The Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland is a breathtaking place. Its 324 meter deep shaft is the home of 95% pure salt. It is so long that it is world heritage site.
In reality, we marched down some stairs that felt like we were in an abyss. Partly because, if you look down (which I did many times) there was nothing but black. Finally, we arrived at the bottom. The tour guide proclaimed that the salt was called rock salt because it was 95% pure salt. The other 5% are rocks like limestone. The next passage was quite different, the walls were covered with white crystals. The guide said that this was pure salt crystal.
The next ten chambers were a church and statues of people like Copernicus and their patron saint. Why is Copernicus in there you ask? Well, he visited there ten years after the mine opened.
In one other chamber, there was a statue of the king and a fascinating display of how they would carry the rock salt out of the mine. It was a pully that you got to pull (if you were lucky, which I was). When I pulled the wood, the rope on the other end would pull the salt up. If I pulled it the other way, it would go speedily down the hall to the other side so that transporting the salt out would be faster and more efficient.
In the next chamber, there were more white crystals. But this time the tour guide said you could lick the salt. I was delighted. The salt was extremely delicious. But to my misfortune, I couldn’t have any more because Mom caught me licking the wall. Because Luke didn’t think he had enough, when we got to the next room that had some souvenir shops, Luke went over and bought a necklace made from salt and started licking. And licking. And licking. And licking.
In the next room there were some dummies carrying a stick with fake fire on it. The tour guide explained that this type of gas would build up and then blow up. So, they had this torch that would burn the gas and then they would have safer mining.
The next room was full of stairs.
“Once,” the tour guide remarked, “an Italian said that it looked like the entrance to hell!” The miners would have these big sacks over their shoulders containing rock salt and march up and down these stairs. Thankfully, we didn’t have backpacks as we marched downstairs with caution.
We entered a cavern. It was massive, full of rusty equipment and rock salt dwarves. The miners carved them because they believed that at the end of the day the dwarves would finish all the undone work that the miners didn’t do. Moving on, we entered a large chapel. It was humongous. It had many paintings carved into the wall like an excellent carving of the last supper. Another vivid one, about when Herod was killing all the babies in search for Jesus, was across the way. And, a few others carvings in low relief adorned the walls. The alter had a big sculpture of Mary and Jesus, and their patron saint. The guide told us it was one out of forty-two chapels in the mines.
Then, we entered a small cave. It was rather dark and it had a pool in the middle. They say that you used to get on a boat and sail down it until World War I when seven Austrian soldiers were trapped under the boat and died. Why they were in there, I don’t know. Then we went to a room that was kind of small with a small chapel and an elevator. From there, we went to the surface and I bought a huge thing of salt. Then, we left.