The Reconstruction of "The Salt Road"-A Means to Develop and Promote the Saline Health Tourism in Transylvania

By Cianga, Nicolae; Oprea, Marius G. et al. | Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends, July 2010 | Go to article overview

The Reconstruction of "The Salt Road"-A Means to Develop and Promote the Saline Health Tourism in Transylvania


Cianga, Nicolae, Oprea, Marius G., Costea, Daniel, Giurgiu, Laura, Cianga, Iulia, Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends


Introduction

The idea of creating tourist thematic routes in Transylvania is not an innovative one, as it has already been applied on the Wine Road or more recently the Spring Mineral Water Road, in the eastern part of the region. Thus in relation with the most recent scientific research in the salt health tourism, based on solid arguments, there is a great necessity to create a path that could interconnect the former salt exploitations and the sodium chloride mineral waters, a tourism route between the two paths.

A first example of a tourist road is the recent created bicycle route that goes from Sangeorgiu de Mures over the Hills of Niraj and gets to Sovata and then Praid. This road has been furnished with the help of the county council and a local tourist association.

The necessity of these roads consists firstly in creating links between the wellness resorts and the tourist planning with salt waters, which for now are being developed isolated, but especially for promoting the local wellness tourism.

At this we can add the landscape component, the one of geomorphologic sites on salt, of a particular tourist attraction, resulting both from the salt microforms of relief (the exokarst on salt) but mostly from impressive and spectacular underground voids, and in terms of exploitation procedures, some of them dating back in Ancient Rome, others from Middle Age or modern period till nowadays. Following the diversification of tourist motivation, nodal components, the salt exploitations and spa centers on salt, would turn into real centers of polarization and accommodation, along the "roads", but also in diffusion centers in their adjacent areas, with a direct consequence on learning more about other attractive objectives of this area.

Thus, for this study were taken into consideration the two tourist routes with settlements of the former salt mining activity and salt water resulting in five points of interest in the Somes basin (Figa, Ocna Dejului, Sic, Someseni, Cojocna), and 6 in the Mures basin (Ideciu de Jos, Jabenita, Sangeorgiu de Mures, Sovata, Praid, Ocna Sibiului and Miercurea Sibiului).

The development premises of a touristic road- "The Salt Roads"

Salt, an essential mineral element for human life, was exploited since ancient times with different purposes, like the first most important one, the physiological one, needed for a perfect functioning of any living organism, or as an additive to our own food diet, as a supplement to domestic animals' diet, as a very good preservative for meat, bacon, cheese, vegetables, fruits, animal skin, as a wound disinfectant or as a health remedy against different diseases like rheumatic ones, respiratory failure, stomach disorders, some dermatological and gynecological problems and so on and so forth. All these applications turned it into one of the most important consuming and trading products since ancient times till nowadays.

The Historical Premises

Transylvania, having one of the most important salt deposits in Europe, represented over time the main source of supply for adjacent regions, where there was a total lack of resources, like the Tisa Plain, the south Danube area and the Balkans. This situation turned Transylvania into the most important and available source of salt the entire transit being made through the so called "roads of salt".

The archaeological remains show us that rock salt has been exploited since the main traces of prehistory and its exploitation has been found in the Bronze and Iron Age in Ocna Muresului, Figa and Sasarm (Bistrita-Nasaud county) and Valea Florilor, Ocna Dejului and Turda (Cluj county) different wooden tools made especially for exploitation like spades, shovels, "troughs", chisels and small hammers made of ash wood provided with a metal head (Hollmann & Ciugudean 2005).

In ancient Greek-Roman world (first millennium BC- mid first millennium AD), according to ancient authors, epigraphic and archaeological monuments, salt mining industry becomes a real sophisticated technology with numerous professional branches, where there were involved both free people hired by the state and many slaves. The extraction, the processing and the salt trade was so important to the Roman Empire that it was subject to strict legal regulations. The salt mines were considered a public good, the income derived from their exploitation was being taxed and these taxes called vectigalia.

