The Wieliczka Salt Mine might have been one of the most amazing things we saw, yet given the volume of visitors we were rushed through the caverns like small puffs of wind. Hard on the heels of one group and with another close behind, we raced through long tunnels, and clustered around sculptures trying to get our photographs in before the guide finished speaking and rushed us to the next place. They even rushed us through the gift shop — located in the second most spectacular cavern, in which we had 5 minutes exactly to stare in wonder and to make purchases.
From the UNESCO World Heritage Site:
The deposit of rock salt in Wieliczka and Bochnia has been mined since the 13th century. This major industrial undertaking has royal status and is the oldest of its type in Europe. The site is a serial property consisting of Wieliczka and Bochnia salt mines and Wieliczka Saltworks Castle. The Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines illustrate the historic stages of the development of mining techniques in Europe from the 13th to the 20th centuries: both mines have hundreds of kilometers of galleries with works of art, underground chapels and statues sculpted in the salt, making a fascinating pilgrimage into the past. The mines were administratively and technically run by Wieliczka Saltworks Castle, which dates from the medieval period and has been rebuilt several times in the course of its history.
Yet no nutshell can contain, nor rushed over-large group tour quite ruin, the miles of corridors:
The strange doors and carvings (reminding me of how I always imagined Moria):
The strange figures, some of nationalist bent,
others depictions of miners, this of the brave mad men who set alight the clouds of methane that would form in pockets here:
My favourite jaunty labourer:
many religious scenes:
Everywhere testaments to the faith of the miners — and the dangerous nature of their work
And the strange formations of the salt itself, in little icicles, what they called here spaghetti:
Seamed and shiny smooth along the walls, marked with the tools of those who worked here:
Puffed and popcorned in places
And then the grandeur of the large chamber
it’s salt chandeliers
Also the underground ‘lake’
and the final chamber (shorn of stalls and cash registers and milling faintly desperate crowds:
Worth, so worth a visit, but what I wouldn’t have given to traverse it a little more slowly, with a few less people.
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