“Go ahead, please lick the walls!” We were encouraged by our Wieliczka salt mine guide to lick the salt walled caves. I scanned our group to see if anyone was taking him up on that offer, but everyone had the same perplexed look. Was he serious? He was very serious, as salt is a natural disinfectant and cleanser. Since no one did it and people were quiet, of course I had to break the silence, and say “Okay, Willy Wonka!” If you know the original movie, I was referring to the scene where Charlie and his grandfather were licking the fruit flavored wallpaper. Several people understood and laughed, but there were a few that looked at me the same way as they did our guide. Oh well, you cannot make everyone laugh!
Exploring the underground world of the salt mines was an incredible experience, not only for its historic value but for the stories of those who lived and died underground for centuries. The Wieliczka Salt Mines is a world of its own, all underground complete with churches and sculptures that are carved from salt.
In 1978 the Wieliczka Salt Mines were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Bochnia Mines which is also in Poland. These sites have been mined since the 13th century, and were a major industrial undertaking with the development of mining techniques up until the 20 century. These mines have royal status, as well as being the oldest of its type in Europe.
Wielzicza Mine goes deep into the ground, and I was completely amazed every time there were more stairs that we took, which lead deeper underground. There are hundreds of kilometers to this mine that house underground chapels, artwork, and statues that are all carved from salt.
Over the centuries, miners lived and died within the mines barely seeing the light of day. This was the reason for carving out churches and chapels, it was a place for the miners to pray for protection of themselves, and for their families living above ground. Not only did people live and die underground, but horses did too. Horses would live a full life underground, turning the mining wheels, and never felt sunshine or breathe fresh air.
Chapels were built inside the salt mine for workers to pray and worship, since they rarely left the underground world. The intricate sculptures made from the salt of the mine are statues of religious images, historical, and famous people. There are also light hearted salt sculptures like little gnomes working the mines. It was similar to scenes of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and no, I did not start singing “Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it’s off to work I go.” Although that would have been very funny!
Much of the artwork and sculptures were carved by the resident miners over the centuries while living below. There are other sculptures that were created over the years by artists, for the sake of art and tourism. For example, we were told that the gnome scene was created for the children who come to visit the mines.
The Wieliczka Mines are one of Poland’s top tourist attractions, and not far from Krakow. You can travel to Wieliczka on your own, but the que can be very long to enter, and it would be wise to purchase your tickets online prior.
I went a step further and booked a half day trip, with transportation from Krakow and enterance. For myself, paying the extra money was worth the time saved with transportation and skipping the que for enterance. There are many well organized day trips that you can book online or through your hotel.
For tourist information, please visit – Wieliczka Salt Mines
I like to explore things– Chris Hemsworth
🌎 Thank you for visiting my website and NEVER STOP EXPLORING!
📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre
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