a mixture of clay, salt gypsum and algae, which covers the bottom of the pool and give the salt a sweet and sour taste. Although the water in the pools seems to be still, it actually circulates constantly. When it reaches the salinity of 25‰, it is ready to be raked. Every salt-maker has 4 pools, and when the sun begins to scorch, they have to rake two of them each day. There is no maf the season, thousand of people moved to the Salinas. They lived in salt-makers' huts, which now lie in ruins. The housewives baked bread in a common oven and stamped it not to confound it with others. They collected snails, and ate shrimps, sea shells and fish. Salt-making was once a respectable and lucrative business." A long salt-making tradition The Salinas were first mentioned in Roman times. More than 700 years ago, when Piran was conquered by the Venetians, there were as many as 1200 crystallization pools. In the middle of the 14th Century, the salt-makers from the island of Pag brought the formula for a magic carpet - the petola, with which they could produce pure white salt. The salt of Piran was very appreciated and expensive. The Salinas stimulated the development of the Portoroz tourism. More than a hundred years ago, there was even a health resort with mud from the Salinas - the so-called fango and the aquamadre. In the first half of the 19th century there were as many as 440 salt-makers' houses. After 1950, the people moved away as the salt-making became less lucrative. "Two years ago, I thought everything would go to hell, but the new owner is promising us better times", says Zudic, who has been working in the Salinas for 30 years. In the next five years, the new owner plans to renew rails, dams, buildings, huts and other infrastructure. Once the desire to make money, and today the love of tradition and hope for better times form the heaps of salt, which need to be shovelled into carts, moved to the warehouse and unloaded under the ardent sun. In the deserted house there are overgrown fireplaces and crumbled staircases leading nowhere. The squeaking of seagulls, the bubbling of petola and the stories of old salt-makers are merely an inspiration for painters, poets and for those who find it hard to drive in an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned office.