How gorgeous is that first picture? Everything in that picture has been carved out in the salt mine. Even the chandeliers are made out of salt. We visited Wieliczka the day after Auschwitz/Wadowice. Wieliczka is actually a small town near Krakow. This small town is known for it’s 13th century salt mine (the chapel is actually called the Chapel of St. Kinga, I’ll tell the legend of St. Kinga a little bit later in this post) that you can go visit. The sale mine has been on the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) since 1978. So let’s start on this fun tour!
Ok, so we had to climb down A LOT OF STEPS to get to this point. As we got lower and lower it would get windy and cold. Once you were actually at the bottom everything was fine. Now, the salt mine itself is no longer in operation, that stopped in 2007, however miners still work here for maintenance and upkeep.
If you read that sign that’s how far under ground we were and we had to walk down. 64 meters is almost 210 feet.
This was interesting to see. Miners used to use wood inside the mine because salt would preserve the wood instead of the wood rotting.
Due to the ventilation once you walked through one door, you had to wait until the one behind you closed before you could open the next door. It was really cool to see this.
An awesome statue carved into the salt mine of Nicolaus Copernicus.
What was awesome too, is they carved the grout line of tiles into the ground of the salt mine. If you shine a light into this you can see the salt, it’s really cool looking.
Remember when I said I would talk about the legend of St. Kinga? Well here is the statue of St. Kinga with her husband. St. Kinga was born in Esztergom, Kingdom of Hungary. She married Boleslaw V (“the Chaste”) and became princess when her husband ascended the throne as High Duke of Poland. She was involved in a lot of charitable things such as visiting the poor and helping people. When her husband died in 1279 she sold her material possessions and gave the money to the poor. Now the legend of St. Kinga is quite interesting. In Hungary in Maramures salt mine she threw her engagement ring into the mine because she wanted a salt mine to appear in Poland. The ring somehow traveled with the salt deposits all the way to Wieliczka where it was found by the miners. The spot where they found the ring is where the above statues have been carved which is 101 meters which is about 331 feet below the Earth’s surface.
This was an interesting display that they had. Since the mine would sometimes fill up with natural gas there was a specific group of miners who would go in first with a torch to burn the gas. Obviously this was a very dangerous job because it could very easily ignite and cause a huge explosion.
If you ever visit this mine you’ll notice that all throughout the mine there are religious things either carved or placed into the wall. Obviously miners had a very difficult life and their jobs were extremely dangerous so they would pray.
This statue was carved for King Kazimierz or as people in English would say Casimir III the Great. He was known as “the peasant’s king.” because he sided with the weak and didn’t believe in the superiority of nobleman and clergymen.
This here is a salt gnome just for my mom since she loves garden gnomes haha.
The Chapel of St. Kinga. This is one of the most beautiful chapels I’ve ever seen and I may be saying that because it was all carved out by talented people. We were actually told that some people get married here. How cool is that?!
Even the “crystals” on the chandeliers were made out of salt.
After the church there was still more exploring!
Oh, yea and we also licked the walls of the mine. Yes, it was salty haha!
The crazy thing about the lakes and the water inside of the mine is you can’t swim under the water. Because of the salt, it makes you float right up to the surface. World Youth Day was in this area last year and we were told that they held some kind of surfing competition in these waters. Sounds like a great time to me!
This particular room that we went in was not always open for tourists. There was a point in time where they had to close it off because the logs seen above (they are each the size of a telephone pole so you can only imagine how huge this was) were not sturdy enough to hole the walls. If you look at the previous pictures, all of those dot looking things in the ceiling is what they ended up doing in order to still have this room open to visitors. Now it’s safe for tourists to see.
There used to be ferry rides that would go through this tunnel however there was a group of soldiers (I cannot remember from what country so I do greatly apologize) who went through this tunnel and unfortunately the boat flipped over and trapped soldiers underneath. Now since the salt water caused them to not be able to swim under the boat they ended up dying. There is a shrine which we didn’t get a picture of to honor the memory of those soldiers lost in this tunnel and since then there have been and will not be any ferry rides.
The bathrooms were regular bathrooms inside the salt mine. I don’t know why but I thought this was so cool haha.
On the way out there was a restaurant where you could stop and eat at before leaving which smelled exactly like the Ikea restaurant.
This was the end of the tour. After this you go up the elevator which is a long walk to and then you go up to the surface. There is a souvenir store right before you leave so you can buy any souvenirs you’d like. I will say though, when using the salt from the mine, make sure to use it sparingly. It’s REALLY salty. I tried it on some of my food and I only used a pinch. It’s perfect for the fiance because he puts extra salt on everything so I’m sure he will use most of it haha.
That concludes the most touristy things that we did in Poland. What I mean by this is, the ones that actually required a tour guide. Everything else we did (coming up next week) will be great too, so make sure to check back again next week