W is for Wieliczka salt mine, Poland.

I’d seen this place a few times on Nat Geo, so the chance to see it in the flesh was too good to miss.
The basics: A salt mine that no longer produces, with 800 steps, 3km’s of corridor, 20 chambers, countless sculptures, a chapel that takes your breath away and that sells salt trinkets made in Pakistan.

DSC_0197

The descent starts, with a couple of hundred wooden steps, six, turn 180 degrees, six more, 180 degrees etc, all the time looking down through the middle of the staircase into the black abyss below.

The Janowice Chamber

DSC_0204

The tour takes you through various chambers, large holes where salt once existed.

There are exhibits showing prehistoric men using salt and others with men and horses taking the salt back to the surface. On turning a corner and being confronted with a huge religious sculpture made of salt, the gaping cavern behind shows the origins of where you are, the countless thousands of tons of salt excavated leaving behind spaces where once was rock. Walking down a corridor you see wood that has over time been petrified, and wherever you look, there are white blobs seeping from the walls.

DSC_0208

A little scratch with the fingernail and a taste, yup, salt.

DSC_0202
After two hours you arrive at the real jewel, the Kings Chapel. I’d seen it in pictures and on television, but the reality is simply breathtaking. The group of 12 gave a collective gasp of astonishment as we saw it, followed by silence. Eyes take a while to digest the enormity of what they are seeing. An immense subterranean void, where even the tiled floor is a trompe l’oeil, being in fact a layer of salt, with the tiles chiseled into it.

DSC_0242

The staggeringly wide staircase invited me down, passing the intricate reliefs on the wall, carved no more than three inches deep in places and yet appearing to be much more. The chandeliers, immense structures hanging high above, are museum pieces on their own and highlight the wonderful work of the artists who created this place of beauty.

DSC_0252

It was a working chapel from its construction until the closing of the mine, Poland still being a very pious country. When you reach ground level, the enormity of the space is apparent, and yet with so many fantastic sculptures to see, it doesn’t seem large.

I did the tour with a French speaking guide, (who really was fantastic) and when we were in the obligatory gift shop stop he explained, with a little French pun, that salt was no longer “exploited” in the mine, only tourists were. Not entirely untrue, the prices were expensive, but when you think of import costs from Pakistan it’s understandable.

DSC_0207

After a three hour tour you wait for the antiquated lift back to the surface and you exit with squinted eyes into blinding sunlight, with memories of that chapel etched in your mind.

The letter W was bought to you by: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

Advertisements

About bobleponge216

Elderly rotund toothless male seeks wilderness to travel to.
This entry was posted in Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to W is for Wieliczka salt mine, Poland.

  1. So many of these ancient artefacts crafted by men of conviction. Somehow, I can’t see anything of its like being created now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it depends where you go. Faith has become a lot less important to a lot of people in “the West” and thus yes, there is little creation of icons. In a lot of places where faith is still important though, there is just as much devotion and time given.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful tour! I have a Polish friend, and another (who is Czech but who lived there for a while)… I may have to add this to my bucket list! Great stuff. MH

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks, It certainly wouldn’t be a wasted trip if you went. Fantastic place, trip took around 3.5/4hrs in total I think. Queues can be a bit painful I think in peak season, but otherwise no problems at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. thatssojacob says:

    They went here on The Amazing Race. I so want to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have no idea what “The Amazing Race” is (a quick Google should help me) but I’m so glad I’ve been too. An incredible place, mind-blowing in places, the scale is difficult to comprehend.

      Like

  4. Alex Hurst says:

    Wow… that’s really amazing! I’ve never heard of it before. You can even see the salt in the air in those photos. How cool. Your lips must have felt salty for hours afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a fantastic experience. The chapel is simply something else. We left there and drove up to Krakow, first thing on arrival at the hotel was a shower to get rid of the salt crystals all over.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s