A day down the salt mines

We weren’t sure about visiting the salt mines near Krakow. They have over a million visitors a year, so mightn’t they be, well, a bit tacky?

Actually no. It was quite a special experience. And a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot.

They’ve been mining salt in Wielicza since the 13th century.  We walked down 800 steps to get to a depth of more than 300 feet to see some of the earlier workings. Further seams can plunge to a depth of over 1000 feet.  Miners routinely walked down to their seams, or in the early days, were winched down on precarious rope hoists.

 Salt encrusted wooden pit props.

English coal mining is the only mining history I know. So it was wonderful to learn that visiting these mines has been a tourist attraction since the 15th century. There are pictures of elegant 18th century balls being held in the more spacious caverns.

And which English coal mines ever had built in chapels? Miners constructed and ornamented these places of worship so they could give thanks for surviving another day in these dangerous surroundings. They would greet each other ‘God be with you’ (so you survive another day).

A man I talked to at the end said his Fitbit revealed that we had walked 5 km. in our four hours down the mine. Just think how much else I could tell you about this fascinating place if I put my mind to it.

This is a cavern where dancing and other events took place. The walls and floor are made of salt. As are the droplets of the chandeliers.

Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

23 thoughts on “A day down the salt mines”

  1. I wondered if you’d get to the salt mines! I’ve been too, and found it fascinating. Did you, like us, round off your day with a white water raft trip down the river?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, what an amazing place! I once visited a salt mine in Austria (you had to slide down a chute wearing a sort of leather apron to stop your backside getting friction burns; needless to say mine got rucked up) but it certainly didn’t have a ballroom and the rest of the works. Extraordinary that somewhere which must have been a grim and dangerous place to work could be made to look so glamorous.

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  3. The glamour of the ballroom sort of distracts us from the danger and drudgery of mining, and the human cost. The only mines I’ve been in were in Cornwall, where the human cost is inescapable!

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    1. It would take a lot to persuade me to be a miner. But there weren’t too many options back then, and it was well.paid. so it was a popular job choice. Circumstances alter cases, it seems.


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