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Salt of the earth (literally)

Poland Day 5. One of the highest rated things to do here is visit the underground salt mine – so when in Rome and all that…

I caught the train for the first time, an easy 22 minute jaunt to Wieliczka which is the same direction I went yesterday, just further. A few minutes walk brought me to what looked like the starting point – thought perhaps the many, many people already there at 8.30am were a giveaway.

Wieliczka is a salt treasure trove because of natural events several kajillion years ago when the area was undersea. Salt mining became a massive industry though today the massive industry is tourism. Mining ceased in 1996.

The departure point for most people is here at the Danilowicz Shaft

The departure point for most people is here at the Danilowicz Shaft

If you haven’t heard about the mine and are wondering what the fuss is, in short it’s the scale and beauty of what has been created underground. My photos were average at best and don’t do it justice, though in any case it’s one of those things best seen first hand.

Everyone wanting to go underground must be in a tour and there’s a constant stream of them going in multiple language offerings. It’s a well oiled tourism machine.

I had time to fill in so I milled around and, for example, found ways to solve my dilemma again of only having large banknotes. (When I was transacting the extra 10 PLN for a sticker that said I was allowed to take photos, I waved a 100 PLN note at her to gauge the appetite for giving change… she made an expression as if mortally wounded and should really have clutched at her chest to complete the effect.)

Finally I surged through the entry with my 30-ish other tour buddies and hooked up the ear piece that would allow us to hear our guide.

Waiting to descend 350 steps to the first level.  Over the course of two hours we worked our way down to 135m

Waiting to descend 350 steps to the first level. Over the course of two hours we worked our way down to 135m

One of our numerous stops. The tour covers about 2km - the network spans over 300km!

One of our numerous stops. The tour covers about 2km – the network spans over 300km

They call these galleries rather than tunnels

They call these galleries rather than tunnels

Mine railway

Mine railway

Excavation grooves

Excavation grooves

There were loads of salt carvings

There were loads of salt carvings

I’m not a fan of confined spaces but I had no problems here, mind you I did choose the tame ‘Tourist Route’ rather than one of the more adventurous options. In several places tall people did have to shrink to fit through the galleries but it was ok.

One of several chapels

One of several chapels

This chamber is the crowning jewel and what most people probably go to see…

The stunning St Kinga's Chapel

The stunning St Kinga’s Chapel

Salt crystals are used in the chandeliers

Salt crystals are used in the chandeliers

Pope John Paul II makes an appearance as well

Pope John Paul II makes an appearance as well

One of the pool chambers

One of the pool chambers

This is one of seven spaces you can hire for events, thanks to the 20,000 tonnes of salt excavated

This is one of seven spaces you can hire for events, thanks to the 20,000 tonnes of salt excavated

To get out there was a long-ish essentially flat walk, luckily followed by an elevator ride to the surface

To get out there was a long-ish but essentially flat walk, luckily followed by an elevator ride to the surface

It’s an incredible place – what they created down there over hundreds of years is pretty mind blowing.

When I emerged it was early afternoon. I caught the train back, got some supplies and called it a day. There was lots of blog stuff to prepare and there may have been a nana nap as well.

Distance walked: 9.77km (slacker!)

This sums up my experience of Kraków by night :)

This sums up my experiences of Kraków by night 🙂

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. My goodness. You were not kidding when you wrote salt of the earth. I had no idea such a place existed. The chapel of course is the most impressive with the hanging chandeliers. It surely is a popular place given the sight of so many tourists in line. Various languages for the tour groups-I’m impressed.

    8 September 2015
    • It must rake in the cash that’s for sure! The big chapel is just stunning. I forgot to mention in the post that weddings are held there as well as a weekly Sunday service that routinely gets 200 attendees.

      10 September 2015
      • Ha, ha. Some folks can say, “yes we were married in a salt mine and now we have too much pepper in our marriage” or some kind of joke or maybe they would not be joking. 🙂

        10 September 2015

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