With the establishment of the Roman rule in Dacia this branch of industry gets also inside Transylvania. As the remains of archaeological, epigraphic and some accounts of ancient authors show, the most important salt mining areas of Dacia were those in Potaissa (Turda), Salinae (Ocna Mures), Ocna Dejului, Cojocna and Sic from the Cluj county, Ocna Sibiului, several localities in Bistrita-Nasaud county (e.g. Saratel) and last but not least Sovata, Praid, Sanpaul and Martinis in Harghita county. Here and in other locations as well were highlighted along with the deposits of salt, the methods of exploitation, either in bulk or surface (the same manner as with gold and water). According to Cavruc, Moga (2006, 55) more epigraphic evidence has been discovered in the salt mines showing the status of tenants, who were persons in the provincial elite with leading managerial functions as conductorispascui et salinarum, and the right to marketing and commercializing the salt. The salt exploitation in Roman Dacia covered not only the internal needs of this province, but also other areas of the empire, especially the neighboring province of Pannonia, where transport and marketing was made on what more than one author called it, "the salt roads" (Vulcanescu, Simionescu 1974; Marc 2006).

After the Roman administration and army left Dacia, the salt mining process continued at variable scale according to internal and external requirements and conditions, taking as reference the tormented Great Migrations period. As Rusu, (1975, 145-146) characterized the salt exploitation in the first millennium.

Salt mining in Middle Ages times was upgraded by using the bell-shaped extraction technology, which was done first by digging a relatively narrow and perpendicular shaft, from surface gradually expanding the area of operation to a circular shape, forming a vault, necessary to prevent the mine from collapsing. The salt pieces were cut with pickaxes as cube size blocks in two different sizes, one called cart salt (sal currualis), because it was transported by land with carts, and a smaller one called boat salt (sal navalis), because it was transported by water on corks. More epigraphic evidence at that time summed up by Cavruc (2006, 156) presents the salt carriers and the manner they did it back then. Thus we have the so called "chirigii" which differ by the way of transport the lumps of salt: spatari sarari, (i.e. backside salt carriers), which carried the salt in bags on their shoulders; calaretii sarari, (i.e. salt riders) that carried the salt in wooden baskets, knitted bags or wallets driven by draught-horses; carutasi sarari (i.e. salt carters) which transferred the lumps of salt with their different size carts or wagons and last but not least plutasii sarari (i.e. cork salt carriers), which took the salt from one area to another by water on corks. The most common chirigii were the salt riders, which transported the salt with horses or mules in the most inaccessible areas. There they sold it to local peasants whom had small storage rooms with several troughs. The latters used the salt for themselves by taking it directly from the salt mines or from customs present along the "Salt Road". The ones carrying the largest amounts, were the log drivers which had their corks ready before the season start, and their building technique was a very special and ingenious one, which consisted of raising a bed of beams at least half a meter above the cork, this way the humidity didn't alter or weighted more the transported products, but on the contrary they were supposed to be continuously ventilated on this suspended platform. They used to have two favourable periods of time for shipments with corks, in spring after Easter and in fall when the river flow is higher.

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In Middle Ages the most famous "salt roads" were those on water--the river Mures from the upper area of Mures until Szeged, the river Somes, from Dej until its flow into Tisa, the river Olt from its upper course until its flow into Danube. The salt riders' roads were in the Marginimea Sibiului area, Brasov and Hateg Depressions and of course the Tarnave rivers area. The improvement and modernization of extraction methods have increased the number of villages in areas surrounding the mines, but also traders who have used the same routes to commercialize the salt until the mid-twentieth century, when the salt began to be packed and its marketing was done by systematically supplied stores by trucks salt mines.

Curative premises with touristic valences

Because of suspension of salt exploitation, often determined by flooded salt mines, but also the discovery of salt water sources, since the early nineteenth century in the Transylvanian Depression, began to appear some spa tourism activities, directly related to their potential. If in some places the bell abandoned mines turned into salt lakes usable for wellness, in others the salt water sources is captured and used in new treatment facilities and swimming pools with health purposes.

