Friday, December 5, 2008

Poland, part 2: Salt Mines

The last time G was in Poland, he spent six weeks in Krakow taking language classes. One of the field trips he took was to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, which is located about 20 minutes outside of town.

Ever since he came home with pictures, I've wanted to go--both to Krakow and to see the Salt Mines. So on Thursday (Happy Thanksgiving!), we got up insanely early (4:30 a.m.) in order to catch the 6:05 express train to Krakow. We arrived in Krakow 3 hours later and found our hotel (a quite lovely Holiday Inn only a few minutes walk from the main market square), where they actually let us check in at 9:30 in the morning.

From there, we made our way to the Salt Mines.

(puts on tour guide voice)

The Wieliczka Salt Mines is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It's been in operation for over 900 years, although now it only produces small quantities of salt via evaporation, rather than actual mining. There are over 200 km of passages in the mine, with over 2000 caverns, and it's been visited by tourists for most of its existence.

Somewhere along the line (I suspect a real tour guide would know when this happened, rather than going with a vague "somewhere along the line"), the miners started carving statues and things into the rock salt.

The current tourist route starts 64 meters under the surfaces, and ends 135 m below; it follows about 2 km of the passages. The route includes St. Kinga's Chapel:

All carved out of salt, my friends. (G tried to convince me to lick the wall to see if it tasted salty, but I declined.) You can get married here (there's a restaurant 120 m. down for the reception), and they have concerts (the acoustics rock).

There's a salty John Paul II:

And salty chandeliers:

There are also salty dwarfs along the way:

We took the tour in Polish, so I'm a little fuzzy on some of the details, but it was an unbelievably neat place. And the ride up on the elevator at the end is worthy of a theme park!

1 comment:

Bertha said...

That's ALL salt? Are you kidding me?