Visit to Wieliczka Salt Mine - part II

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Check part I of the article.

Due to the danger of underground work, the miners are religious; they are also very talented. We saw evidence of the talent in awesome salt sculptures made by miners themselves; some are whimsical gnomes, and other sculptures pay tribute to Poland's political heroes, to Pope John Paul II, and to Copernicus. We saw evidence of faith in the chapels within the mine, the grandest one being the Blessed Kinga Chapel.

Working gnomes -check also the article about Skarbnik - Miner's Guardian

We entered the chapel from an upper level - see the picture of the chapel in the first part of the article about Wieliczka), so that I felt as if I were looking down from a choir loft. The chapel is dim, but I immediately noticed the shiny floor reflecting the chandelier lights. We walked down the stairs to the main floor of the chapel and were invited to browse. I wanted to be respectfully quiet, because I was in a real chapel used for worship and ceremonies of the townspeople, but also because so much beauty took my speech away. Impressive murals, carved in relief, tell the stories of the Flight into Egypt, Jesus teaching in the Temple, the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Last Supper, and Doubting Thomas. A light behind the statue of St. Barbara, patron saint of miners, shows that the Wieliczka salt is transparent. As we were trying to take in all the sculpted details, the tour guide informed us that everything in the chapel is made from salt . . . by miners . . . the magnificent salt chandeliers above our heads to the salt floor beneath our feet! We were told that the tourists unknowingly help clean the chapel; all the foot traffic keeps the salt floor shiny! Although I wanted to stay in the chapel longer than the tour allowed, I did not want to miss the rest of the tour.

John Paul's monument in St. Kinga Chapel

The main chapel draws visiting groups who want to hear themselves sing or play instruments within the fine acoustics that the salt chambers create naturally. In one of the last chambers that we entered, a band was entertaining with a lively marching tune; these musicians were none other than more talented miners. Each of 2 unoccupied chairs held a musician's hat, so that the tourists may pose for a picture with the band!

St. Staszic Chamber - with miner's orchestra performance

We ended our tour by eating in the restaurant. Of course, we wanted to be able to brag that we ate lunch 100m (300 feet) below the earth's surface. So, that's exactly what we wrote on the postcards, mailed from the official Post Office also 100m below the earth! And yes, we shopped for souvenirs, before taking the elevator to the sunlight! To my family, Wieliczka is worthy of more than one visit, because it is a pleasant experience each time. I could tell you more, but better to go see for yourself and bring home a souvenir cross, made out of salt!

text and photographs by Donna M. Kocinski from New Berlin WI, contact the author by e-mail

Read another article written by Donna: Nativity Scenes (szopkas) from an Exhibition in Krakow. Check also pagan articles.

I recommend
The Rough Guide to Poland, by Mark Salter, Jonathan Bousfield

This book below is very useful for travel Berlitz Polish Phrase Book

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