There are mines for various metals and minerals that are located around the world (or rather around the African continent), but there is the occasional mine that offers something different to society - like a salt mine.If you travel to the town of Wieliczka, located just outside of Krakow, you will find one of the town’s greatest treasure - the salt mine.
Considered one of the biggest salt mines in the world, the Wieliczka salt mine was in operation from the 13th century, producing table salt and only stopped its main functioning in 2007.The attractions of the mine include dozens of statues and four chapels carved out of the rock salt by the miners, as well as supplemental carvings made by contemporary artists.
The Wieliczka salt mine reaches a depth of 327 metres and is over 287 kilometres long.
The rock salt is naturally grey in various shades, resembling unpolished granite rather than the white or crystalline look that many visitors may expect.
It's a very decorated mine
The salt mine is often referred to as the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland and was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978.Almost every carving and structure within the mine (excluding the lights and stairs) are made out of salt - including the chandeliers seen throughout the mine.
There is a chapel and a reception room that is used for private functions, including weddings. A chamber has walls carved by miners to resemble wood, as in wooden churches built in early centuries.
A wooden staircase provides access to the mine's 64-metre level. The 3-kilometre tour features corridors, chapels, statues, and an underground lake, all of which are 135 metres underground.
An elevator returns visitors to the surface and takes 30 seconds to travel from the mine to the surface.
The mine contains a legend
One of the interesting carvings in the mine includes statues which tell the tale of the legend of Hungarian royal member, Princess Kinga.The Hungarian princess was about to be married to Bolesław V the Chaste, the Prince of Kraków.
As part of her dowry, she asked her father, Béla IV of Hungary, for a lump of salt, since salt was very valuable in Poland. Her father King Béla took her to a salt mine in Máramaros.She threw her engagement ring from Bolesław in one of the shafts before leaving for Poland. On arriving in Kraków, she asked the miners to dig a deep pit until they come upon a rock.
The people found a lump of salt in there and when they split it in two, discovered the princess's ring. Kinga had thus become the patron saint of salt miners in and around the Polish capital.
There are tours of the mine available to the public throughout the year, but it recommended to wear a top when going underground, as the temperature in the mine drops to considerably low temperatures.