In Transylvania you will find many salt mountains, Turda (Torda), Praid (Parajd), Lueta (Lövéte) or even an entire region called Ținutul Sării (Sóvidék, Salzgebiet), the ‘region of the salt’. These are often invisible, as the salty domes are covered by a thin layer of crust, but very well-known by tourist who enjoy the benefits of salty air from the caves, or salty thermal water in the baths.
But today I am going to write about a lesser known treasure: Lueta (Lövéte) and its salty fountains. Well, it is not lesser known for those living in the area, as they took advantage of this natural gift for centuries. I am going to share their traditions.
Calling by their names
There is a strange custom among the villages here, all of them use funny nicknames for each other, known only by the locals: for example because of the salty waters those living in Lueta (Lövéte) are called salty-headed (sósfejűek). But the nearby inhabitants of Vlahita (Szentegyháza) could not escape either, and are called horsemen or horse breeder (csikósok), just like those from Capilnita (Kápolnásfalu) are called goat heads / goat shepperds (kecskések). These traditions are of course fading, together with so many others…
About the settlement
Lueta or Lövéte (Hungarian name) is inhabited by 3395 people, mainly ethnic Hungarians, of Catholic faith. The latter property earned them another nickname: the ‘bastion of Catholicism’, as they are the last Catholic settlement before the protestant sea of villages like Ocland (Oklánd), Mereşti (Homoródalmás), Crăciunel (Homoródkarácsonyfalva).
Unfortunately the municipality has mainly stories about buildings that were demolished during the centuries. For example Moses Székely, the only prince of Transylvania originally from Szeklerland, had his estate here, the wall details of the basement of the manor can still be seen today.
Its church is a relatively new one, it was built to replace the old chapel that was considered small and demolished in 1772. The new church was built between 1771 and 1776, in a late baroque style, the ruins and material of Moses Székely’s mansion were used.
The salty fountain
The mountains around Lueta (Lövéte) are partly salt domes, covered by a thin layer of crust. This is the reason why many landslides are happening, the thin crust just slips down into the valley. One of the major landslide was in June 1970, when 14 million cubic meters of crust slipped down until it reached the small Homorod (Kis-Homoród) river.
Despite the gloomy introduction, there are many benefits of the salty domes. One major is the salty fountains of Lueta (Lövéte). When a spring crosses the salty domes its water becomes salty, and while the level of concentration varies there are two particular ones that have a very high concentration.
One of them is on a private property, and it is often open for visits if you pay the entrance fee, but the other one is a public treasure, accessible for free! The salty fountain is protected by the locals, as it covers their salt needs, and a salt house was built around it in the 1800’s. The wooden salt house has two wooden buckets, with a long handle, that are used to scoop the water. The buckets are heavy as they soaked in the salty water.
From time to time the water has to be stirred, as the lesser salty water gets on the top, while the denser water sits in the 4 meters deep bottom.
The house is open only on the following days (in order to give time for the water to fill up the fountain again):
Monday: between 07.00 a.m. – 14.00 p.m.
Wednesdays: between 14.00 p.m. – 18. p.m.
Fridays: between 7.00 a.m. – 14.00 p.m.
Utilization of the salty water
There are many ways to use the highly concentrated salty water, I am only going to mention the more traditional ways, but I advise you to get creative, and find new ways to enjoy the benefits of the water!
Before the era of refrigerators different conservation techniques were adopted and salty water plays an important role in that!
Bacon/fat and meat
Speciality of the area that the bacon (slanina / szalonna) is either fermented on smoke or in salty water. Both methods are widely used, the high concentration of salt from the water preserves the bacon. The salty water is poured into wooden barrels, then the bacon soaks in this water. It is edible anytime, as the bacon will eject the excess salt. Same applies to the meat as well.
Telemea, sheep and goat cheeses can also be stored for years in the salty water, similarly with the bacon. The key is to change the salty water once a year with fresh one. The cheese when removed from the wooden barrels has to soak in fresh water for one day, the water has to be changed several times, to eliminate the excess salt. After this process the cheese is usually grinded, and kneaded into cottage cheese.
Seasoning with salty water
In Lueta (Lövéte) the meals are seasoned with salty water instead of crystal salt. But you have to be a professional to be able to use salty water, as this is the most difficult thing to do. Because of the high concentration of salt it is way too easy to pour too much, it takes a longer period to learn the right quantities.
Evaporate the water
In this region the majority is still using wood to heat the houses, and they put water in a can nearby the fireplace to get more humidity in the air.
Let us know in the comments how you would use the water!
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