Friday, May 18, 2018

Going down the salt mine

Considering all the jokes about going back to the salt mine after lunch, I suspect none of us have ever been near one.

Krakow has a salt mine called Weiliczka Salt Mine a little way outside the down town area. We reserved a bus tour online for a cost not much more than the cost of a ticket.

Our little bus was full of people and we headed out though the Krakow suburbs. They have an extensive tram system.

We crossed the Vistula. Yes, it was another gloomy day with occasional rain showers.

I usually take a photo of the bus so that I know which one to look for. I forgot to take the photo with my phone camera since when I take the photo with my regular camera, I have to reverse through umpteen photos to find the bus photo.

We arrived at the salt mine, 

The tower is probably for the elevator that brings you back to the surface. Tourists have to walk down 378 steps.

We had to await about 20 minutes for our group's turn to descend into the mine.

If you divide 378 by 7 you get 54. Essentially you walk down 54 flights of 7 stairs about 6 inches high. So you total descent for this section is about 190 feet. It's not as bad as it sounds because at each landing you get to walk a few horizontal paces which rests your knees a little.

We reached the bottom of the steps.

We started to walk along some horizontal shafts. Sections are separated by air-locks to help with ventilation. One door has to be closed when the other door is open.

And yes, the walls are made of salt. If you scratch a bit off, it tastes salty.

Various chambers are used to depict scenes from the early days of mining.

Marks of old train tracks that were used for wagons drawn by horses.

Carved out of salt.

Horses were used to power lifting devices using ropes and pulleys. 

As you might imaging, photography is difficult in the low light and crowded conditions. I am amazed some of these photos turned out as well as they did.

The results of salty water flowing underground.

A drain for the salty water.

The salt layers were not continuous and formed large blobs that were mined leaving large chambers. Some of these were used for chapels. Some of the larger chambers were huge.

Chandelier in a larger chamber.

To give you an idea of a large chamber. All the elaborate carving in his huge chamber was done by just three men over a period of 67 years. When one stopped, another took over.

Timber reinforcing for the walls.  Virtually everything that is old is made of wood.

Chandelier made of salt.  Blocks of salt are translucent.

Probably Pope John-Paul II.

This was the most interesting statue for me.

The three men. Bloke 4 was not needed but they were ready for him.

There is some water in the mine and as you would expect it is extremely salty.

We descended down more steps.

Another air lock with service cables.

Some of the wooden supporting structures are amazing. 

I am not sure what this was, but I like the structure of the photo.

Another chandelier.

In some ways I found these wooden steps and bridges the best part of the tour.

Supporting the wall of salt.

Many famous people visited the mine including Goethe (this bloke) and Chopin. Even Bill Clinton turned up. He did not rate a subsequent statue.

This cavern had a lake at the bottom. There was a short sound and light show which hi-lited the set of steps. The sound was an orchestral version of Chopin's Etude # 3 Opus 10. If you are not familiar with the piece you can watch Lang Lang play a somewhat syrupy version, but it was nothing on the treacle that the orchestra exuded.

Looking down into yet another chamber.

Another pool of salty water.

Down at pool level.

More rail tracks that might have been in use till the mine closed. The salt was extracted in large cylinders and then hauled to the surface.

It becomes difficult to orient yourself with some of these photos. Here we are looking up into a chamber.

Yet another passageway.

Near the bottom level of the tour we came to a new grand staircase heading down.

Which led to a cafe!

Where you could buy perogies! It doesn't get any better than that.

Just off to the side of the cafe was a grand dining hall. 

Guests would come down in the lift. It was all a bit surreal.

We had reached the end of the tour and all we had to do was escape the gift shops and take the lift to the surface. The lift is unusual in that there are four sections with two sections on top of the other two. Nine people crammed into about nine square feet of space. Very cosy indeed. It takes about 40 seconds to reach the surface and it is a bumpy ride.

The mine produced salt until 2007. We walked about 2.2 miles which is about 2% of the total length of the tunnels. The guide said that production ceased because they had mined all the salt. The Wiki article says that salt production stopped because of economic reasons. 

It was very interesting and enjoyable, but as my mother would say, a oncer.

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