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A rainy start, a visit to the salt mines of Wieliczka and to Zakopane

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Friday 20 June, a rainy start, a visit to the salt mines of Wieliczka and to Zakopane

The cheap motel turns out to be very noisy at night and we don't feel well rested when we leave for Krakow. It is only 30 km. from here, and when we enter the city it starts to rain. We are lucky to park the car right in the centre and we take an umbrella with us.
Mariachurch and hall, Krakow Polish orchestra, KrakowFrom a roofed café we look over the central square while the rain is pouring down. As soon as it gets a bit dry, we walk on, as this Polish orchestra does, since we want to see the historic centre with all the medieval buildings.
The city must be splendid when the sun shines, but now it looks gloomy and the pictures we take are dark. But nevertheless, it is an impressive city. According to our travel guide there are almost 6000 historic monuments of which we see about 60 along our walk, mostly palaces and churches. The city plan dates back to 1257 and has a big square with a hall in its centre. Inside this hall there are little shops with souvenirs and jewelry.
Hall of Krakow, Poland Royal palace, KrakowThe residential palace and the cathedral are build on the Wawel, a hill where the kings of Poland lived for almost 600 years when Krakow was the capital of the Polish empire. These are impressive buidlings, but we don't spend much time on them since the weather is getting worse again.
After walking for a few hours we leave for Wieliczka, about 15 kilometers southeast of the city. Underneath is a layer of salt, almost 400 meters thick, measuring 10 kilometers by 500 to 1300 meters. 5500 years ago the first salt was extracted already. Until the middle ages by vaporisation of the salty water, later by mining the salt.
Saltmine at Wieliczka, PolandThe entrance fee for 2 people with 1 camera is about € 20. The guided tour takes about 2 hours and starts with a descent of 394 steps to a depth of 64 meters. Elisabeth gets scared that we have to walk up along the same staircase.
We only see 2% of the whole mine, but it is fascinating to see how complete halls, a chapel and even a church have been sculpted out of the saltrocks. Everywhere are statues made of salt, mostly made in the 19th century. So, except for miners, also sculptors must have been at work here. There are a few tours with an English speaking guide, but we have to listen to an incomprehensible Polish guide.
Church in the saltmine of Wieliczka Relief in saltThe 'churchhall' lies at a depth of 100 meters and on the walls are beautiful reliefs.
The tour ends at a depth of 125 meters and we are relieved to see that we go up with an elevator. Before we know we are pushed into a small cabin (a half metre square) with 8 people which jumps up and goes up with incredible speed and a lot of noise. It feels like a fair attraction, but most people are glad when we have reached the surface.
While we were underground, the sky has become clear and the sun is shining brightly. After a short break we continue our way to the south, in the direction of the Tatra mountainrange. This is a beautiful region and it looks very prosperous. Old houses look very well maintained and many new houses are being build.
Motel Zakopane, PolandAt night we approach Zakopane, the most touristic place of Poland. The sky is dark again and now and then rain falls, so we decide to take a motel again and we are prepared for a more expensive one, this time. Along the road we see a new form of free enterprise: people holding millboards with 'nogleci' and 'wolne pokoje' written on it. We find out they mean 'sleeping place' and 'rooms available'. We drive on to a campsite which has also a motel, about 4 kilometers from the centre and we get a nice room for only € 15 a night, the cheapest until now.
We stay here for 2 nights. Tomorrow we want to explore the neighbourhood and the day after we will leave for Slovakia. But first a quiet evening and hopefully a good night sleep.


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