Wieliczka Salt Mine
03.08.2010 - 03.08.2010 13 °C
We headed out, and as I hadn't had anything to eat since 4:30am, I was ravenous. We headed down the street looking for something to eat. I found a local kebab place for a fair dinkum Polish kebab!? Before I knew it I had the most odd looking kebab I had ever seen sitting in my hand.
As I slowly devoured this new concept we attempted to find a local bus that would take us directly to Wieliczka Salt Mine. After a few enquiries we found out that we should take bus 304 which stopped just around the corner. We hopped onto the 304 and as it lurched forward, started and stopped etc. we attempted to purchase tickets from the polish ticket machine which was on the bus. In the end we chose randomly based on price as all of the choices were written in Polish. Once the tickets had printed out we inserted them into the validation machine. We took our seats and rode along for about half an hour. As we pulled up to a bus stop I read the word Wieliczka and jumped off figuring that this was our stop. As the bus disappeared into the distance I realised that this stop was just a suburb of Wieliczka. Thankfully we were only a 15 minute of walk from the salt mines, We purchased our tickets and waited about 3 minutes for the English tour to begin. We were led through a door and down 374 steps. When we eventually got to the bottom of the stair case we were approximately 64 metres down. The total tour would take between 2 and 3 hours. We walked through passageway after passage way slowly going further down. The floors were generally just grey salt as were most of the walls and some of the ceilings. There were carved knomes, full size human sculptures, cathedrals, lakes etc. all carved out of salt. The most impressive site was the chapel of St. Kinga. You arrive at the top of it and look down 20 to 30 metres. The floor looks like it is tiled and the walls nearer the front look like block work but it is all grey salt. There are several chandeliers made from wood but with clear salt decorating them. Carved into the wall were art works like the last supper. Their was a life size sculpture of pope john Paul the 2nd. A most impressive sight.
We also got to see how they used to drain water from the rest of the mine to a chamber which was more like a lake then anything else. All the drainage was made from hollow tree trunks as they will not corrode. We finalised our tour and found the way out which was via a pre-historic lift. It was perfectly safe but old fashioned. All four walls had holes in them specially for air flow. Their was no lights and we were herded in about 8 at a time. There wasn`t much room to move. We arrived at the top in good time and exited our coffin.., I mean lift, and headed for the road. We found what looked to be a bus stop chatted while we waited. After about 20 minutes the 304 bus came into view heading for us and then continued right past us. After realizing that this probably was no longer used as a bus stop, we then walked to the next bus stop which was about a kilometre further down the road. It began to rain and after about another 10 minutes another 304 bus came into view and actually stopped this time. We headed back into Krakow and decided to grab dinner as it was already 6pm. We found a local Bar mleczny which translates in Milk Bar in English but actually has nothing to do with milk. They are a Polish form of cafeteria. They were invented by the communist authorities of Poland in the mid-1960s as a means of offering cheap meals to working people who didn`t have a canteen at their work. The food is authentic polish. After spending sometime trying to decipher the polish menu board I took the chefs special, a bowl of tomato soup and a drink.
The tomato soup was very salty, the potatoes, snitzel, salad were good and the fruit drink had fruit in the bottom of the glass. The total bill came to 20PLN which roughly equates to $8 Canadian dollars. We headed back to the hostel for awhile. Thankfully I didn't have to worry about others snoring tonight and slept all the way through.