AND A FEW THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT POLAND
15.03.2017 - 19.03.2017 12 °C
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located in the town of Wieliczka about 20 minutes outside of Krakow. It operated in the 13th century and produced table salt continuously until 2007, At that time it was one of the world's oldest salt mines in operation. The mine’s attractions include dozens of salt carved statues and a number of chapels.
It was fortunate I had planned this 4-hour tour for today because the weather was crap. It rained on and off most of the day. Of course, I knew nothing of that in the 2.5 hours that I was underground. The tour takes you to 135 meters underground (appx 440 ft). Normally, you descend into the mine by stairs, 480 steps followed by another 320 however because of the back log of guests our giant tour group had to take the mine shaft which is normally only used for the ascent. Personally, I would have rather done the stairs even before I saw the elevator. At no point does anyone ask you if you are claustrophobic or explain that you may stop midway, only that it will be a quick 14 seconds to the base of the 480 steps. I have never been so close to 8 other strangers. You are literally jammed in, they push on your arms and legs to close the little doors. It was way more than 14 secs and when we stopped completely in the dark, I had a quick moment where I wondered if I would panic. We all sort of figured that the 3-layer elevator might have to let people out in steps and we were right. It was definitely longer than 14 seconds. We did walk the last 320 steps which were on nice staircases and an easy walk so I am not sure what all fuss is about. On the way up they told us it would take 45 seconds but that went really quick and we lucked into only having 8 people so I only had to touch my neighbors not cuddle up. I have to wonder how many people who walk down panic when they see the elevator up. It is crazy so there has to be some who just can't do it. It was well worth the visit despite the bit of disorganization. It was really interesting when light was put behind these grey salt figures and they became translucent. Here’s what we saw below.
They had one room where a machine took your picture and emailed to you. This is mine. I think it looks like I was using the toilet and was suddenly surprised someone was taking my picture.
On the return, I got dropped off at the main square where I had some lunch, some mulled wine and planned my afternoon.
I visited St. Mary’s Basilica which was lovely but I am not one to loiter in such places. Did you know that Poland is a deeply religious country with 92% of the population being Roman Catholic?
I also visited the Cloth Market. A beautiful building filled with shops. Most sell amber, the native gemstone of Poland but I bought none.
I then made my way to the music academy where I planned to have coffee on the rooftop café but it was closed. I was very disappointed. At this point it was pouring hard so I decide to give in and make my way back to the hotel.
Here is the indication for a unisex bathroom in Poland? I am told that there are lots of these and locals say that many a romance begins in the queue for the toilet. Sometimes, if the bathroom is not unisex, the symbols are split. Would you know where to go?
Tomorrow I fly to Dublin for a week of meetings. I have enjoyed Krakow way more than I expected. I could easily spend more time here. I didn’t make it to the castle or any museums. The city is very clean, people are friendly and most speak some English. Most of the tourists I met were from the UK and I have several servers tell me I was their first Canadian. I am certain I am not the only Canadian to visit but surprised that we are not up there since Canadians enjoy Europe. I was asked more than once if I was afraid of Donald Trump being so close. It is very cheap for a European country. I could have a large meal with wine and water for $10. A little more in the main square. The two drives outside the city looked lovely and I feel like Poland deserves a proper visit. I’ll be back.
Oh...and of course I am the circle. I didn't need any more reminders that I am round.