If somebody ever tells you that you’re like a salt in their wound, don’t take offence right away. Instead, remember that salt was once worth as much as gold and grain. Additionally, it was very important in traditional beliefs. It’s still present in superstitions and proverbs. For ages salt has been used to make butter, preserve meat and other food, as well as was given to the cattle and used in the process of tanning animal skins. It was either mined or gathered from salt pans, which influenced its steep price.
The advancements of our civilization would not be possible without salt, as it's been important in the preservation of food to feed many people. Additionally one has to consider the cost of salt transportation, port anchorage, tolls and so on. To keep the product dry, salt was transported in special barrels or in thick canvas sacks, which added to the weight of the cargo. Before invention of the railway, transport was conducted on roads which were usually in bad condition and often under a threat of heists. This is why water transport was preferred whenever it was possible. Due to those inconveniences, for instance, transporting salt from Peccais to Berne took eight months and the convoys had to pass through numerous toll gates.
After calculating all these costs and after coming a long way, salt could have been priced even 16 times higher than it would be where it was mined. It was easily worth its weight in gold. In the olden days it was possible to build one’s empire on mining, transporting and distributing salt. No wonder this lucrative business used to attract numerous bandits ready to jump the carriers and no wonder a black market blossomed with smugglers selling their product to those unable to vicariously pay all the tolls and taxes levied on the valuable commodity, such as the tax introduced in 12th century Venice (it tripled the cost of salt) or the one from the 14th century France (it amounted to a quarter of state’s revenue).
Nowadays salt is cheap and poplar thanks to mining and production on an industrial scale. If you’d like to see how salt is obtained from sea water, look for the nearest salt evaporation pond. Especially beautiful ones can be found near San Francisco, but also many near the Mediterreanean Sea.
You can also visit salt mines in Poland, Austria, Germany, and even Switzerland. I would be happy to help you organise such a trip combined with some leisure activities. Of course you don’t have to take my word for it. Take it with a pinch of salt!
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