WORKING IN THE SALT MINES, GOING DOWN, DOWN, DOWN!

Trip Start Oct 01, 2008
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Trip End Sep 02, 2009


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Where I stayed
camping Clepardia

Flag of Poland  , Southern Poland,
Thursday, July 16, 2009

Our first adventure in Krakow is going to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, which is just south of the city. We catch the wrong bus, our mistake, but once in the centre find help to catch another bus to the railway station.

We get out train tickets using the little brochure we have, but it was a problem find ing out which platform to go to.  There is a TV monitor and we find it on platform #2.  There is a big long train here, but it isn't the one.  For other travelers you are looking for a little sleek tram like train of 1 long car.  It is air conditioned inside so very nice.

The last stop is where you get off and follow the signs or fellow tourists through the little town to the Mine ticket office.  We have to wait in a queue for the English tour. 

We go down 384 steps in blocks of 8 with a landing in between, it is not a rush, but slow process going down.  We are with a great guide who has a humorous personality.  He tells us how long the mine has been in use, since the early 13th century, but salt has been surfaced mined in this area since pre-historic times.  It reaches a depth of 327 meters and is over 300 km long.  The tour is 3.5-km. long only a fraction of the pathways down here. 

We were amazed at the amount of lumber used as support structures.  We seen statues of historic and mythic figures. The older works were sculpted out of rock salt by miners; more recent figures have been fashioned by contemporary artists. Even the crystals of the chandeliers are made from rock salt that has been dissolved and reconstituted to achieve a clear, glass-like appearance. The rock salt is naturally grey, in various shades like granite, so that the carvings resemble carved unpolished granite rather than having the white or crystalline appearance.   Lots of chapels, they moved them as the salt veins were dug, it would be moved to the next dig area.  They are a very religious country with the highest percentage in the world (per capital) of active Catholics.

Also featured is a large chamber with walls carved to resemble wooden chapels built by miners in earlier centuries; exhibits on the history of salt mining. This mine is often referred to as "the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland."

About 1.2 million people visit the mine each year.

Over the centuries, visitors to this site have included Nicolaus Copernicus, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Alexander von Humboldt, Dmitri Mendeleyev, Bolesław Prus, Ignacy Paderewski, Robert Baden-Powell, Jacob Bronowski (who filmed segments of The Ascent of Man in the mine), Karol Wojtyła (the later Pope John Paul II), former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and us.

The stairs and floor in the chapel are all made of salt and from the people walking on it, it is polished and looks like granite.  Quite the tour. 

We then went on the museum tour, which took us down corridors supported by wood to several different rooms showing the history of mining in a little more detail than on the tour.  Len and I were the only ones on this tour.   We were amazed to learn they brought horses down here to work, making pulleys go for bringing the salt up and people and supplies down, and pulling the barrels of salt from where it was mined.  The horses had their own stables and were well looked after, and the pure air here was very good for them.  The guide said the last horse retired 70 years ago

It was such a different place from all those that we have been to, very interesting.

Well, lunch was a Snicker’s bar, how delicious.  We stop in at a restaurant and have some potato pancakes, pyrogies and a little carrot and coleslaw comes with it.  It was very good and we even got some sour cream to go along with it.  Len really enjoyed it all, I did too, but he was mmmmming during the meal.

Made it back to the bus station.  Then found out the bus stop is divided into 2 sections, a north section (the second half, which we got on at) and a south section the first half.  We eventually got a bus to the campground.

Great day!

CAMPING CLEPARDIA
This is THE place. Several kitchen areas with gas burners to cook, 2 fridges, Free showers, Free wi-fi, Free laundry!!  What more could you ask for?
31-223 Krakow, Poland
u. Pachonskiego, 28 A
www.clepardia.pl
Clean, clean and well kept.  A little close quarters, but it is perfect.
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