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 last month. I was in my native Holland, taking a break from my expat life in Moldova.
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. So, dear readers, schedule one with the Salsamentum in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam salt shop
Sadly, the shop’s FB page and online shop are only in Dutch, but the owner speaks excellent English, no worries. Call him at +31.(0)20-6812440 or send a message via Facebook. Or just go and have a look around. The address is Spaarndammerstraat 34, 1013SW Amsterdam. It’s just outside the centrum but within walking distance. Oh, and tell the owner his nomad cousin sent you.
NOTE: Did you notice the lamps in the store? They’re big chunks of natural salt, hollowed out and fitted with a light fixture. I bought one. They’re cool.
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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?