The salt mine was amazing. The mine is over 700 years old, it is no longer technically a working mine as it is no longer economically viable. This mine can produce 250 tonnes a day by old methods, whereas the new mines can produce up to 2,000 tonnes a day. This mine stopped being a working mine in 1996 but because it is a major tourist attraction they need to keep pumping out the water that naturally seeps into it. They can’t just dump salty water into the river though, so they extract the salt first – about 35 tonnes a day. Because of this they lay claim to it still being the oldest working mine in the world.
The mine goes down 135 meters, approx 400 feet, and there are about 2,800 chambers. We were there for two hours and only saw 1% of the mine. There is over a million cubic feet of timber holding the mine up.
Today open cast mining has replaced the old method of mining, today’s miners sit in a control room and the machinery does the work automatically. However because they have a strong union the miners still retire after 20 years on a full pension. This was set up originally as it was hard work and after 20 years you would be worn out, or would you? The miners were really well paid, plus got a handful of salt each day, and after awhile there was a practice where the miners would subcontract other workers to do their shifts for them.
There were numerous salt sculptures all done by the miners and they were really good. There was a big sculpture of Pope John Paul the 2nd made especially for a planned visit. Sadly the Pope was ill and never came but the sculpture is a really great likeness.
There are also three underground cathedrals, one is huge – you can get married in it. The alter and the wall sculptures are all salt. The wall, floor and ceilings are salt. When we were walking through the mines the tunnels were all salt: floor, walls and ceilings. To get down into the mine we walked down numerous steps but to get back up you go in a lift. As this is a busy tourist spot there is a bit of a wait for the lifts. Unbelievable but there is Wifi in the chamber by the lift, no doubt to keep people happy while they wait so I sent a couple of emails for novelty value from 135 meters below ground.
As the tour had not started until 3:45pm we did not get back into Krakow until 8pm. We had organized to remove Danya’s stitches so went to the hospital first. The Doctor who did the stitching on her face did a great job, once her eyebrows grow back you will not be able to see any scars.
After this we went to find food. We went to the Old Town and went into the first place that looked suitable. Walli and I had Georgian food which was a bit liked a stuffed pizza with chicken etc on top. It was not a pizza though, Daphne and Shirley had pizza and theirs came out of the pizza oven at the front of the shop and ours came out of the normal oven.
Afterwards Walli and I sat in the town square of the Old Town and watched people. It was really lovely, the buildings looked great all lit up with lights, there were numerous outside bars and a constant stream of horses and carriages came trotting past. We stayed out until just before 12am which probably was not the best idea with a big day tomorrow but hey, when will I have the next chance to sit in the square in Krakow enjoying the atmosphere?