We drove from Szczawnica in the early afternoon to Wieliczka which is just outside of Krakow. John did all of the research for this trip so I had no idea what the salt mine was or what to expect. When we arrived and got our tickets there were people everywhere. They had tours in at least six to eight languages running every hour or more. After buying tickets we only had a few minutes until our tour when an announcement stated that this would be a three hour tour. I looked at John and said three hours!! At this point I have started to get a little tired and with my ovaries producing a lot more eggs my back was starting to hurt too. My sweet husband said we can go if you think that it is too much. I’m not a quitter so I of course said no, and boy am I glad I did. My photos do not do justice to how neat this site really is. I apologize for the poor photos - not a professional and haven't mastered taking them in the dim light. Not to mention that at some point there was water spots on my lens??
|One of the chambers in the salt mine - sorry I can't recall the name|
The mine tour took us 135 meters (443 ft) underground where we got a peak at three different layers and multiple chambers. The mine dates back to the twelfth century and even though it was officially closed in 1996, it is still worked in order to keep it up for safety. When you first go in you have to descend about 378 steps all at once, but throughout the tour you end up going down over 800! We saw everything from how they transport the salt, to sculptures and beautiful chapels completely made of salt. There are also underground lakes and canals. It truly was amazing and I am so glad that I decided to go.
|The grotto used to transport the salt|
|One of the underground lakes|
The environment down in the salt mines is incredibly clean and healthy. Bacteria and germs don’t thrive in the salty environment so the people and animals that lived and worked down there were very healthy. Up until 2002 there were horses that worked in the mine. The horses had stables and were well taken care of, living a normal life of over twenty years. If you are wondering about the excrement created by the horse they sent it back to the surface and the locals would wait for it as it came up the shafts to compost and use in their gardens. The last horse, Baska, left in 2002 was because of protestors outside of the mine. Apparently after she was removed she lived a normal life, but wasn’t very happy being on the surface. Who knows?
|Horses were used to transport the heavy salt blocks|
The mine goes down 327 meters (1073 ft) and is 287 km (178 miles) long. This beautiful historical site has been visited for centuries by royalty, political leaders, the Pope, scientists, and artists. The St. Kinga Cathedral still has a service on Sundays and meetings and cultural events still take place in some of the chambers. During WWII the Germans took over the mine to store military items for various war related industries.
|St. Kinga Chapel|
When it was time to go we went past a restaurant and had to descend down the 135 m to get to the elevator. I read that technically each elevator car holds only 9 people, but when there are 50-100 people waiting they tend to over stuff. John is claustrophobic and was not happy about being treated like a sardine. I’m not sure how they got the last lady, who was very reluctant, in our car, but they shoved her in. Luckily the ride up to the top only takes about thirty seconds.
Overall this was definitely a highlight on this wonderful trip. John and I loved all of it and would do it again. After leaving the salt mine in the evening we drove to the ApartHotel Vanilla in Krakow which was very nice. It wasn’t near the old town, but it did have laundry facilities, a nice restaurant, and most importantly to John good pizza and great beer! The laundry was the most important to me, although I had to look up the model number in English just to use it.
More to come...
Kelly and John