My day four in Poland was reserved for sight-seeing in the city of Kraków and a miners‘ tour at the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Therefore I planned much ahead before I went to Kraków to ensure that all my requirements would be matched. I got so excited while I was preparing my different trips that I couldn’t wait to get there.
I did investigate to find a German/English speaking tour guide for a City Tour in Kraków and for the same at the Salt Mine Tour in Wieliczka. I reached out for Marta, a very smart lady who spoke perfect English. She offered me to arrange both tours in German language. Although she does not speak any German she contacted another guide to support me. I asked Marta also for organising the transportation services from my apartment to the Salt Mine and back from there to Old Town Kraków for the City Tour. Her husband was supposed to be my driver. He drove me to my first destination and waited there at the Salt Mine while I did enjoy the almost three hour German language tour (guided by Eckardt) through the different levels of the mine. I suggest that you do the virtual tour (just click on the bottom in the upper right corner) before you go, because it provides you with some information that is quite helpful while visiting. You can choose between the workmen and tourist tour. I decided to take the tourist attraction and wasn’t disappointed. But my next visit, and I will return, it will be the Workmen Tour, which offers much more insight into miners life.
The arrangement was that Marta bought the tickets for me, arrange the pick-up and all necessary things that I could feel quite comfortable while being supported by her husband and her colleague, who did provide the German language city tour. I paid her husband the fee for this tour in cash after we returned from Wieliczka into Kraków to meet Silvia, the city tour guide.
The “Wieliczka” Salt Mine is visited by more than one million tourists per year from all over the world. As a world class monument it’s listed on the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List. Visits to the mine undergrounds are always supervised by a tour guide. The temperature in the mine is constant and varies from 14 to 16 °C. In the mine visitors must follow mining rules and the visiting takes about 3 hours.
The deposit of rock salt has been mined since the 13th century. The Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines illustrate the historic stages of the development of mining techniques in Europe from the 13th to the 20th centuries: both mines have hundreds of kilometers of galleries with works of art, underground chapels and statues sculpted in the salt, making a fascinating pilgrimage into the past. The mines were administratively and technically run by Wieliczka Saltworks Castle, which dates from the medieval period and has been rebuilt several times in the course of its history (Copyright: Unesco.org).
The meandering corridors that can be visited are three kilometres in total and it takes 800 steps descending into the mine leading 135 meters underground. The feeling I experienced was weird: Knowing to be so deep made be breath slowly. I asked the guide whether or not they might have experienced some problems with visitors such as claustrophobia or even a heart attack, he answered that such can happen but not very often. They are aware of it and they can handle any difficulty. The salty air preserves the woods in the mine, which can be easily recognized by the salt crust on the supporting timbers. Some of the beams are three to four hundred years old and still in good condition. I highly recommend a visit to the Salt Mine which makes it easy to understand all the „difficulties“ they experienced during those times back then.
At the end of the tour, you have to travel back to the surface in an authentic miners’ lift (three stories of cages that carry eight men each – very narrow). An unexpected experience but worth it as the visit to the Salt Mine has been for me, too. I definitely will return for another visit.