I know “salt mine” is usually not super high on peoples’ honeymoon visit lists but Wieliczka is really fun and interesting. I think this is my 5th visit and I’ve enjoyed it every time.
YES: you can lick the walls. But our guide reminded us that innumerable people before us had also licked the walls, so maybe not. I did try some of the salt water that was trickling out of a fountain elsewhere in the mine. Yep, pretty friggin salty.
Wieliczka was opened in the 13th century and produced salt until 2007!
You enter the mine by going down 380 steps to the first level, 209 feet down. There are enough turns down the flights of stairs that you start to feel a little dizzy by the end.
Throughout the chambers there are salt carvings of famous visitors, such as Nicholas Copernicus.
There is also a scene from the myth of how the salt mines were found. Polish Prince Boleslaw decided to marry Princess Kinga of Hungary. Her father asked her what gift she wanted to bring to Poland and she said she wanted to bring salt (this was in olden times when salt was super valuable). Her father bought her a salt mine in Hungary and when she went to visit, she threw her engagement ring inside.
When she arrived in Poland, she directed workers to dig for salt in a certain spot. They started digging and found salt – with Kinga’s engagement ring inside! You’re welcome, Poland!
It was difficult to get any photos or videos, but there are also little “multi-media” sort of exhibits in the mine. Our guide told us about how miners used to burn off excess methane gases (“mine farts” – Brendan) in the mine with torches. There was a little display of mannequins with torches and an audio/visual display of fire in the chamber. Scary!
But the best part of all is the main chamber:
They have events and even weddings down here. The chandeliers are made of salt crystals and there are relief carvings on the walls, including a reproduction of the Last Supper. If I recall correctly, these were done by miners.
There is also a salt Jebus and a salt Pope and some other salt saint stuff.
In one of the chambers they played Chopin and had what could be termed a “light show” but mostly they just turned the lights on. Needed more lazers. There were spooky salt brine pools that I found disturbing because it’s exactly the sort of weird green water a monster would hide in.
Brendan got to pretend to be a miner and operated a pulley. It was one of those multi-person wheel turner things. Apparently being a miner was a pretty sweet gig, they even got a beer from time to time.
In one of the chambers we saw another salt pool. At one point there was a little boat that you could ride but I guess some people drowned, maybe some of them were Nazis so we don’t care, but St. John was placed here as he protects against drowning. The guide mentioned that St. John was actually a Czech saint and we were like YEAH WE KNOW WE MET HIM ON THE BRIDGE! Everything comes full circle.
On the way out you pass through a full-on restaurant (although we didn’t have time to eat) and they wisely funnel you through like 3 different gift shops. We did get some bath salts and some cooking salt blend (dill and celery seed – Polish blend)
The elevator back up is pretty terrifying – they cram like 6 people in this tiny compartment that is pitch black and it goes up approximately a bajillion miles an hour. Then you get to the top, they scare the shit out of you because the exit door is behind you, the opposite side you came in. The elevator attendants looked very tired.