Wieliczka

So I’ll preface this with why a blog wasn’t posted yesterday, I got light food poisoning from chicken nuggets I had for lunch. It’s the only thing we didn’t both eat and boy do I regret them now. Suffice it to say that I was not a happy bunny at about 8pm last night and now I’ve got a pulled muscle in my tummy that’s making is hard to do much of anything. Luckily Zombie thinks I’ll be fine for Chernobyl on Monday.

Anyway back to the story of our adventures, this was written on the train back and then where I left off Zombie’s writings from the evening will carry on.

There’s been a lot of waiting on this trip; for the plane, for busses and trams, 2 hours on a train to Auschwitz (we’d assumed it was closer than that) and now an hour to get back from the salt mines. The train timetable is completely incomprehensible at times, there won’t be one for over an hour then three leave in a 20 minute window! So we’re chilling in the sun on the platform of Wieliczka Rynek-Kopalnia.

Wieliczka (v-yea-leech-ka) is home to the biggest salt mine in Poland (though they can no longer fully mine it due to floods and the fact that there’s not much left). Just to get to the first of the three levels we visited it was 380 steps, 64 m! Overall I think we walked about 3k through the caves and halls and went down to 130m deep. We saw 10 chambers of varying sizes from about 50 feet wide to the two biggest there at 6 stories, even that was just 5% of the chambers and 10% of the tunnels.

Most of the smaller chambers were much the same but were set up with many salt rock carvings by the self-taught miners and different exhibits to tell the history of the mine from the recent history of flooding and water evacuation then going back to the two explanations of how the salt came to be there.

Zombie will now take over to tell you about the two biggest chambers and the explanations of how the mine came to be, let us know which you like best!

So here I sit on our last night in Krakow. I have to tell you about the salt mines of Wieliczka.

As we passed out of the chamber demonstrating the use of horses to work the massive rope lift we passed through one of the 40 chapels carved out by the miners. Incredibly the wood for the alter is Limewood (I think) which rots so easily on the surface but the high salt content of the atmosphere has held the wood in perfect preservation for 300 years!!! My god! You struggle to remember that the first celebrity to visit the mine was Nicholas Copernicus in the 1400s! This beautiful mine seems to be held in some kind of time sink where time moves at a fraction of the speed on the surface! But this was nothing, NOTHING! Compared to what awaited.
There are two theories as to how this salt deposit formed:
1: Science
The land that became south Poland was in fact a sea some 13m years ago. Due to the high temperature the waters evaporated leaving this massive salt deposit.
2: Legend
The Duke of Poland was to marry Princess Kinga of Hungary. Whilst she knew Poland was a rich land they lacked in salt (vital for preservation of meats etc). She asked her father the king to give one of Hungary’s many salt mines to Poland as a wedding gift. The king agreed and she went to visit the mine her father had gifted the Poles. During her visit she took off her engagement ring and threw it deep into the mine where it vanished into the depths. She then journeyed to Poland where she made a brief stop over in the town of Wieliczka.
She asked some of the men of the town to start digging where they discovered a salt deposit where before there had been none. In the centre of the first rock of salt they pulled out, there, held inside was Kinga’s ring. They continued their excavation and discovered the huge salt deposit, brought to them by Kinga’s magic ring.

I prefer the legend myself :-) during the time of Pope John Paul II he visited the mine and canonized Princess Kinga. Now the reason for the preamble is because we were brought next to St. Kinga’s Chapel…

It took my breath away! The mighty chamber held sculptures, dioramas and beautiful chandeliers, all crafted from the very salt around them. An amazing representation of the last supper that gave the illusion of great depth but was barely 15cm deep. A perfect nativity scene with the baby Jesus in salt from another Polish mine where the salt is high in iron oxide creating an orange glow from the light behind him. And this vast expanse was created by 3 men working for over 60 years! My words cannot do it justice, no ones can, this must be seen to be believed. (internet pics won’t do it either, you have to see it for yourselves, it gave me goosebumps).

Moving onwards we passed by a massive lake, now whom amongst you spots the problem of water in a salt mine… Yes you at the back!

Correct! Salt dissolves in water, which is a little unnerving when you are 100m underground and surrounded by salt. However this water (like the Dead Sea) is saturated with salt. Throwing salt into it is no different than throwing a rock in, it won’t dissolve (phew).

We finally came to a chamber second only to St. Kinga’s because of its size… Easily 6 stories high!! During the war (lol) the bloody Nazis (yes, them again) used it to make plane engines, clever really because no matter how much it was bombed, it was secure. So we brought some tat from the gift shop in there (yes, the most amazing gift shop to work in! (Oh yes! Must buy some stamps for the post cards)). They also had a lift, clearly liberated from a shopping mall, to take you up to a viewing level… It was pretty great but to be honest it was almost like looking up… Just from the other direction lol.

Oh by the way, this was the end of our tour, I’m sure the guide to take us out said 500 metres to the lift. LIES!!!! we walked for ages to the lift but eventually we got to the lift that’s all over in 30secs (it’s damn fast). Just a note for anyone who decides to come to Krakow and the surrounding locations. There is no clear defined route back to the station.. Head down the hill and head left.. But get an ice cream from the good looking polish girl at the counter in the wall, they were epic.

So Twizzles told you about waiting for the train home but once we did some shopping in town her tummy was really hurting so we made our way back to the hotel for a siesta. Five minutes after getting off the tram we heard an almighty screech and a SUV comes hiring down the street, over the central reservation across the oncoming traffic (luckily they had been stopped at previous lights) up the pavement, clipped the back of a parked car and then rammed into two further parked cars narrowly missing a tree. It looked like the guy was alright and there were plenty of locals on the scene so we left them to it but the car was clearly going about 100mph! Imagine if we’d been walking faster or the tram hadn’t been stopped at so many traffic lights, it was just 30 metres in front of us. Nothing on the news yet we can find but Zombie went out for dinner in the evening and the 4 cars were still there banged up. Crazy!

You’ll have to wait for photos from inside until we get back home because you had to pay for a photo pass so we just used Twizzles’ DSLR camera and we have no way of getting them off the SD card.

It’s a few hours before our 3 hour train journey to Warsaw, you’ve been good to us Krakow we must do this again some time.
Peace, love and DFTBA.

Twizzles & Zombie.

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