Originally published 11 May 1012.
So, now we’ve come to our last day in Krakow. I do not want to leave yet, but I know more awaits me in the next city!
So I have to confess, I think I basically messed this day up, but I had a good time anyway! I definitely need to go back to Krakow one day in the next couple of years to make up for it. I decided to go to the Salt Mines instead of Auschwitz because I didn’t want to do the concentration camp tour on my own. I’d seen the Jewish Quarter the first day, then Schindler’s Factory the next, and I think Auschwitz is something I’d rather do with someone. Now I regret it, but I do plan to go back. I couldn’t quite fit both into one day.
Salt was very important back when there was no refrigeration. People needed salt to preserve their food. Therefore, if you owned a salt mine, you were a wealthy man! Only kings owned them, and their noblemen managed and operated the mines. We were only allowed to go down 135 meters, but the mines are much deeper and longer than that. The only way down was to walk the wooden steps—380 of them! While the steps are not original, the path we followed going down is original—from hundreds of years ago!
The mines are not used for salt mining anymore, mainly just for a tourist attraction and educational opportunity. There are lots of rock salt statues down there—some of kings and queens, some of famous people who visited the mine (such as Goethe and Chopin)—and there are even a few chapels down there! The people of Poland are mostly Catholic, and so any place that’s important where people go often, there needs to be a church. People still hold regular Masses there, as well as weddings, parties, conferences, and concerts! There are huge chandeliers down there to light the important rooms, and they’re made entirely of rock salt! Sorry I couldn’t get any decent pictures.
So, how did the miners get down further and further into the depths? It was quite dangerous. People and horses alike were lowered down by ropes, with only a make-shift harness to keep them from falling. They actually sang funeral songs on the way down and back up, just in case one of them fell to his death. There was an exhibit down there demonstrating that, which was a little bit scary to tell you the truth!
After spending about three hours in the mines, I was very hungry! We stopped in a tavern that serves traditional Polish food, and I got something that was exactly like schnitzel, plus potato soup with bread—it was WAY too much, and honestly I didn’t even mean to get it all! But it was very tasty.
Back in Krakow, I called my mom for her birthday and left a voicemail, then walked around a bit and picked up a few souvenirs I’d been meaning to purchase. After that I needed to get to the train station. I was actually pretty excited about the train ride. Find out more in my next post!