April 9th

The third leg of our bus trip took us into Krakow. Michael pointed out some of the sights as we went. We had all decided to take the afternoon tour of the Salt Mines so we only had time to grab a quick snack before heading off for Wieliczka just outside Krakow. Tony (from South Africa) was our local guide and escorted us to the mine. Well... to begin with, the air in the mine was actually quite refreshing. It was just a bit cool and the smell of salt was nice... like being near the ocean. The tunnels were carved into the salt layers... the floors, the walls. Pretty much everything down there WAS salt with the exception of the wooden beams which have integrated into the salt over many, many years. Those old wood beams are in such good condition.... AHHHH! the preserving quality of salt on an organic material! What was interesting was that metal beams were never used and never would have been. Why? Salt would EAT at the metal over time... just like salt eats away at cars!! Not a good material to use to support the vast system of tunnels.

Well... now that I was refreshed from the nice salt air, I was still wondering why my friend had said "must see". THEN, a door was opened, we turned a corner and we saw the first of what would be hundreds of beautiful statues crafted out of salt. WOW! There were several chapels, each decorated with fabulous salt sculptures. The largest, Chapel of Saint Kinga, was started in 1896 and has been added to over the next 70 years. My favourite relief was of the Last Supper. My favourite statue in the same chapel was of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns on the cross.

Just when I thought we must have reached the end of the tour (bottom), there were more things to see. An underground pool which was much deeper than it looked (6 m), large rooms obviously used for events with salt reliefs adorning the walls, and another chapel. Lucky for the tourists, you might have to walk down those 400 steps but an elevator takes you back up. Nine people must jam into the lift. Trust me when I say that there didn't seem to be even the slightest of room when the eight of us ascended. I made the mistake of getting on first. That meant I had to get out first. Sounds simple? But the door opens IN and there's no room to really step back!

When we got back to the Holiday Inn Krakow, dinner was waiting for us as was the desire to get a good night's rest. The internet was a bit spotty and it was then that I decided to leave the creation of my web pages until I returned to Canada.

Continue to April 10th