Wieliczka’s Rock Salt Mine, the Russians are coming and Krakow at night

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ September 25th, 2007. Updated on September 16th, 2009. Published in: Travel blog » Poland.

Travel Journal Overview: I was far from travel blog comfortable still. My main goal was the journey at hand, I was however feverishly writing everything into my hand journals and just using the blog to let friends know where and what I was up to.

Wieliczka's Rock Salt Cathederal (click to enlarge)

Wieliczka's Rock Salt Cathederal (click to enlarge)

I waited around the hostel for my polish friend to arrive, and for once actually ate the free breakfast they provided later on in the day I noted this was what made by stomach turn a two days before, and I thought it was the goulash! It was during this breakfast experience I ran into “Brian” the 10.am piss head in search for the meaning of life, followed closely by one of the hostel workers equally inebriated. Thankfully my Polish friend appeared just in time, and we headed via car to his apartment.

Still I must confess that meeting up with him was going to delay my trip. I figured that I could actually leave tonight if I wanted for L’viv via Eurolines 9.50pm. Friday night, so I figured I would be around for another night or two at least, the price of friendship. We arrived at the apartment, and it was clear he had to work a lot, so this gave me the opportunity to head off to Wieliczka’s Rock Salt Mine.

Having only ever heard about coal mines before I was curious about a salt mine, what’s more this place boasted underground cathedrals carved out of salt. There was an unavoidable tour, which cost a scary 15Euro!! Eeek, not happy. This financial impact was further rubbed in my the fact that I was now joining the tourist supermarket. However the place is quite amazing, and unique 800 feet below ground you are taken through a huge
salt mine, where several of the miners started creating sculptures in rock salt.

Visually the place is worth a trip especially the huge rock salt cathedral underground, complete with a pewter emblazed with a red cult like symbol. Scenes of the last supper were craved into the walls around us in exquisite detail. Statues frozen in time and carved from Rock salt surrounded us depicting scenes of the once working mine. Though expensive, and little too generic, with a student guide it was impressive. It would have been more so if the price was not so high, and the guides actually did not seem like robots. Nor the tour as a whole I must say.

I got back around 7pm, had dinner at my now regular cheap little polish restaurant, another dashing of buckwheat and goulash please. Got back to the house at 10, and began research on my Ukrainian expedition, all the while waiting for a polish call to drink. I worked until 1am, and got a lot done for the next stages of my trip. With no polish friend around I headed to bed. But was unable to sleep well as I was wondering where he had got to? Sure enough at 4am he came through the door, sober. He was still working  He insisted in chatting for until five when his roomate came in too. I knew the next day would be a hard one, not much to do, and tired (am I getting old?)

The next day consisted of me, the internet, and more research, L’viv was approaching, as was Kyiv and some other Ukrainian destinations. I wasn’t nervous at this stage, but knew this would be a new thing to me. Exploring a country with no idea of the language, and a Cyrillic alphabet, really it would be something new and not easy. Something I was looking forward too.

Finally the internet research was finished and I searched for something to do, old town where the Jews were rounded up during WW2 sounded good. I headed off, for many hours. Many hours. In search of a small cluster town surrounded by a wall…. well…. no one told me there was no more wall! And no one told me my friends house in the area, as he just called to confirm! He also mentioned Mojhito night tonight!

The night took shape with a 1 hour trip to Nova Huta in Krakow, a place purposely developed by the communists to create a city within a city that could be blocked in with tanks to save the elite. So every building car entrance is only the exact width of a tank! Also there was a little photo exhibit there, which re confirmed my theory that the temperature was dropping in the east. That night Ikea Vases of Mojhitos and continued with ass remarking comments in a local culture bar, and ended up in a search for Bar Transylvania, a place where the walls drip with blood.

Of course it did not exist, in fact it was now an Indian restaurant. Next door there was however a basement bar where the walls were really red, and our questions about vampire bars were met with super confused stares from the polish barmaids… either that or they thought we were looking for something else?!! We finished up around 5am.

It was time to move on …

Links: Travel Guide to Poland

Stories: Auschwitz Birkenau the impact

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1 Great responses to Wieliczka’s Rock Salt Mine, the Russians are coming and Krakow at night

  1. Loeffle says:

    Had the same positive experience when I visited Wieliczka. Sadly I got my heart and car broken soon after ;)
    Also agree on Krakov, nice, but not that special.