[Ok,nix that previous post, I solved my problem by going up he street to McDonald’s, buying a cup of coffee and some “apple crisp,” and getting on their internet!]
This morning, we went to Weliczka. Weliczka is the home of the famous salt mines. Long time ago, like in the 13th century or so when they were discovered, salt was a very important commodity, sometimes more valuable than gold. After all, you cannot eat gold, but we all need our salt. And Poland discovered a huge vein of salt, deposited several millions of years ago when what is now Poland was a sea which eventually dried up leaving salt, a vein of nearly pure salt that is about 10 miles long and a mile or so wide. Starting in the 13th or 14th century, Poland started excavating this salt. It is amazing to see how the did it. As a matter of fact, the mine was in operation until just about a dozen years ago, and still employs over 1000 miners who preserve this.
Ah, but we’re not just talking salt here, there is more to the story. But first, it’s important to know that this mine which I guess belonged to the king was a source of great richness. The salt from this mine is what financed the building of the spectacular Wawel palace and churches.
Mining salt is not easy work and it developed over the ages, but at one time it was estimated that 25% of all miners would die in the mine from some sort of accident. But to be a miner meant you could get some salt for your family, so it was a very good paying job for the time.
But there is more to the story, as these people did not just mine the salt….they carved in it. Words cannot describe some of the beautiful carvings that I saw today. I did not take any pictures because without proper lighting and equipment, they would be dull and boring pictures. But there are plenty of pictures on the Internet of Weliczka, look it up! There is a beautiful church carved right out of the salt, including and altar, podium, pulpit, priest or bishop’s chair, and the like. It is truly amazing.
And, remember, it is a mine, so underground. The whole mine extends down 9 whole levels, to over 350 meters deep (do the math, it’s over 1000 feet!). But we were only down to the third level, still am impressive 135 meters or about 500 feet below the surface. Of course I had to pee there, because that I a record low pee for me! Yes, I can be silly at times, I am on vacation. Oh, but I did use a regular WC or bathroom, don’t worry….
We started out by taking an elevator down, then we had a guide for our tour group of about 16 people. But then we ended up descending something like another 400 steps. So we were really down in there. Fortunately, the way out is with an elevator of sorts… more like a sardine can, but we made it to the top. In case you are interested, yes, both Sonja and Pat went on this tour.
So that was our tour. I encourage you to look up Weliczka on the Internet—Wikipedia is always my friend—and learn some more about it, it is an amazing and fascinating place, and I’m glad I went.