Following our visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau, our driver took us to visit Wieliczka Salt Mine, the 13th Century salt mine. Ordinarily a visit to a mine wouldn’t be something that would grab my interest, however it came highly recommended, so we had to go see what the fuss was about!
We joined a guided tour, and was immediately greeted by a lady that was somewhere between sarcastic, and aggressive in her attitude towards us. We made our way down the wooden stairs that seemed to continue for eternity. Peering over the edge, and looking down the stairwell, it was impossible to make out where the floor was. We later learnt it was only 330 steps, and 64m that we descended.
The tour started without too much excitement, walking through corridors bolstered with ancient wood, looking at many small illuminated sculptures carved from salt. We saw some of the infrastructure that was used to cart the salt to the surface, including (the replica of) horses that lived their entire lives down here in the darkness.
We took our tour lady’s advice and sampled the walls (by licking them), and I can attest that they are most definitely salty – even through they are quite dark.
The tour started to feel a little repetitive, and we were questioning our friends’ judgement in recommending a visit.
That all changed once we arrived at St. Kinga’s Chapel (a separate $3 photography pass required!), and it felt like we were in Moria, from The Lord of the Rings – though on a much, much smaller and less grand scale. Inside, almost everything conceivable was carved directly from salt – the depictions of The Final Supper, the chandelier, and even the tiles on the floor.
The tour took us deeper into the mine, including some areas with enormous open ceilings (the gift shop, selling table salt from the mine), and then later to a large cafeteria and even a theatre! We then all crammed into a three-level elevator and rushed to the surface, thus ending the tour.
Final thoughts on Wieliczka Salt Mine are that it was an interesting distraction, and worth a few hours of your time if you’re in the area.