The Salt Mine Wieliczka is the oldest salt enterprise on Polish land dating back to the Middle Ages. For centuries it was the source of the country’s wealth and the material foundation of its culture. Today it is the most popular Polish tourist attraction.
Magnificent chapels, captivating underground lakes, original tools and equipment, traces of mining works allow us to understand the human struggle against the elements, their work, their passion and their beliefs. The Wieliczka miners have left behind many salt carvings and murals.
Everything has been made out of salt, including the beautiful chandelier lights. The crystals of the chandeliers are made from rock salt that has been dissolved and reconstituted to achieve a clear, glass-like appearance. Everything there is made of salt and wood. The Polish people have for many centuries been devout Catholics and this was more than just a long term hobby to relieve the boredom of being underground. This was an act of worship.
Various types of social events are organised in the undergrounds of the Wieliczka Salt Mine such as conferences, banquets, weddings, the New Years Eve Ball, concerts, sport performances.
The Wieliczka mine functions also as a sanatorium, for the micro-climate in the underground spaces which is particularly beneficial in the treatment of upper respiratory disorders, asthma and allergy. In 1997, in the Teodor Wessel Chamber, on floor three (135 m underground) the Underground Rehabilitation and Medical Centre was opened. Owing to the active therapy in the Centre, the patients breathe in the air rich in sodium, calcium and magnesium chloride, and thus efficiently get rid of some disorders caused by civilisation.This Salt mine is definitely not to be missed, while in Poland. You would be absolutely amazed by everything you get to see there. I am told that it cannot be compared to other salt mines, because it is so unique. I am so glad we could visit this Salt Mine in Wieliczka.
It is always good to read about the places we are visiting and know beforehand itself, about the places that should not be missed at any cost.
If I had not read about it, we would have easily skipped it, since it was an optional tour, (we have to pay for taking optional tours).
There is an entire cathedral carved by miners out of the rock salt, including the statues and images on the walls. The Last Supper was the only one carved out by a professional artist and not by the miners.
Several hundreds of years of rock salt exploitation have shaped the spatial arrangement of its excavated structure. Lying on nine levels, concealed under the town, the mine reaches down to the depth of 327 metres. Subterranean Wieliczka consists of nearly 300 kilometres of corridors and almost 3,000 chambers. The tourist route accessible to visitors includes a 3.5-kilometres section located from 64 to 135 metres below ground level. The entire tour takes about 3 hours and remember to wear good walking shoes for we have to walk. It has restaurants, rest rooms, souvenir shops and a post office too.
As soon as we enter we find this writing in Polish:
THE MINER’S GREETING - Szczęsc Boze “GOD BLESS”
“You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world” (Mt 5:13-14)
Labour underground has always been associated with great danger hazardous to life. That is why miners used to build chapels underground in which they attended mass every morning.
The numerous underground chapels as well as customs and rites, verbal folklore, art, and especially sculpting in rock salt religious subjects testify to the fact that the cult of holy patrons was very important in the Wieliczka miners’ culture. The miners exposed to constant perils placed their health and wellbeing in the hands of the Almighty, the Holy Mother of God, and the holy patrons. Apart from the main patron, St. Kinga, there were other more prominent apostles celebrated by the miners’ cult, i.e. St. Anthony Padewski, St. Clemens, and St. Barbara. These traditions are continued today as well as the miners’ greeting “God Bless” with which the miners greet and say goodbye to people they meet underground. The first “God Bless” is said at the moment of descending into the mine, and the final “God Bless” resounds when exiting the mine to the surface, i.e. “the outside world” ( these are some extra facts gathered from the net).
So , incase you are in Krakow Poland, remember to visit this salt mine without fail.