Salt Mines and Roman Catholics
Jan 31, 1996
We arrived in Krakow on a day that celebrated Pope John Paul II. In the evening the churches and the streets were jam packed with people just trying to get a prayer in. We must have seen a hundred, maybe more priests on the streets. And many of them were very young. Like most of Eastern Europe, Christianity is alive and well in Poland.
Martin explained to Ellen that the city of Krakow gets more tourists annually than the entire country of Slovakia.
I thought about that for a moment, looked at the horde and said, "Let's head on back down to Slovakia."
Until the mid-1990, Wieliczka Salt Mine, just outside Krakow had produced table salt since the 13th century. Today it's one of the area's major tourist attractions. A four-hundred or so step staircase takes you into the bowels of the mine where a massive underground cathedral sits. Its walls are adorned with carvings that appear to be paintings, but like everything else in the mine they're made from solid granite-like rock salt. The cathedral appears to be constructed of wood, but it's rock salt too. Ellen and I took the 3.5 kilometre tour along with her cousins Martin and Zdenka from Slovakia. We saved a zloty or two by taking the Polish guided tour as opposed to the English. I missed probably 95% or of what was going on through the Polish to Slovak to English translation. A handy little English guidebook kept me somewhat on the straight and narrow though.