A salt mine you say? Doesn’t sound that exciting does it?
Well, the Wieliczka Salt Mine was the location for the world’s first underground bungee jump and also the first underground hot air balloon flight. If that doesn’t impress you and give you a feel for the scale of the mine then it’s also worth noting that the Wieliczka Salt Mine is a UNESCO World heritage site visited by around 1.2 million people every year.
Luckily I we visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine on our blog trip to Poland organised by Polish National Tourism Office.
Located under 10 miles from Krakow the Weiliczka Salt Mine is the oldest salt mine still in operation. It was built in the 13th century and continued to produce table salt up until 2007. The mine consists of 9 levels with a depth of 327 metres and a length of 300 km, the tour only covers a tiny fraction of the mine due to its huge scale.
The tour visits some of the more interesting parts of the mine taking visitors to an entire salt chapel carved from the rock salt, an underground lake, numerous salt sculptures and finally back up to the surface via a mining elevator. Interestingly the mine is home to a underground private wellness and rehabilitation center for people with breathing illnesses due to its unique micro-climate.
We trekked down 378 steps on a spiral stair case into the mine and were shown a small chapel craved out into the salt rock. Due to the dangerous nature of working in the mine the miners would pray before going to work and created numerous chapels throughout the complex. The faces of many sculptures in the chapel hand vanished, eroded over the years.
Being deep down in a salt mine at over 100 metres I didn’t expect to be confronted with such a beautiful space. The Chapel of St. Kinga is carved entirely out of the salt rock and features stunning chandeliers, religious cravings and most notably a salt carving of The Last Supper by miner Antoni Wyrodek. The chapel is the most elaborate of the forty chapels in the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
The timber structures of the Michalowice Chamber are an impressive sight. Huge white timber beams reinforce the green salt chamber where excavations had started as far back as the 1680′s and continued for a 100 years. With so much timber installed in the mine came the danger of fire, the most serious starting in 1644 and burning for 8 months.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is well worth the visit if you are in Krakow for 2-3 days. The mine has some impressive sights including it’s sculptures, chapels and the unmissable Chapel of St Kinga. A visit can last around two and a half hours so leave enough time for this as well as travel to and from the mine.