Thus a new type of tourism gradually develops, the saline health tourism, found in about 20 villages on the Transylvanian Plateau, with an inconsistent evolution marked by major investments and other periods of stagnation or degradation of an existing touristic material base, within the two centuries taken for study in this article.

The timing was based on certain thresholds which have led to changes in the management of health tourism in Transylvania. If ancient and Middle Ages period is easy to distinguish through the historic characteristics in the Transylvanian area, the next timing was made according to the political and economical changes of the last two centuries starting with 1800, when major investments were made in the salted water wellness tourism. In order to realize that in this period of time there have been wellness activities connected with the salt waters, we should establish a connection with the surface Roman mining from: Ocna Sibiului, Ocna Mures, Turda, Ocna Dejului, Praid and even Sovata, where in addition, Romans arranged wellness saline basins, as they did in the case of thermal waters. Nowadays we see the relevance in these three periods of time in which the "Salt Roads" and the wellness resorts have seen a continuous development.

The relationship between tourism amenities and medical tourism is very well presented which is evidenced by Berlescu (1982) the therapeutic role and their importance in the development of spa tourism through direct involvement by doctors.

Analysis of resort facilities on the former salt road

In preparing this analysis was necessary the use of almost every method known in the Geography of Tourism, in order to fill that void existing information. Accumulation of information, especially the statistical one, was made mostly by foot because of missing data or some unrealistic ones in order to reveal the most accurate information possible. In order to implement the study, we took into consideration two major categories in analyzing the tourist potential and the resort's image.

In quantifying the tourist value we started from the ideal model that comprises all the categories, subcategories and tourist elements that all together sum up 100 points, giving each segment value points according to the number and elements' content of which it is composed. Thus for the hydrological value were given a score between 0 abd 18 points for subcategories represented by hydro sources where water properties were taken into account in direct relation with chemistry, flow, water catchments and their therapeutic qualities, subgroups like mofette emanations were quantified by composition, radioactivity and density, and other subcategories such as lakes, rivers and waterfalls were dashed after their training, length, flow, slope, etc. The other elements analysis is based on the same manner of quantification which is explained in detail by Cianga (1997, 158-161) and applied to each individual state by Costea (2008) in his doctoral thesis where he presented octagonal model and a more thourough SWOT analysis.

(0-16) (0-5) (0-18) (0-8) (0-10) (0-7) (0-24) (0-11)

TP = [SIGMA] 1 + [SIGMA] 2 + [SIGMA] 3 + [SIGMA] 4 + [SIGMA] 5 + [SIGMA] 6 + [SIGMA] 7 + [SIGMA] 8 = 100 points Where : TP--total value of the tourist potential: [SIGMA] 1--morphological value, [SIGMA] 2--climatic tourism value, [SIGMA] 3--hydrological value, [SIGMA] 4--biogeographical value, [SIGMA] 5--anthropogenic potential value, [SIGMA] 6--conservation status value, [SIGMA] 7 material basis value, [SIGMA] 8--accessibility value

The destination image is the expression of all knowledge, feeling, imagination and thoughts of a man about a place. It affects mostly the decision to choose that destination as a holiday destination or leisure. Over time many researchers as Hunt (1975) and Scott et al. (1978), Stabler (1988), Chon (1991), Echner and Ritchie (1991) or Botterill and Crompton (1996) have tried to determine the main factors in forming a destination image. Of these the most expressive one we believe to be the Stabler's, where a description in terms of demand and supply highlighting elements such as perceptions, motivations, psychological characteristics, experiences, socio-economic characteristics, hearsay education, tourist marketing and media (TV, Newspapers, travel guides) are all presented in detail by Jenkins (1999).

