Lüneburg, a German city in the state of Lower Saxony, is known as the salt capital of Germany. For more than 1000 years salt has determined the history of the city and made it powerful and wealthy. It was not until 1980 that the production of salt in the Luneburg Saline saltworks finally closed its gates.
Today, the former saltworks houses the German Salt Museum. The museum brings Luneburg's history and its significance as a salt town to life. It recalls the history of the oldest and, at one time, the greatest industrial operation in central Europe.
According to legend, salt was first discovered about 800 years ago by a hunter who observed a wild boar bathing in a pool of water, shot and killed it, and hung the coat up to dry. When it was dry, he discovered white crystals in the bristles — salt. Later he returned to the site of the kill and located the salt pool, and the first production of salt on the site took place.
During the 12th century salt mining was the dominant feature of life in the town of Lüneburg. At that time, table salt was like a goldmine and was measured in chors (1 chor = 554.32 kg), one chor being worth about 300 Reichsmarks.
The old town of Lüneburg lies above a salt dome which is the town's original source of prosperity. But constant mining of the salt deposits over which the town stands has resulted in dramatically sinking of various areas of the town, sometimes by several meters. The houses there and the local church lost their stability and had to be demolished. The diminishing salt reserve and the unprofitability of salt mining were the reasons the saltworks finally closed in 1980.
Today small amounts are still mined for ceremonial purposes. Small bags of salt may be purchased in the town hall, and bags are given as a gift from the town to all couples married in the town. The saltworks today houses a supermarket and the German Salt Museum.
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