Wieliczka Salt Mine

So I said when I put the new banner up that I’d upload pictures of the Wieliczka Salt Mine that I took whil I was in Krakow last year. As promised, here’s a post all about them. I didn’t put the pictures up on the blog directly because it will invariably lag users – especially those on slow connections – until this post is buried among the masses (which could take a while at my rate of late). So, as I describe each of the pictures, you’re free to follow the link to see it or not. The links are set to open in a new window, so you could conceivably click the link and continue to read as it load. I have higher resolution photos on my computer, if you wanted to see any of them in more detail (perhaps The Last Supper – you’ll see it soon). Just comment or email me or whatever.

One thing to keep in mind while you look at there is that it was all done – the statues, the reliefs on the wall, the rooms, the alter, everything – by miners. Not professional craftsmen or statue-makers stone workers, but amateurs who are used to digging and mining. It makes it all the more impressive.

The mine has a long and interesting history (and while I’ll direct you to the Wiki page, it is not nearly as detailed or length as what a tour of the mine gives you), with celebrities (Pope John Paul II, Bill Clinton), major historical events (World War II), and an economic history of Poland all intertwined. With all that said, onto the pictures. It’s well worth a visit if you’re ever ‘in town’.

Down in the mine, there are quite a few things to marvel at. One of the first things you have to do, though, is go down a long set of stairs (400 steps). Daring to hang over the railing and take a photo, this was the result. Once below the surface, you find a chandelier made from salt lighting the first few tunnels you’re in. This is the sort of tunnel you’re walking through, by the way.

This is salt growing on the walls. Looks pretty neat. And there are a heap of statues down there that look cool. Here are two: one and two. And one that slipped me by ages ago when I did a post about the photos that had The 18 Cup in it: 18 Cup with mine statue.

There is a whole level devoted to the mythology of the mine. The tour moves pretty fast, and while I have a lot of photos of this stuff, they become a bit repetitive. And sort of have no meaning without the myth behind it. And, as it happened over a year ago, I can’t remember it too well. It had to do with a queen, and dwarves (or maybe short Poles?), and finding salt, and Poland being a place of wealth from then on.

When you go to Poland, you find that it’s a rather religious place. Not, like, fanatical or ‘convert or die!’ style, rather they just take their religion seriously. There are little pictures of religious figures in cabs, in windows, in gift shops, and a lot of motifs around. With that said, the salt mine is no different. You might be surprised at that, but it’s true. There is a church down there and everything (excuse the quality of the picture, it’s dark, but you can make it out … sort of). Here is the alter (and another salt chandelier above it), and a statue carved in the wall beside it. They have sermons in there, though I’m not sure of the regularity. Along the walls are reliefs of Christian (I don’t know if that’s the correct label) ‘moments in time’ and ‘celebrities’. All carved from salt and stone. Here are a couple from the side: King(?) and woman. Note the rose colour that the rocks are – the guide said it was natural colouring. There is also an impressive statute in the corner, but the area with the alter, of Jesus’ crucifixion. And probably the most impressive statue is down there too – Pope John Paul II. Yes, you read it right. And it’s a dead ringer for him too.

Next relief carved into the wall: The birth of Jesus, in his manger, complete with animals and all. This is followed by one of Jesus carrying the cross. Another one that I have no clue what’s going on – Jesus is there (or so it seems) and a bunch of dudes are filling up pots with water (I think). Someone with more religious knowledge help me out? Anyway, everyone knows the next one – Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. In stone. I was so impressed with how this simple stone carving could convey as much depth (visual, not meaning) as it did. The higher resolution photo is better to look at. Anyway, it might look deep, but here’s a side-on photo. A couple centimetres deep maybe? Oh, it’s ‘sparkling’ because of my flash and the salt in the rocks.

Anyway, that’s all of the best photos. As I usually do, I took many, many more. But I wouldn’t subject you to them. I know how the last time I wanted to show them all to people, it was rejected. Sporadicly posting them seems to be the only option I have. It does make for a good post when I can’t think of one otherwise.

Thomas.

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