The picture of places which have distinguishing characteristics are more common in their marketing and in the creating of a more distinct and unique image. Therefore we aimed to highlight the image that they have locally and internationally in order to be able to compare them by applying the pentagonal method (Oprea 2010), where those taken into account had values comprised between:

(0-3) (0-5) (0-2) (0-3) (0-2)

IP = [SIGMA] 1 + [SIGMA] 2 + [SIGMA] 3 + [SIGMA] 4 + [SIGMA] 5 = 15 points

Where: IP--total image value, [SIGMA] 1--advertising image value, [SIGMA] 2--internet image value, [SIGMA] 3--infomaterials image value, [SIGMA] 4--tourist guides value, [SIGMA] 5 indicatory signs value

To establish the image total value in a resort we chose to analyze some criteria that received points according to their importance on a local level but on international as well and which start from the ideal model with absolute values summing up 15 points.

To quantify the image of commercials (advertising image) we have chosen a score from 0-3 points awarded to the resort according to its presence on commercials television, radio and newspapers both locally and nationally, giving a point for the existence of an advertisement in one of the three channels of information presented above. In the process of quantifying the infomaterials have been taken in the analysis the tourist information centers in the studied area as well as local and regional tourism fairs and the items that scored here were brochures and flyers with information on resorts, those with the maximum score being the ones both published and available on the market.

The analysis of signaling them through signs and billboards that guides you to the resort was made by the method of investigation in the field and this one scores the street traffic signs and advertisements indicating the locations studied, maximum score obtain the ones which benefit from both forms of signaling. All of them having to emphasize the role of local and national image, which is added to the image on the web that points to both the internal and external impact, the score being based on the structure of the site (The resort's own site, site with general information role or a promoting article) and the international languages in which this information can be accessed, receiving a point those with a content item in an international language and two those having more than one international language, methods found in the article by Stremteanu (2005).

The last part of the image analysis only wants to point out these resorts international image by studying three editions dedicated to international travel guides in Romania LonelyPlanet, National Geographic and Via Michelin, pointing information regarding the analyzed resorts, all these being based on a complex study realized by Rotaru (2010), where positive or negative rural space image was analyzed as they were presented in international traffic guides in different languages.

Analysis results are presented below in the form of graphs and their analysis can permit a short SWOT presentation for the resorts.

Baile Figa are part of the city Beclean and have a long tradition of salt exploitation here being discovered in 2007 a unique site in Eastern Europe, which includes many objects used in salt mining and well preserved due to saline environment. In 2010 a saline health park has been opened on 15 acres of land containing a therapeutic center, salt water pool, showers and medical office buildings, parks, playgrounds, sandy beach, terrace, jacuzzi, sauna, freshwater swimming pool, parking place and a therapeutic mud area, all these facilities turning it into one of the most modern in the country.

The analysis of the tourist potential highlights a great anthropogenic one with a very high state of preservation and a good accessibility to the modern material base which compensates the weak climatic and biogeographic development in the area. The image analysis shows that the baths are advertised locally and on Romanian web pages, and maybe in the future will also appear in international guidelines (Fig. 2).

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In a brief SWOT analysis we can see the main strengths: the recent saline health park and archaeological discoveries unique in Eastern Europe; weaknesses: only local publicity and the small number of accommodation units; opportunities: registration in several themed tourist circuits; the risks: inadequate tourist exploitation, a danger for the archaeological site preservation.

Ocna Dejului, belongs to Dej municipality, and in the past there were some tourist activities, as a consequence of building up the swimming place next to the salt exploitation where treatments were being held in Cabdic Lake. The current baths upgrading and the building of the saline health Toroc Park expanded on 40 hectares, which includes the renovated salt lake, a sandy beach, a beach grass, a therapy center, shower and medical office building, sports fields, an outdoor pool, a restaurant, a relaxation area and in November an indoor heated pool will be opened with sauna, jacuzzi and a hydro massage room.

The analysis of salt-related tourism potential and salt waters indicate significant values due largely to raising tourist activities in both baths recently upgraded and the existing salt mine, where in 2000 a church open for tourists was built up, but also to the salt anthropogenic landscape with tourist potential, individualized through the recent subsidence of a room from Transylvania Mine, which could become in time an important tourist objective.

The results of image analysis reveal a poor publicity, a complete lack of appearances in the studied guidelines and not even in the local press where media access is easier. The only information that can be found is on the salt mine webpage or in the journalistic articles, but as a compensation there are many traffic tourist signs in the city of Dej (Fig. 3).

