Don’t miss Wieliczka

This item appears on page 18 of the April 2008 issue.
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The Wieliczka Salt Mine just outside of Kraków, Poland, is something not to be missed.

One of two chapels in the salt mine. Photos: Patty Wileman

During our 11-week Europe vacation, Aug. 19-Nov. 2, 2007, I almost did miss it but got talked into going by the wonderful private guide we had for Kraków, Marta. I have breathing problems and walking problems and thought I wouldn’t be able to visit the mine, but I was.

The salt mine does not smell dusty or moldy. It was very easy to breathe, even at the bottom. There are more than 600 steps to go down and an elevator to take you back up, but for an additional cost we got to ride the elevator down as well and missed most of the steps. Even people in a wheelchair can visit the salt mine.

And what an elevator! Do you remember those old-time western movies with mines and an elevator? It looked like that kind — just a metal cage with a wire top. Nine or 10 people could be crammed in it. On the way down it made all kinds of strange noises, then the operator turned off the light and we were in complete darkness with all those sounds. It was quite a ride!

It was on the Internet that I found Marta Chmielowska (e-mail martachm@op.pl or visit www.privateguidesineurope.com). We e-mailed back and forth, and she said that if the salt mine was not very busy, she could make reservations and I could ride the elevator down. However, on Oct. 25 when she picked us up at our hotel to drive us to the mine, she told us that it was not a sure thing. It depended on how many people were touring the salt mine when we showed up; lots of school kids take the tour.

As luck would have it, we got to take the elevator down, BUT we could not be part of a large tour group. We had to pay for a private salt mine tour guide, and because he only spoke Polish we also had to buy Marta a tour ticket so that she could translate for us. There were three of us in our little group plus Marta plus the salt mine guide.

If I remember correctly, we paid 515 zlotych (about $184) for all of us — not cheap, as a regular ticket to get in was Z39 ($14) per person.

On each level, horses (the ones pictured are stuffed) pulled a rope wound around a spindle to raise salt to the next level.

The tour was wonderful. The whole mine was made out of salt. There were wooden beams to help hold everything together, but the walls were made out of salt and we were walking on salt. There were three places to buy souvenirs plus a café and a large area where, Marta said, they have weddings.

They once had horses in the mine to help with heavy stuff. They showed us where they kept them and what they did.

What I liked best were the statues and wall carvings scattered throughout the mine. They were mostly of a religious nature and all made out of salt. The attention to detail was unbelievable.

With a private guide, we could spend as much time as we needed to look at everything. It is hard to put into words how truly amazing this place was.

Including pickup at the hotel, Marta charged 150 zlotych ($54) for our day visiting the salt mine.

For transport to and walking tours of Auschwitz and Birkenau, we paid her Z500. In her car she had a very nice DVD player and we watched a documentary on Auschwitz on our way there. She also provided headsets to wear during the walking tours so that we could hear her clearly.

A wonderful driving/walking tour of Kraków with her cost the three of us Z320 ($114).

If anyone has questions, feel free to send me an e-mail at justtheothersideofnowhere@hotmail.com. I love talking about our trip.

SUSAN WEBB

Silver Springs, NV

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

The Wieliczka Salt Mine just outside of Kraków, Poland, is something not to be missed.

One of two chapels in the salt mine. Photos: Patty Wileman

During our 11-week Europe vacation, Aug. 19-Nov. 2, 2007, I almost did miss it but got talked into going by the wonderful private guide we had for Kraków, Marta. I have breathing problems and walking problems and thought I wouldn’t be able to visit the mine, but I was.

The salt mine does not smell dusty or moldy. It was very easy to breathe, even at the bottom. There are more than 600 steps to go down and an elevator to take you back up, but for an additional cost we got to ride the elevator down as well and missed most of the steps. Even people in a wheelchair can visit the salt mine.

And what an elevator! Do you remember those old-time western movies with mines and an elevator? It looked like that kind — just a metal cage with a wire top. Nine or 10 people could be crammed in it. On the way down it made all kinds of strange noises, then the operator turned off the light and we were in complete darkness with all those sounds. It was quite a ride!

It was on the Internet that I found Marta Chmielowska (e-mail martachm@op.pl or visit www.privateguidesineurope.com). We e-mailed back and forth, and she said that if the salt mine was not very busy, she could make reservations and I could ride the elevator down. However, on Oct. 25 when she picked us up at our hotel to drive us to the mine, she told us that it was not a sure thing. It depended on how many people were touring the salt mine when we showed up; lots of school kids take the tour.

As luck would have it, we got to take the elevator down, BUT we could not be part of a large tour group. We had to pay for a private salt mine tour guide, and because he only spoke Polish we also had to buy Marta a tour ticket so that she could translate for us. There were three of us in our little group plus Marta plus the salt mine guide.

If I remember correctly, we paid 515 zlotych (about $184) for all of us — not cheap, as a regular ticket to get in was Z39 ($14) per person.

On each level, horses (the ones pictured are stuffed) pulled a rope wound around a spindle to raise salt to the next level.

The tour was wonderful. The whole mine was made out of salt. There were wooden beams to help hold everything together, but the walls were made out of salt and we were walking on salt. There were three places to buy souvenirs plus a café and a large area where, Marta said, they have weddings.

They once had horses in the mine to help with heavy stuff. They showed us where they kept them and what they did.

What I liked best were the statues and wall carvings scattered throughout the mine. They were mostly of a religious nature and all made out of salt. The attention to detail was unbelievable.

With a private guide, we could spend as much time as we needed to look at everything. It is hard to put into words how truly amazing this place was.

Including pickup at the hotel, Marta charged 150 zlotych ($54) for our day visiting the salt mine.

For transport to and walking tours of Auschwitz and Birkenau, we paid her Z500. In her car she had a very nice DVD player and we watched a documentary on Auschwitz on our way there. She also provided headsets to wear during the walking tours so that we could hear her clearly.

A wonderful driving/walking tour of Kraków with her cost the three of us Z320 ($114).

If anyone has questions, feel free to send me an e-mail at justtheothersideofnowhere@hotmail.com. I love talking about our trip.

SUSAN WEBB

Silver Springs, NV