Monday, July 7, 2008

Wieliczka- The Salty City

Here in Wieliczka, there is no need to ask for extra salt on your french fries, you just rub them against the wall! You see, Wieliczka is really a salt mine, except that it has been mined out completely and is now a major attraction in Poland. In the old days, people mined for salt down there and hollowed it out to about 9 different floors of "emptiness". There are hundreds of carvings all around, almost entirely made out of salt. The miners stayed down there a lot so they built churches so they could have Mass while they would be underground and be able to get back to work immediately. Then, other people kept adding to the collection so now it is made up of original carvings done by the miners and artisans that came after. While there are 9 floors total, you're only allowed to visit the first 3. The other ones are like way too deep or something. So anyway, the first floor is devoted to sculptures of famous people and scenes of what mining was like. The second floor has more sculptures, a chapel, and a break area from the tour with some snack stands and souvie shops. Suprising, huh? Things keep getting better. On the third floor, there are some lakes, (salt water of course!), the Grand St. Kingas Church, and another rest stop. At the end of the tour, you get to the tallest chamber, the room of the first underground balloon flight,(and 36 meters high at that!) On your way to the exit, you pass a restaurant, a post office, and a banquet hall and more souvie shops. Naturally, after all that walking, you head towards the exit and go up on a double decker elevator! I wonder who thought up that idea! It was very fun; you were allowed to lick the walls, but not allowed to touch the works (in fear of deterioration), and absolutely not allowed to eat over 5 pounds of salt! The food at the restaraunt was pretty good. I think the main idea of the restaurant was just to say,"I ate french fries 136 meters beneath the Earth's surface! Naturally, the food was very salty and the lady at the kasa (cash register), insisted that we take extra packets of salt. It was fun, but eventually we had to go back up, after all, every trip to a salt mine MUST end with a pinch of salt!

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