800 Steps and 800 Years

800 Steps and 800 Years

I walked 2.5 kilometres underground, down staircases, into chambers, cavernous halls, and chapels. This mine was carved entirely from salt, decorated with statues and housing tiny chapel rooms. For an #aspirational trip with a difference come and visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine in #Poland. The tour may only show you about 1% of the mine, but that 1% is a #mustsee.


The Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

In twelve steps, they say you can cure alcoholism. To get to the bottom of the Wieliczka Salt Mine, it takes 810. And in this case, it’s an intoxicating experience that will leave your head spinning.

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

This is no ordinary mine, no warren of small dark tunnels and dangerous industrial pitfalls. This is a small city, an art gallery, a place of work and a house of worship… and it’s all carved out of salt.

from  $47

Wieiczka Salt Mine

Aspirational
 31-021 Kraków, Poland
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Since work stopped at the Wieliczka Salt Mine in 1996, it has become one of Poland’s most popular tourist attractions and one of the country’s greatest sources of pride.

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

But for the hundreds of years before it was completely opened to the public it was a driving force in the local economy and one of the main employers of the region.

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland
Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

Life in the Mine

For the miners who worked underground, the tunnels and caverns were a second home and they took great pride in treating it as such. 

the tunnels and caverns were a second home and they took great pride in treating it as such

From the very start of operations in the 13th century, they began to decorate the mine with statues. Carved out of salt, the statues they created gave life and spiritual meaning to the catacombs. Pockets that the workers mined became rooms and many of those rooms became chapels. Religious iconography and altars gave them places to ask for guidance and help. 

Religious iconography and altars gave them places to ask for guidance and help

When you spend so many hours a day so far underneath the ground, it’s important to have a direct line to the heavens.

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland
Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

The largest of the chapels took three men the course of 67 years to decorate, chiselling and sculpting artwork from the salt. Today it has large chandeliers hanging from the roof and can be used for weddings and other ceremonies.

The largest of the chapels took three men the course of 67 years to decorate

In fact, many of the rooms in the Wieliczka Salt Mine can be used today. There are function rooms, conference facilities, restaurants and bars that are available for hire. The city underground may not be a working mine anymore but it still has life.

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland
Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

Visiting Wieliczka

It’s also full of tourists on the day I visit. You can only access the mine as part of a guided tour and although it takes about two and a half hours it’s just a tiny part of the complex that you’ll see.

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

“There are two thousand chambers in the mine”, our guide tells us. That’s hard to imagine.

“You are only seeing one per cent on our tour.” That’s hard to believe.

“To see it all would take more than seven weeks.” That’s hard to walk!

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

In the end I walked 2.5 kilometres – down staircases, through small chambers, into cavernous halls, past chapels, around lakes and finally into a tiny elevator that carried us back up to the top in seconds. It was nice to see daylight again although I’d almost forgotten how far I was underground. I suppose that was the whole point of the wonderland the miners built over all those generations.

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve visited here.

Time Travel Turtle travelled to Poland as a guest of the Polish National Tourist Office but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

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