Imagine my excitement when my friend Nikki asked if she could be a guest blogger on Jar Of Salt! A citizen of the world, an ardent traveler and a fellow postcard-writing enthusiast, she shares with us her inspiring trip to the picturesque salt beds of Slovenia.
It’s not everyday that I get an author to share words from the heart on this blog: Nikki Dy-Liacco is the award-winning children’s book author of “The Yellow Paperclip With Bright Purple Spots” (I love it!!!!)
Thank you so much, Nikki, for adding more flavor to the Jar Of Salt!
OF SALT AND SURPRISES | By Nikki Dy-Liacco
I found this line on a jar of salt from Slovenia: Sol je morje, ki ni moglo nazaj na nebo. Salt is the sea that could not return to the sky.
Soon after, I found this line in my head: I found poetry on a salt bed.
Two years later, those lines are begging to be shared. I don’t claim to be a poet but for a writer who can’t write poems, I still need to give these words their rightful space. I knew I found the best place when my friend named her blog Jar of Salt. (Thanks, Cherie!)
Taja, one of my good friends in high school, and I promised a visit to each other’s hometowns one day. Thirteen years after our graduation, I spent a few rainy November days with Taja and her beautiful family in Malija, a small town southwest of the capital Ljubljana, perched on a hill overlooking Slovenia’s 47-kilometer coastline of the Adriatic Sea. When she asked if I wanted to visit a salt bed, I agreed nonchalantly, not knowing what I’d see and not expecting much, but just wanting to get closer to the sea.
Less than an hour’s drive away was the Sečovlje Salina Nature Park, comfortably tucked away between postcard-perfect Piran and the mountains of Croatia. I never thought I’d wax-poetic about salt (well, I never even thought about how salt was made until then!) but the Sečovlje salt-pans left such an impression on me that two years later, I still find myself reminiscing about that gray autumn afternoon. And rightly so because it wasn’t just any salt-pan:
At Sečovlje Salina Nature Park, the past and present still walk hand in hand. The ancient method of salt-making, learnt ages ago by the Piran salt-workers from their teachers, the salters from Pag Island, is still something special, even in the entire Mediterranean.
Not only that the traditional manual gathering of salt in salt fields is a special feature of the cultural heritage of the Mediterranean Slovenia, but it also provides for conditions that enable conservation of the most significant natural heritage of the Sečovlje Salina. According to the available written records, the Sečovlje salt-pans are more than 700 years old, and even much older according to some other sources. Once upon a time, salt-pans were quite common along the mouths of the rivers in the Gulf of Trieste and Istria.
It was a weekday and we had the whole park to ourselves. The light drizzle and gray skies added to the surreal sense of wonder I felt walking along the Park. Can one really find poetry on a salt bed? I believe so.
Was it because I stood where centuries of salt-workers spent their days and nights in manual labor? Much hard work takes place before salt reaches our table; many had to (and continue to) prepare the salt-pans, line the basins with mineral-rich petola, harvest the crystals, and haul tons of salt onto wooden wagons.
Or was it because I was amazed at how pretty and colorful salt crystals can be? The Museum of Salt-Making showcased comparative study of salts from around the world: pink from the Himalayas; black from Hawai’I; yellow from Africa; and a brilliant white from Sečovlje, created purely by the sun, wind, sea, and the work of the salt-pan workers.
Could it be the flora and fauna? I loved seeing several white egrets gallantly wading through the basins and the flurry of wildflowers growing along the banks of the salt-pans, slightly softening the grids extending across 650 hectares of the Park.
Or maybe it was the fine taste of fleur de sel, tickling my tongue and elevating the endorphin boost from the dark chocolate? As one of the more expensive salts used by chefs and foodies, I learned that the “flower of salt” is the thin, topmost layer scraped off from the salt bed.
Or perhaps it was the element of surprise: who would have thought salt could be so endearing and memorable? Spending the afternoon walking through artisan salt-pans on the northernmost part of the Adriatic Sea is one of my most favorite travel memories.
Yes, the sense of wonder (and yes, as cheesy as it sounds, the sense of poetry) was from all of that and more. I’m glad I found a way to somehow capture and bottle up the experience in a Jar of Salt.
Nikki wishes she met Cherie two years earlier so she could have bought her a jar of Piranske Soline salt from Slovenia to add to her collection. She also wishes she has more time to blog and to try writing poems (though not necessarily about salt).