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In a brief SWOT analysis we can see that the main strengths would be the accessibility in the area, the recently completed modern road infrastructure, the existence of a wider space for amenities and the salt mine with great opportunities to attract tourists; the weaknesses: the poor publicity and the nowadays intensive salt exploitation; opportunities: the possibility to enhance the historic past regarding the salt exploitation and the risks: the negative impact of the industrial activities which can lead to inefficient tourist activities.

The rural settlement Cojocna, is located 24 km east of Cluj Napoca and is recognized for its treatment water quality and its sludge. Tourist planning takes into consideration the summer activities, that is why the main facilities were developed around the lakes Bailor and Durgau, even from the beginning of last century when a sanatorium and a hostel were built and the investment in a treatment based hotel, back in 1998, proved to be unprofitable. The baths present upgrading lasted two years and in spring 2010 opened its gates. The management construction has a surface of 76 hectares and includes the central building (with showers and toilets), sport fields, a therapy center, camping area, the banks of the two salt lakes and a sandy beach. The only one that could not be restored using the program's grant money was the hotel on site, so currently there are some problems with accommodation.

Regarding the value of tourism potential, it has reached a sixteen value worth, and that of the material bases at a lower rate of two, because there are no treatment facilities and the accommodation is only available during summer time (Fig. 4).

[FIGURE 4 OMITTED]

The Cojocna Baths image is promoted on a local basis by some flyers and an ad in a local paper, unfortunately the internet promotion is inexistent as there isn't any webpage uploaded for this resort.

In a brief SWOT analysis we can see that the main strengths would be the favourable position accountable to Cluj Napoca, the recent completed modern road infrastructure; the weaknesses would be the lack of competitive accommodation facilities and a poor publicity; the opportunity to create a rural tourist network, developing a more efficient summery transport system and rehabilitation of the on-site hotel; the risks: lack of promotion which lead to the absence of some intense tourist activities, investments become unprofitable and areal instability for heavy construction in the southern part of tourist facilities.

Noteworthy is the fact that modernization of the above facilities is a successful association and absorption model of the European funds through the project "Increasing the saline health potential value in the salt lakes of the North Western Region" and the investment in the three balneary parks amounted 5.4 million Euro plus VAT. European Union's contribution was 3-4 million (63-75%) and financing from the state budget amounted 1.1 million Euro (21.25% of the project). The local beneficiary's contribution is 816.000 Eur (15% of the project) and was supported by the mayors and county councils of Cluj and Bistrita Nasaud.

Turda, a municipality located in the heart of Transylvania, has enjoyed tourist amenities even since the end of nineteenth century, when near the Roman Lake a 30 room hotel with restaurant and hot baths was built. This lake was the first one developed starting with the interwar years and later on in the 1970s the shores were turned into concrete and around it the necessary endowments were made for wellness activities to take place. Nowadays the spa complex is being renovated by European funds with an investment of about 6 million euro. In Turda there was also reopened the salt mine in 1992 (with tourist and curative purpose) and is being visited all year round. Early 2010 its modernization, which had an investment of 5.8 million Euro, was completed. It soon became one of the most visited tourist objectives around the country, having a number of 230,000 tourists in the first 6 months from the renovation. The main attractions within are the well-preserved Middle Ages mine equipments, the new endowments inside the Tereza room including the lake, the fire towers on the middle island and the Rudolf hall where are several recreational facilities, the most spectacular being the merry-go-round. There was also built a 200 seats amphitheater, with heated chairs and a playground for children. Closer to the access area the treatment base is properly arranged. Regarding tourist potential value can be said that this one was evaluated in our study at a thirty-two value, one of the higher values registered, this one showing that once finished, the works at the baths, Turda will become one of the most important tourist centers in Transylvania.

Image analysis results of the tourist management points out that is very well represented reaching 14 points both by the presence in the three analyzed international guidelines and the local radio and TV advertising (Fig. 5).

