Thursday, 1 March 2018


I have had a truly lovely weekend in Krakow, Poland with hubby.  We spent my birthday exploring the Wieliczka Salt Mines where absolutely everything below ground is made from salt - you can even lick the walls!  The mines stretch over 178 miles of passageways, of which only 2.2 miles form the tour route open to the public.

 The most spectacular memory I have taken from this trip is of the salt lake, deep down some 135 metres below ground, the water is a beautiful emerald green.  The surrounding salt walls had intricate carvings.   Music concerts are performed down here ocassionally in a specially built auditorium as the acoustics underground have exceptional quality.

 I would have loved to swim there but unfortunately it wasn't allowed!  I imagine it would
be very therapeutic - within these mines there is a sanatorium for people with various health conditions to stay overnight as the salt is known to help them.
(We ourselves were suffering heavy colds/blocked noses and surfaced no longer congested!)

My pictures of the chandeliers don't do them justice, they are made of a wooden frame and every single crystal has been hand cut from salt - there were many of these lighting the caves and they made a truly spectacular atmosphere.

Throughout the mines, from the 13th century to the present day, the mainly Christian workers created their own chapels underground and decorated them by carving into the salt chambers to make these wonderful wall friezes and statues.  Their faith was an important part of their daily routine, with a church service every morning in the various chapels before starting work throughout the mines.  There are also some statues of elves created by superstitious hungarian workers who were later introduced to the mines .  It's hard to believe these statues are centuries old, they are perfectly preserved of course, being made entirely of the salt rock.

This is Kinga's chamber, the biggest underground chamber in the World.  She is the patron saint of the salt miners and was Hungarian, marrying her Polish prince.  The scene depicts the legend where her engagement ring was found in a lump of salt  (she was not a materialistic girl and had thrown it away can read the story here).

The Last Supper

The mines are supported throughout with large pine pillars, many of which have absorbed the salt over the centuries, making them very strong.  Pine was used because it is flexible and absorbent.  Some of the floors were tiled with cow licks (blocks of salt produced from the mine for farm animals to lick). Horses worked in the mines until as recent as 2002. They were highly valued and specific workers were assigned to their wellbeing and care.

We also visited Schindler's Factory which was well worth the tram ride and lengthy walk, the freezing minus fifteen degree snowy outdoors made it particularly bracing!

'Strong,close up, Ready'
Having seen a film in the little theatre within the factory (which I cried all the way through!)  I had a better understanding of the huge risk Schindler took in protecting his Jewish workers.   He was a Nazi intelligence officer, sent to spy in Poland then later put in charge of this factory producing enamel pots and pans.

He had strong morals and could not stand by and watch people being treated so badly by the German occupation so went about ensuring his workers were safe, better fed than those outside, had fair working conditions and then later protected his Jewish workers by moving them away to safety when they were about to be transported to death camps.  He spent everything on bribing other SS officers to spare his workers  and eventually after the war was bankrupt.

Schindler was buried in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, the only member of the Nazi party to ever be honoured in this way.   You can read more about him here

We spent a lot of time walking and taking trams around town exploring in the snow, we were keeping to a budget and believe you will see much more using public transport, getting lost is all part of the experience!  We found a traditional Polish restaurant serving basic home cooked dumplings - we chose ours stuffed with potato (freshly made for us) as I'm veggie but they had meat ones too.  This little kitchen was like being in someones home, the staff were attentive and it was very cosy.

bagels for sale

Krakow market square
we also visited the underground museum, directly under the square which was, and to some extent still is, a cloth market.  When excavations were done, various artefacts dating back over a 700 year span were found, giving insight into how roads were built , the spices that were imported and traded for cloth, the trade routes and also information of the people themselves because a large part of this city and stretching beyond, is an ancient buriel ground with various coins and items of jewellery, shoes and cloth found.  It was well presented and only took about half an hour for a very informative look round.  It was too dark for good photography but you can see some here

Seriously under dressed!

That's it from me - enjoying the equally Siberian temperatures currently 
in the UK and plenty of snow.


  1. How wonderful! I loved reading about your fascinating birthday weekend!

  2. That does sound like a wonderful trip. So interesting and especially the Salt Mines.

  3. Betty what a wonderful experience you packed into a relatively short time. The salt mines must have been fascinating. We have eaten Polish food and some of it is very tasty.

  4. Amazing Betty ... loved reading about your trip. I am wondering if the damp gets into the salt & things corrode, like the wooden beams? We have salt lick blocks for our cattle. Gosh - sure does look cold over there.

    1. no they use wood as it can't deteriorate, the salt makes it hard and is absorbed so it ends up like cement blocks eventually. Metal will corrode which is why there isn't any - they do have metal tracks for the trolleys but that's more modern day and has to be maintained/they do catering/events down there so need to move supplies around. Originally they used to make the salt in cylinder shapes so it would roll for moving and lifting (no sharp edges to wear the pulling ropes you see) and horses to pull it along to the shafts where it was pullied up on ropes.

  5. Creative uses of salt! Those chandeliers are amazing!!

  6. You really make the most from everywhere you go! I've never been able to watch Schindlers List all the way through. Too sad. Fascinating post.xx

  7. Happy belated birthday to you, Betty!
    It's lovely to see Krakow - my brother went a few years ago and, being a typical bloke, never bothered to take photos!! xxxx

  8. That was a splendid travelogue - I always knew there was such a thing as a salt mine but I wouldn't have dreamed that one could be so fascinating in the art and science and history of it! Thank you!

  9. Fascinating! Poland is not a place I've ever thought to visit, but this makes me think I should add it to the list!

  10. Belated birthday wishes.
    Good to see your photographs.

    All the best Jan

  11. What a great experience, thanks for sharing it here.

    All the best Jan

  12. Oh, wow! I did not know that about the chapels in the salt mines. Amazing sculptures!

  13. I really enjoyed reading about your trip to Poland and the fascinating salt mines and salt carvings. It's really awe inspiring. The healing properties of salt is truly interesting. It's amazing that your sinuses cleared up by just being in the salt mine.
    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. I really appreciate it.
    Hugs, Julia

  14. What a fascinating place. I'd love to visit the salt mines, you'd never think that you'd find a chandelier in one would you? It looks beautiful, and can you imagine seeing a concert by the salt lake? Stunning.
    I hope you had a lovely birthday and have warmed up from those minus fifteen degree temperatures!


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