On May 9th we visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine, near Krakow, which is another attraction that you can easily visit without an organized tour. Directly across the street from Galeria Krakowska (which is next to Krakow Glowny) is a mini-bus bus stop. Look for the bus that says “Wieliczka” and/or “Salt Mine”. The cost for the bus was 3 zloty (about $1 USD) per/person and the ride about 30 minutes. Start paying attention after about 25 minutes and watch for signs for the salt mine. Because if you are the only ones on the bus going to the salt mine and the driver doesn’t know it, he might just keep going. So make sure you signal him to stop! There is a stop almost in front of the salt mine – just a short 2 minute walk up the hill.
Since we went in May there were hourly English tours. I’ve heard that it increases to every 1/2 hour in June through August, but I’m not certain about that. We arrived around 1:40pm and therefore, only had to wait 20 minutes for the tour to start. The cost was 65 Zloty (USD $19) per person, which is the most we had paid for any tour in Poland so far – very steep! If you speak Polish, you can get a polish speaking tour for 50 Zloty.
The tour begins with a 50+ story descent into the mine via a wooden staircase. Make sure to look down between the stairs to see how far it is to the bottom! Also, good walking shoes are important since you will be walking about 2.5 kilometers in the mine, and a lot of it is going down. The mine is almost all salt and the guide says that you can lick the walls for no extra charge ;). However, if you want to take photos they take you for an additional 10 Zloty per/camera. Inside the mine is dark for the most part, so you might want to not opt for paying for the camera as you will need a flash for every photo unless you are using a camera that can shoot with an ISO of over 6400+.
The walls are black and gray for the most part. They don’t look like salt at all and not appetizing to lick either! However, I did have to taste it so I licked my fingers and put them to the wall and sure enough, tasted just like regular table salt to me :).
Once in a while you will see salt stalagmites hanging from the ceiling and they are pure white. The guide said that meant the salt was pure since water had filtered through it removing all the impurities.
The sculptures are the main draw here and it is amazing that they were done my miners and not professional sculptors!
However, I felt a little disappointed as I expected more from the main cathedral and more sculptures in general. To me, the most impressive were the salt chandeliers, the salt floor and the newer sculpture of Pope John Paul.
The Wielicka Salt Mine was listed on the first list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and does deserve that honor. Heidi really enjoyed the tour but George thought it wasn’t worth the cost.
As you leave the salt mine turn left at the main road and you will see the bus stop (with the bus number 304) to return to Krakow (same cost of 3 Zloty/person).
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