[FIGURE 5 OMITTED]

In a brief SWOT analysis we can see that the main strengths are the most modern salt mine in Romania, the easy access in the area, the existence of nine salt lakes of which four can be used for wellness treatments and of course the publicity; the only weakness is the presence of halophilic plants with repugnant aspect from the salt lake area; the opportunities consist in the completion of the modernization project of the bath, the zoo and the international promotion; there is an increased geomorphologic risk in the Valea Sarata (Salt Valley).

From the former spa with a prodigious tourist activity in the past, Ocna Mures, remain only the old treatment base and the deserted swimming pool with a special architecture. The only positive thing is the renewal of the former hotel, under the name Europe, currently used for transit tourism. The analysis of salt waters and salt-related tourism potential indicate values up to 3 points summing up a total of 13 points but could rise significantly by updating the baths and the treatment facility and by setting up a mining museum, here being well known the tradition in mine explorations.

Image analysis on Ocna Mures highlights very poor media coverage on all levels, the only elements that have scored are the internet promotion and a traffic sign perhaps remained from the baths heyday.

The SWOT analysis indicates the major strengths of the resort: the large heavy salted water resources, the recent reconstruction of a modern hotel; the weaknesses consisting in a high geomorphological risk in the studied area, the former treatment facility and the swimming pool are in an advanced state of decay; the opportunities can be summed up by a possible baths' renovation and their national and international promotion; the risks are the frequent crumbling that can affect the salt lakes adjacent buildings (Fig. 6).

[FIGURE 6 OMITTED]

Ocna Sibiului stands out as a saline health resort with a vast potential cure, an important historical past in terms of tourism and the existence of new development perspectives. This local tourism is based on the 12 of 14 existing lakes, used and furnished in the summer tourism, divided into two areas, first one at the Swimming Spa Complex, with Horea, Closca and Crisan lakes and a high planning degree with wooden platform edge, privately owned, compared with the second area the one with the exterior lakes, owned by the town hall, with superficial facilities made for summer season. The resort is currently involved in two planning projects around the lakes which are due to be completed in 2011.

Regarding the tourism potential value, it has been evaluated in the study at thirty-six, with high values at the hydrological potential and the material basis. The image analysis shows a very good internet coverage as well as in the three guidelines taken into consideration but the ones on TV and radio are completely missing.

In a brief SWOT analysis we can see the main strengths are the small distance from Sibiu and Medias, the easy accessibility, the existence of 14 salt lakes, which contain large quantities of vegetable slime mud; among the weaknesses we can mention the large areas with halophilic vegetation, abandoned and degraded buildings; the possibility to arrange the banks and beaches on the exterior rivers, to diversify the tourism by creating a salt museum are only a few of the opportunities in the area; the risks imply an increased geomorphological dynamics in the exterior lakes area.

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Praid was highlighted as one of the old rural settlements in Salt Land, located at the eastern edge of the Transylvanian Depression. In the tourism evolution we can see the baths development and the opening of the salt mine for tourists visitation in mid past century, whose 50 exploitation horizon is arranged as a basis for treatment and recreation. The interest for this resort turns the flow of tourists into a continuously one throughout the entire year, and much higher in summer, when another end of the tourism is turning salt water into swimming bath near saline. Out of 18 points, the total tourism potential value, these two dimensions are of great importance, plus in this case, the tourist potential of the landscape represented by the Salt Hill and Corund Gorge, the only one excavated in salt, in the south, unfortunately although it is declared a natural reserve, it is not included in the tourist circuit (Fig. 8).

[FIGURE 8 OMITTED]

The image analysis shows us that Praid is well publicized on the Internet but also in the three studied magazines. The main strengths in a SWOT analysis consist of the multiple services on a relatively small area, the existence of swimming pool with spa warm tub and close contact with Hungary; the weaknesses are the lack of tourist promotion of the southern salt exploitations, inside the Salt Hill; opportunities - the existence of a project meant to create a modern treatment facility in the resort's western part, introducing the Salt Hill, Corund Gorges and the old salt mines in the tourist circuit and the aggressive advertising and promotion; the main risks consist of an increased water level of Tarnava Mica river that could flood some tourist individual households.

