Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Krakow, Poland (DoubleTree by Hilton, Krakow)

Today I’m visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mines. The package deal I arranged with the hotel has a shuttle driver picking me up at 10:30 and will then pick up a few more people from other hotels before driving to the mines, which is about 15 miles away.

I remember seeing pictures of this mine and I think perhaps a documentary too. I’d almost forgotten about the mines but was reminded of them while I was looking for things to do in Krakow.

I was ready at 10:20 a.m. and down in the lobby waiting for the shuttle. I had a hunch that the shuttle driver was waiting for me and went outside. Yes, there he was. I was the only one from this hotel going on today’s tour. And we were off. We picked up 4 more passengers at another hotel and then we headed to the mines.

It was a quiet ride to the mines. We had a couple from Germany and another from Scotland. I had a feeling I’ll get along well with the two from Scotland. We we arrived at the entrance to the mines we walked to where the group tours were lining up. As I thought, I started talking with the Scottish couple and we instantly became best of friends. Her Polish father, during World War Two, was stationed in Scotland and that is where he met her mother. This was her first visit to Poland.

The tour starts off by first going down 54 flights of stairs. They were short flights, but I’d rather have taken an elevator. Perhaps it was part of the design that if you can successfully go down all of those stairs you can probably survive the tour. My Scottish friends were watching after me and we were the last three of the tour to complete this first task.

We learned that the mine was started back in the early 1600’s. And it has been in production ever since. The guide said that it was easy to get lost in the numerous passageways on several levels of the mine.

Along the tour we learned how the salt was mined over the years as technology improved. The miners were well-paid, but the conditions were horrible. They deserved every dime (or salt) they earned.

There were so very large rooms, several chapels, and other spaces we learned about. A number of statues we saw along the way were designed and sculpted by miners. We were told not to taste the statues.

We were told of a few disasters in the mine over the years. I was thinking about the coal miners in Poland who were recently killed as a result of an earthquake. No, I didn’t ask if there had been any quakes that affected the mine. I didn’t want to jinx us.

Towards the end of the tour there were several opportunities for us to rest and visit souvenir shops. It is a running joke that you know you’re at the end of a tour when you see the souvenir shop. Quite a few salt-related items!

We walked to the pickup point where our driver was to meet us. And he was there. We climbed in the van and we were on our way back to Krakow. We were all tired. I saw that we walked nearly 13,000 steps in the mine and climbed up and down several flights of stairs. We were able to ride an elevator back up to the surface. I know that I was looking forward to a nap when I returned to the hotel.

Tomorrow I leave for Prague. I’m staying 9 days. The first day will be in a Hilton since I arrive at the Prague airport at 8:00 p.m., then will stay at two different Airbnbs for four days each. My flight tomorrow will first take me to Dusseldorf, Germany where my layover is a little over three hours, then fly to Prague. I’ll have plenty of time tomorrow to pack.

To see pictures: CLICK HERE

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