Salt Mine Tour

Trip Start Jun 17, 2009
Trip End Jul 18, 2009

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Flag of Poland  , Southern Poland,
Monday, July 6, 2009

Wielicza Salt Mine - July 6, 2009

After two lectures in the morning at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, we boarded the bus and drove about 90 minutes south to the world famous Wielicza Salt Mine. The bus ride is always interesting as the majority of roads we have taken are not the kind of highways like our interstate system. Most of the roads so far are two-lane highways, frequent starts and stops due to traffic and construction, and the occasional roundabout, or traffic circle. The countryside was beautiful, and I have to remember that Poland is slowly building a more modern interstate type of highway system. It has only been free of communism since 1989, so it will take some more time and it is happening as time goes by.

The salt mine is located in the middle of a small town, but is the largest salt mine in Europe. It has been in operation for centuries, and the entrance is in a nondescript building. Many tour groups were there, and we were assigned and English-speaking tour guide who started the tour with a walk down the steps, a "few of them." About 54 flights of stairs later (I counted as we walked down the entrance shaft) we arrived at the first level, and the start of the tour. Like the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour at McDade Park in Scranton, PA, the temperature in the salt mine stays relatively constant, around 55 degrees or so. It was actually pleasant as it has been very hot in Krakow this week.

We toured several levels, which included walking about 2-3 miles, we were told by our guide. At several points in the tour, we walked into huge, cavernous chambers. There were chandeliers made of salt, the floor was made of salt and stone, and there were replicas of the equipment the miners used to cut through rock, haul and blast stone, as well as supporting the excavations with wooden beams of all shapes and sizes. One of the highlights of the tour was the huge chapel (or actually, a church) in the lower level. It had beautiful chandeliers, lots of lights, and is used often for weddings and other celebrations.

At 135 meters below the surface, we were at the deepest part of the mine where tourists are permitted. We boarded a really tiny elevator for the ride to the surface, which freaked out some visitors. Imagine 9 adults fitting into a space like an oversized phone booth built for 4. It was about a 40 second ride to the surface. I am glad we went, learned a lot. See the attached photos.
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