Sovata, located in eastern Transylvania, disposes of diversified treatment and accommodation facility bases. Here tourism is interconnected with salt water resources, stationed in a number of seven lakes that are the main tourist attraction point. Six of these lakes are naturally formed and located in the north-western part of the saline health resort, in a forestry vegetation area. Based on total tourism potential of 24 points lower than in Ocna Sibiului or Turda, this one is much better capitalized by the large scale of tourism here, as 70% of accommodation are concentrated here, resulting in a greater flow of tourists that turns Sovata in the largest saline health resort in the Transylvanian area. This rank was favoured by massive investments in large hotel capacity back in 1970s, when along the existing old villas from the interwar period, new material basis have appeared here increasing the amount of tourist interest in the area.

Image analysis results on the tourism planning shows us that its international promotion is very good and is done so by tourist guides and internet, as highlighted by the presence of a large number of foreign tourists (Fig. 9).

[FIGURE 9 OMITTED]

In a brief SWOT analysis we can see that the main strengths could be the existence of six karst-salted lakes with large quantities of salt water and mud, and the Sovata saline health brand; the weaknesses are the lack of space inside the resort, resulting in the occurrence of overcrowded periods; the opportunity to combine the saline health tourism with the mountain tourism, thus reducing the seasonality phenomena and declaring it an international resort; the risk of degradation and crashing of the old abandoned households.

Besides these resorts there were still six more considered fitting for the study: Someseni, Sic, Gherla, Jabenita, Ideciu de Jos, Miercurea Sibiului, Sangeorgiu de Padure, where there are salt springs and a great potential for development if they could follow up the same associative system of investments as the one in Cojocna, Dej and Figa baths.

The Proposal for Transylvanian thematic salt routes in future period

Over time, salt's role has changed but the practical use of the salted areas has stayed the same, especially the wellness tourism, as it results from the above study (Table 1). From the above analysis results, we can also see that although the majority is being upgraded or in the process of re-updating, the saline health centers lack media promotion in order to obtain the most efficient investment results, which could lead to the development of hostel networks in the local area. Our proposal is to establish an association comprising all these former salt exploitations which in time have changed their profile to tourism, aiming the historical, cultural and maybe the most important, wellness promotion of these regions and especially for those similar sites interconnected only through common history. A promotion model for culture and history in salt exploitation areas is developed in Germany and the Czech Republic, called "The Old Salt Road". Here the old road was partially reconstructed and every settlement or establishment tries to emphasize and promote their local values.

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Transylvania's advantage is that it developed from tourist exploitation areas where salt wellness was being intensively practiced and that this road would not only have historical and cultural connotation but rather that of a health path. Taking into consideration different historical materials studied regarding the old road of salt we can issue two types of routes that would take the following routes. The northern salt road or the Somes river's route, would have as starting point the most southern resort, Cojocna (Fig. 10), located on the 161A county road, the route will continue towards north on the European route E576, between Apahida and Dej, where another resort would join the salt road through the county road 109T, the village Sic. The main wellness center would be on the same European route E576, and that is Ocna Dejului, all these settlements being located in the Somesul Mic basin. The sole objective in the Somesul Mare basin that could join the northern salt road could be Figa, near Beclean on the European route E58. On the same route could also be included the Someseni, Gherla and Saratel baths if they succeed obtaining a sustainable development.

