Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Travel to Cracovia Part IV

Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow (approx. 15 km) "is no less magnificent than the Egyptian pyramids" (the French traveller, Le Laboureur). For it's historical and artistic importance the mine was placed in 1978 on the First World List of Cultural and Natural Heritage of UNESCO as "outstanding universal value to mankind".
Wieliczka Salt Mine, the oldest operating salt mine in the world, functions since the 13th century. It spreads over nine levels and reaches down to the depth of 327 meters. The underground tourist route is approx. 3,5 km long, includes 20 chambers and spreads over three levels, the deepest one is 135 meters below ground level.  (Source:  Hostel Bursa Jagiellonska)

To go down the chambers, we had to walk a long way through  more than 360 winding steps that made me quite dizzy and I would rather have been at the end of the line because then I would not have felt kind of obliged to go beyond my pace.  I tried to let others go ahead of me  but unfortunately, they had the same thought as mine.  Soon enough, before I was starting to get nervous, we were already on the visiting level.

As we passed through the tunnels of salt, everything is either wood or salt, but more of salt than wood, even the flooring, the roofs and the walls.  We were allowed to touch everything except the figures.  I passed my hand to taste a bit of the wall and it did not taste too salty.

Here are some of the interesting shots :

Janowice Chamber

According to legend, Poland can thank Queen Kinga for the discovery of the salt mine. Kinga was the daughter of the Hungarian king Bela IV who married the Polish king Boleslaw the Modest in the 13th century. The story has Kinga throwing her engagement ring into the Maramures salt mine in Hungary. The ring miraculously travelled along with salt deposits to Wieliczka where it was rediscovered. Kinga is now the patron saint of miners. (Source of information:  Travel Blog)

After the amazing view of the salt cathedral, we were led to a tiny lift with a room for 6 tightly squeezed in people but fortunately it took only about a minute to get to the top and we did not have to wait long to get in to the lift.

I was impressed with what the miners have accomplished considering that at their time they barely had tools and there were leaks so the place was all slippery and yet they had to carry things from one place to the other and temperature was not very kind.  But they did well carving figures to entertain themselves.  It must be mentioned that some of the figures now were done by contemporary artists unlike the first ones. (Note:  the chandeliers are also made of salt and the color of salt is greyish rather than the white color that we are used to associate with salt). We were also lucky that our guide filled his stories with  humor and made the trip really enjoyable and worthwhile inspite of the long steps.

To be continued In Travel to Cracovia Part V with  some of our funny photos and anecdotes on the trip.

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