KesterTester70 - An autumn sunset where men (and it's all men) work long hours according to ancient practices in an industry based on nature's capricious uncertainties.
Photo: This young lady is a wildlife warden in an ecologically important and sociologically historic area of the CEE/SEE region. But what is that railway-like looking system doing here?
I'm not sure how difficult readers will find this week's tester - this scene is from a 'niche' location that may prove difficult for many. I'll offer up some more clues next week, maybe on Monday, to help things along if readers are struggling.
Meanwhile, KT69 is still open to keen sleuthers for a few more days (I don't think it really needs any more clues).
Happy Easter to all!
EXTRA CLUE 1 - Monday - OK, those dark hills in the background are in another country - does that help anyone?
EXTRA CLUE 2 - Friday - Back in the day, the industry here provided weatlh and riches, supporting a strong cultural life. The harvesting season was tough, awfully tough, however - and still is, in fact. It requires especially early starts, and what with local pay levels, it's difficult to get workers today as a result.
At least, that's what people told me during my last visit, about 10 years ago.
This Tester baffled a fair few Perspective-Budapest sleuthers: Tom Chilton wondered if it might be Lake Fertő, looking towards Austria, but mumbled something about the hills in the background not being right.
That didn't worry Alan Sutton, who also pondered about the tramway system. “Is it the Neuseidler See (Fertő)? The picture looks like a fish farm, but the craft would be harvesting reeds for thatch,” he posited.
Hmmmm. There's some good logic showing there, Alan.
Bénédicte Williams swanned in, all very excited, to write: “Maybe my previous KT success (for which thanks to the EU-approved black woolly hat) has gone to my head, but isn't that the Ston salt works in Croatia? Complete with tracks for taking the salt out? Nice photo, in any case. Happy Easter!” Greg Dorey was thinking on similar lines. “Hi Kester, Salt flats at Seca, Slovenia?
Happy Easter.” He means Seča in real Slovene, of course – but we'll forgive Greg the diacritic-less entry.
Another suggesting Slovenia was a little less exact on the geographics. “Kester, at first glance I thought that looks to me like the salt flats near Portorož, Slovenia. Upon further inspection I’m submitting that as my answer. Happy Easter,” John Cantwell wrote by way of entry.
The location finding got more shotgun from Richard Lock: “A wild guess…..salt flats on the Adriatic coast? No clue whether Slovene, Croatian or Bosnian. I hope all is well as. Happy Easter.”
I'm not sure if there is any room for salt production on the tiny sliver of Bosnian coast, Richard – I think they want to cram it with hotels and AirBnBs – but I've never checked.
Finally, only yesterday, Hubert “Poirot” Warsmann swooped in late to way: “When it comes to the lady, the "clues" aren't much help,” he wrote, scornfully, to continue: “I will try the salt marshes of Piran in Slovenia. Maybe Sečovlje, maybe Strunjan, Rather Sečovlje which is closer to Croatia but hard to tell really.”
And that comprised all the entries – perhaps Slovene and Croatian readers were being humble and coy (although there are not many Croatians, if I'm honest) – but yes, the piccie is of the Bay of Piran, from the shores of Sečovlje, Slovenia, looking across the bay to the opposite shore, and Croatia.
These massive salt pans have a fascinating history – and fascinating fauna. They were part of the Venetian Empire back in the day, and because of the need to harvest the salt in the short, three-month summer season, the owners would live in homes above their salt store in order to be on hand and ready to start the hard work at dawn. These abandoned buildings still litter the seascape of the bay.
Photo: One of the salt harvesters. This was in 2012, on a sunny late August day - but there had been a storm the previous evening, so the water was very muddy and cool, and no salt was being produced. If I remember correctly, he was earning less than €900 per month, and labour was getting hard to recruit.
When Austria took over the region (some time in the 1800s I think), in true Germanic fashion they industrialised the process, creating the huge salt pans which exist today. But the salt is still harvested in the classical method, with the white gold filtered through a fine layer of natural biological material which ensures the salt is separated from mud and sand, and stays white. (The vast majority of salt we buy from the supermarket shelves is whitened by mechanical means.) The hard working labourers rise pre-dawn and work only until mid-morning, take rest around mid-day, only to return late afternoon to sweat out the rest of the day. I'm quite shocked by the way the Slovenia Tourism Agency (which is constantly boasting about Slovenia's natural wonders and how green everyone is in the coutnry) deals with the area – they focus on (the rather pretty town) of Piran, and talk little about the salt pans themselves - and when they do, focus on the health spa located in the middle of the pans, rather than the genuine nature and tradition of the pans. (Commercial interests at play here?)
Photo: The Slovene Tourism Agency focuses on the Venetian town of Piran. It's very twee & pretty, but for me the salt marshes 10 km to the south are car more interesting. Potoroz Tourism Office does a better job – see: https://www.portoroz.si/en/experience/natural-sights-and-attractions/4457-object-secovlje-salina-nature-park And if you do visit, don't ignore the museum, which has an introductory video telling you all you need to know about the history and workings of the pans, along with info on the plant and bird life in the area. If I remember correctly, the entry fee is a very modest €5. The nearby Fonda Fish Farm, which raises sea bass in the bay, also does guided tours, where visitors can feed the fish in their nets, concluding with tastings of freshly caught bass and local wine. I think you need to book in advae to ensure a place on the boat.
I almost forgot – I ought to reveal the lucky winner! And out of the black woolly hat was number 4 – Hubert “Poirot” Warsmann – who I'm told can hardly venture out these days for fans demanding selfies, such is his fame from winning KesterTesters :) Thanks for all how 'had a go' at this – there's still Bakos the Carpenter and the Small-Town Scene on a Sunny Afternoon up there to identify – get your entries in ASAP - and have a great week!