The southern road of salt or the Mures river route includes several sectors, thus we have the northern sector, where a local route has already been developed between Sangeorgiu de Mures and Sovata-Praid on the county road 153A; here could be also included Baile Jabenita and Ideciu de Jos through DJ153, a road that mainly follows up the old Roman roads, and DN15, all three forming a salt triangle with over four saline health centers and a salt mine. From Sangeorgiu de Mures the road would continue towards South-West until it reaches Turda, city that can be considered, taking into account the analysis made but also future projects, headline of this road. From here the road continues south through the Valley of Aries and then Mures to the former mining exploitation from Ocna Mures, which due to history and development possibilities could become an important point on this tourist road. The route would continue south on the Mures valley to the intersection with E68 where is expected to turn east towards Ocna Sibiului, thus following the old road of salt between Ocna Sibiului and Vintu de Jos, where salt was transported by ox carts. On this road could also join the settlement from Miercurea Sibiului, due to its very good position over E68. These two tourist routes can be taken as organization models for the other thematic roads in the area where its direct beneficiaries, the local authorities and the county council could form a NGO that would promote these routes, but also try to obtain European funds for development, or preservation of their local traditions by creating salt museums, or an international media coverage by participating in specialized fairs. The unified development projects would have a stronger impact than the isolated ones. The saline health tourism represents a "trump card" for Transylvania compared to the surrounding areas. To signal this route we propose the following panels which should be located throughout the entire road especially near important tourist objectives as to generate interest in visiting them, even for those persons who are only in

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Conclusions

The salt roads were part of a wider category of ancient, traditional roads. But these roads have formed in time somewhat independent of other economic paths or routes, many of which are considered to be related to the pastoral roads. Among the best routes for transport and traditional trade we can also mention the roads following intra- and extra- Carpathian waters courses. On these water courses over the centuries, lacking products in some areas, such as salt or wood, were carried through being more difficult to transport by carts, or other means of transport in some areas with difficult land access routes.

We believe that along with thematic tourist routes like Wine Road, Mineral Water Trail, Gold Road, Spruce Pine Road, Limestone Trail, The Maramures Heritage Trail, Tur River Trail and a Salt Road would have an important role in promoting and developing tourism, but also in keeping its "spirit of the place" by preserving the cultural heritage in Transylvania. The spa touring amenities are related to salif-slide structures in Transylvania and some old salt mines for nearly two millennia.

There is a development of spa salt tourism with tourist facilities even since the nineteenth century. A real resort system identified itself in time, most of them being of local importance and in a precarious state of conservation. The revival is possible in terms of their integration into the specific Transylvanian cultural space. Resorts location along or near major roads allows their integration in the tourist resorts of thematic trails, roads that would serve to develop and promote the health tourism.

Received September 5, 2010. Resubmitted October 30

REFERENCES

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CIANGA, N. (1984), Economia turismului in Depresiunea Transilvaniei, Studia Univ. Babes-Bolyai, Serie Geol.- Geogr., 64-70.

CIANGA, N. (1997), Turismul in Carpatii Orientali. Studiu de geografie umand, Presa Universitara Clujeana, Cluj Napoca.

CIANGA, N. & COCEAN, P. (2001), L'edification du systeme desstations touristiques de la Roumanie, Studia Univ. Babes-Bolyai, Geographia, no. 1, 119-129.

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* "Babes-Bolyai" University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Nicolae Cianga * Marius G. Oprea *, Daniel Costea *, Laura Giurgiu*, Iulia Cianga*

Table 1 Tourism potential and image profile values

Tourism Potential     FIGA   OC DEJ   COJOCNA   TURDA

Hydrological           2       2         5        6
Morphological          1       1         2        3
Climatic               2       2         2        2
Biogegraphical         2       2         4        2
Antropogenic           5       5         1        6
Conservation status    5       5         4        4
Material Basis         3       4         1        4
Accessibility          4       4         2        3
Image Profile
Tourist Guides         0       0         1        3
Advertising            2       1         0        3
Infomaterials          1       1         0        2
Indicatory signs       1       1         0        2
Internet               2       2         3        4

Tourism Potential     OC MURES   OC SIBIU   SOVATA

Hydrological             2          13        3
Morphological            3          4         4
Climatic                 2          3         3
Biogegraphical           1          4         3
Antropogenic             1          1         6
Conservation status      2          4         4
Material Basis           1          8         6
Accessibility            2          4         4
Image Profile
Tourist Guides           0          3         3
Advertising              0          0         1
Infomaterials            0          1         1
Indicatory signs         1          1         2
Internet                 1          5         5

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The Reconstruction of "The Salt Road"-A Means to Develop and Promote the Saline Health Tourism in Transylvania
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