Mother Nature, fickle as she can be, has such a lovely artistic side to her, don’t you think? Just look at this photo of some of her creations below. Beautiful, right? Can you tell what it is?
I took this picture in a shop in Amsterdam. I was in my native Holland, taking a break from my expat life abroad.
Amsterdam is full of surprises. It has funky museums such as a torture museum, a sex museum, and a hash museum. It also has lots of fun and interesting shops. I visited one unique shop that specializes in the sale of one product only (see picture above). The only other brick-and-mortar shop like it in the world is in Japan. And at this very moment you may well have the product of the sort they sell sitting on your dining room table no matter what obscure corner of the world you inhabit.
What does this boutique shop sell? Salt. And only salt. Over 100 different kinds of salt. Don’t confuse this with the product called “table salt” you find on the supermarket shelves. That stuff began its life as salt but has been so burned, chemically abused and adulterated that it has lost all its value and character.
I learned a lot about salt lately. I never thought of salt as being interesting. Did you? As a matter of fact, until a few years ago, I never thought about salt at all. It was just white stuff in a box or shaker.
Salt: Not just white stuff
Like the spice trade, the salt trade has a fascinating history, and images of camel caravans trekking through the Sahara with their loads of salt come to mind. Actually, these caravans are still at it today. The photo below was taken earlier this year in Ethiopia (but not by me).
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you all about the history of salt. If you are interested, you can read Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. It’s fascinating.
I loved browsing the Salsamentum, looking at all the different types of salt from all over the planet. Here just a few:
o Sundried salt from the Kalahari, 280 million years old.
o Chunky salt from the Indonesian island of Bali, where the salt crystallizes in the ocean and grows into little hollow pyramids that float along the top of the water. How cool is that?
o Pink Himalaya salt from Pakistan, also ancient.
o Alaea, traditional Hawaiian sea salt, that has the color of terra cotta because of the addition of a small amount of iron-oxide-rich clay.
Ever taken part in a salt tasting? Think about it: Wine tastings, cheese tastings and olive oil tastings are so yesterday. Surely you are ready for the unique experience of a salt degustation. But . . .
Update: Sadly the shop is no longer in business
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Your turn: Have you ever discovered something “ordinary” was not so ordinary after all? Or what kind of unique shop have you discovered in your travels?
Wow…this goes to show how amazing nature is! And how, if we have a passion for something, we can do so much with it.
I agree, salt is way more interesting than I ever gave it credit for until I discovered this healing salt cave in Germany – similar to the one in Poland. This was my crazy salt adventure: http://wanderingcarol.com/?page_id=574
Love salt – all kinds. I will definitely visit this shop if ever in Amsterdam. Thanks!
This is really cool – wish I had known about it when I was in Amsterdam! I recently went to the Salinas Grandes Salt Flats where it was endless miles and miles of salt in all direction (http://wp.me/p27toQ-Eh) — it was so breathtaking — so I totally agree with you that salt isn’t just white stuff!
Wowser! Never knew that there was THIS much to salt. New found respect deluxe!
I keep learning more and more amazing things about salt!
That’s so cool! Downunder here in Australia, soil salinity is causing increasing problems for our largest river system. But hey – if you’ve got lemons, make lemonade – there’s a delicate pink gourmet salt extracted from the River Murray Water that looks and tastes sensational!
Like everything else, salt has it’s negative sides. So there’s a pink Australian salt too. Great fun to learn about all the kidns of salt in the world.
I knew there was more than the ordinary table salt about, but I would have never guessed there were so many different types. Do they actually taste very different from each other as well?
They actually do salt tastings at the store, and I imagine you have to have a pretty sensitive palate to distinguish between the different kinds. I suppose you learn, like you learn to taste the various flavors of olive oil, which I have not mastered either.
Interesting indeed and pretty…
If you’re ever in Kraków, Poland check this salt mine out http://www.kopalnia.pl/en/about-the-mine
A Polish salt mine. I’d never heard of it. Amazing the things you can learn about salt, isn’t it?