The Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the biggest and dates back to the 13th century. It is the world’s only mine operating uninterrupted since the middle ages. Louise and I were just a part of the 800,000 visitors that come every year, but we definitely didn’t feel lost in a crowd. We started off with a staircase of 389 steps going down and around for ever and finally reach the “Level 1” of the mine. There are over 300km of chambers and shafts in the mine, but only 3.5km were open to the public. As it was, it took 3 hours for our tour and it was almost non-stop. We went down a total of 400 feet or to the 3rd level out of 7.
The “tunnels” were really quite wide at approximate 6’ wide and 6’2” high. The staircases were mostly wooden, but in most cases the floors and passages were “salt”. The salt in this mine is black salt…if you were to purchase any from the store it would be a darker gray in color. There are a number of “salt” carvings throughout the mine, with the largest being the Chapel of St. Kinga. It features many fabulous salt sculptures and 4 huge salt chandeliers. This chapel is so large that it could and does have a number of large weddings and other celebrations throughout the year. Mass is held in the chapel every Sunday as well. The chapel really is larger than most we have been in. This was only one of many chambers on the tour. When the tour was over, we were given the opportunity to shop and/or eat in the stores and restaurant on the 3rd level, or go to the exit and ride to the top in an elevator. As we approached the elevator in a group of 8, we started to wonder just what the heck we were about to do…. This elevator was soooo small. We were packed tight together from top to bottom, and side to side. It was TOTAL DARKNESS all the way up. We bounced and banged, in a stuffy little crate until we hit the street level and then a gust of wind rushed in to refresh us…..WOW. What more could you say (I could have used a few additional word’s, but held it for later)? For Louise and I, we could hardly get to the exit door fast enough, but as we did, we were met with a violent rain and thunder storm. It didn’t really didn’t faze us as we went through that door, out into the rain, looking for a hide-out or better yet a drink. Now I didn’t mention the bus that got us to the mine….it was one of those mini-buses. Normally that isn’t too bad, but under the circumstances that we had just gone through and, as we got on to the mini-bus to return, our bus turned out to be totally packed. You couldn’t breath (although we did get seats)…. you had people that were standing (I don’t know how or why) and, they were constantly bumping or dropping an elbow onto your head. Now this is a most enjoyable ride.
Tomorrow….. Travel time north to Czestochowa