When offered the chance to go to Krakow, Poland for the weekend with friends, Hubby and I jumped on the chance to explore an area that we really knew nothing about. Upon arrival, our group of 30 immediately went to the Wieliczka Salt Mines which were first built in the 13th century, and which continued producing table salt until 2007.
Comprised of nine levels reaching to a depth of 1073 feet, and 190 miles in length, the salt mines are massive. Below ground is a virtual wonder-world including a labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, underground lake, and dozens of statues carved out of the naturally gray salt.
Thankful that we weren't headed down all 9 levels on our tour, we began our descent which eventually led us down 800 steps to the third level.
At a level of 135 feet below ground, we put the guys to work making them earn their keep.
We visited chamber after chamber appreciating the stories of the miners and the years of hard labor it took to withdraw the salt, and shore up the chambers as they did.
Most impressive to me were the 3 underground chapels, especially this large one, The Chapel of the Blessed King, illuminated with rock salt chandeliers, 164' long and 49' wide,
with an amazing altar, which was a work of art. Mass and weddings are still held in the Chapel of the Blessed King routinely, redefining the concept of "destination wedding!"
We were thankful to be above ground the next two days with beautiful and exceptional weather for November. Our walking tour of the Old Town included a stop at the Royal Castle and Cathedral of Wawel set high on a hill above the town.
Situated in the center of the Old Town is the Main Square, the largest medieval town square of any European City, which includes the Town Hall Tower,
Renaissance Cloth Hall,
and one of my favorite stops, the St. Mary's Basilica.
Beautiful original stained glass
and a masterpiece of a Gothic wooden altarpiece, carved by Veit Stoss, which was stunning as it was revealed to us in a ceremony at mid-day when it was opened for all to see.
Strolling through the city revealed many historic styles of architecture
which caught our eyes along the way.
Especially soothing were the many parks around town
where we all enjoyed strolling, enjoying moments of peaceful thought in anticipation of what we knew would be a very difficult following day when we would travel to Auschwitz to experience the terrors of the Holocaust.
Stay tuned for a few impressions of our excursion in my next blog.