Eight years ago we toured the salt mine near Salzburg. It was interesting and memorable, but mostly for the way it reminded me of scenes in “The Silver Chair” and not so much for the inner workings of a mine. So, when we made plans for our trip to Krakow, and everybody kept telling us we needed to see the mine, I wasn’t putting it high on my list. However, the almost unbearable heat convinced me to go along with the crowd if for nothing more than a 3 hour tour spelled R E L I E F.
Boy am I glad that I did.
Wieliczka is so much more than a mine. In fact, it isn’t really a mine anymore. In fact, it is one of the original inductees into the Unesco World Heritage site list. It is today an extremely complex, 700 year old underground world. We were told that it would take you a week exploring the mine to see all the areas. My thought was that, this being a former Soviet site, there is no telling what underground secrets there are to be found there.
In Salzburg, you trained into the roots of the mountain by traveling horizontally at the base. In Wieliczka, you descend the initial 60 meters (about 18 stories) going down a seemingly endless staircase into the ground. It is quite unnerving. Then you proceed downwards though the labyrinth to an eventual depth of 135 meters (41 stories)! All the while you begin to grasp the sheer size of the vast underground city, or kingdom.
You see lakes and streams, and chapels and art. The miners here were always very religious, so the set up places of worship, that are still used to this day, They also carved statues (some for the chapels, others just for visitors) throughout the mine, using the available salt as marble.