Wieliczka 29/04/ – 02/05/2016
Rather than pay over the odds to stay in Krakow we choose here for our visit to Poland’s number one tourist attraction. Not only is it a stone’s throw from the salt mine it is also a hop, step and jump from the brand new light rail train that deposits you in Krakow Old Town within twenty minutes. Champion.
With all the Migrant crisis going on we thought we might have had a problem crossing the border but there was not even a guard, nothing. And no other vehicles.
Welcome to Poland
First impressions of Poland are that it is a lot busier than anywhere since Italy and there are billboards everywhere. For the first few miles you could believe you were somewhere in the US. But this is Poland where the men Plumb and the women clean, except they don’t. The men cut grass, permanently. Every able-bodied Pole has a lawn mower and a strimmer which they caress and dance with in some sort of semi-erotic Paso Doble.
What we didn’t know is this is their busiest weekend of the year with national holiday on both the 1st and 3rd of May and the resulting weight of traffic was overwhelming in places. Luckily for us it was mostly on the other carriageway.
The Salt Mine 30/04/2016
On the face of it his is not a cheap day out at €15 a pop but as the tour lasted nearly 5 hours you could argue it is good value for money. There is a tour every half an hour in English and more infrequent, if at all, in lesser languages like French and German. In the tour you descend by stairs to the first three levels of the mine, which are also the oldest and at a depth of about 120m. There are another 10 levels taking the mine down to a depth of 327m. It contains over 280 Kilometres of tunnels and caverns, of which you as a tourist get to see less than 2% of, an underground lake, a conference centre, a spa, a restaurant, a 3D cinema and countless carvings hewn by hand from solid salt. The highlight of the visit is the Chapel of The Blessed Kings, a church measuring 54m by 17m and 12m high. This temple took over 30 years to complete and resulted in the removal of 20,000 tonnes of rock salt.
All this art work started by the miners carving altars from the rock as temporary places for prayer before starting work. The mine is responsible for Krakow being the splendid city we know today with the wealth created especially years ago when salt was the main method of preserving food before refrigeration.
Tracy on the way down
Chapel of The Blessed Kings
The Last Supper
The first part of the tour takes about two and a half hours as you walk around 2Km with your mandatory guide. At times it does get a bit crowded and makes hearing the pearly words of wisdom quite difficult. At the end of this first part you are given the choice of returning to the surface, eating in a brassy cafeteria or carrying on to the museum. You do get the impresssion they want you to do option 1 or 2 but not visit the Museum and so from about 100 people only 5 made the final part. In some ways the second part is more intersting than the main toursit trail as you learn more about mining through the ages and you are away from people who lick the walls for a cringy photograph.
It also has some dodgy artwork and freezes that bring a snigger to one’s face as well as ancient tools and treadmills used by men and horses in days gone by.
This is supposed to be from prehistoric times, Check is tasche and her wonderbra
At the end of the tour you are sent back to the surface by an old miner’s lift and the end of a grand day out.
Love to All