Wieliczka Salt Mine
(I don’t know how to pronounce that either)
On our last day in Krakow it was snowing like crazy.
But we found our way to the bus, figured out the tickets, and headed out to the Wieliczka Salt mines – where we were well protected from the storm (but wondered if the bus would be able to take us back to the city later).
The mine continuously produced table salt from the 13th century until 2007 as one of the world’s oldest operating salt mines, and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is no longer operational, but on the tour they take you through the history of the mine and how it worked, and you see many sculptures and chapels carved right out of the salt – originally by miners (who were often praying for their own safety in those chapels) and now by talented artists.
Many of the sculptures were of famous Polish people. Above is Nicolaus Copernicus (astronomer) – note the salt-tile floor, which looks like marble, but is definitely salt. Our tour guide kept inviting us to lick the walls of the mine to prove to ourselves that it was real salt – but had to warn us against licking the sculptures since they would eventually disappear if every tourist licked them. (The Japanese tourist on our tour did, in fact, lick a statue. Amazing, I know.)
Next was the most impressive room in the mine, the main cathedral. It was absolutely breathtaking.
The floor, the stairs, the walls, the sculptures, the Altar … everything was carved from salt.
Lining both walls were bas relief sculptures telling religious stories.
The salt mine tour was pretty unique, we were definitely glad that we took the time to do it. But it seems that by the end, I was pretty hungry … good thing we had picked up an emergency snack!