Wieliczka Salt Mine

Salt Mine
Entrance to the salt mine
Salt Mine
Chandelier of salt in the Krakow mine

About 10 km from Krakow’s city centre is the over 700-yearold Wieliczka Salt Mine. My guide’s first words, as he donned his yellow guide’s helmet, were “we will start by walking down 380 steps to the first level at 64 metres.” By the end of the tour, we would have descended 800 narrow, wooden steps. However, he promised us a “lift” on the way up. This heightened my spirits, as did the fact that there are no bats, rats, spiders, snakes or frogs. Outside the temperature was about 30Oc but in the mine it’s a constant 14Oc, both winter and summer. And the air is so healthy that it’s perfect for asthmatics and those with respiratory illnesses.

White painted wooden poles line the walls, because they originally reflected the light when there were only oil lamps and iron corrodes. Fascinatingly, the wood has been indelibly preserved by the salt.

Salt Mine Salt Mine
Religious scenes in salt in the mine

Thirteen million years ago the sea water slowly evaporated to create the grey rock-salt deposit, which is naturally dark because of the impurities. The work in the mine started in 1105. Now there are nine levels, the deepest point is 327 metres and there are about 300 km of tunnels and 3,000 chambers. Visitors can see only 1% of the mine, but what a thrill. Sculpting figures was a hobby of the miners, with the centrepiece being an opulent and most impressive St. Kinga’s Chapel. Standing on a platform 101 metres below the surface, the chapel is laid out before us like a magical tapestry. Five chandeliers made entirely from salt light up the room to show salt-carved panels of the life of Jesus, an altar and even stairs. Other amazing salt carvings include a replica of da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Consequently,, the mine is often referred to as “the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland.” We ended our tour with the promised elevator to the second level and then, after a few more stairs, I saw daylight.

Salt Mine
Wawel Castle
Salt Mine
Music in one of the rooms in Wawel Castle