Judix2 travels to USOpen, Estonia & Poland travel blog

Judi Licking the Salt Walls

Chapel of the Blessed Kinga

The Last Supper

Our Guide

Chair Statues each representing 10,000 Jews lost from the Krakow Ghetto in...

Today we are going to the Wieliczka Salt Mine that is about 10 miles out of town. We decided to go on our own rather than book a tour so after a stop at the TI to get all the logistical info we would need, we headed out for the bus stop to catch Bus #304. Of course, it was just leaving as we walked up but there was another one. The driver was very friendly, sold us tickets and said we'd be there at 9:58. I was pretty impressed that he knew his schedule that well. So we proceeded to take our seats and the bus driver got off the bus. Evidently he meant we weren't leaving until 9:58 (about 20 minutes). But he did come back and we had a nice drive thru Krakow and it's suburbs. The salt mine has been producing salt since at least the 11th century and was a very valuable resource. It is mostly known for its salt carvings from salt elves to the enormous Chapel of the Blessed Kinga complete with a carving of the last supper. We started the tour walking down 54 floors (only 7 steps per floor) to a depth of 210 feet. We were told it would be cool at 60 degrees but they didn't mention it would also be very humid. So we ended up carrying our jackets. From here we began a 1.5 mile mostly downhill stroll thru several chambers with exhibitions of the workings of the mine, the sculptures, a couple subterrean lakes, the chapel which was pretty amazing and, of course, gift shops ending up at 443 feet below the surface. Fortunately, you exit back to the top by lift. Unfortunately, it is a good 10-15 minute walk to get to the lift and then you end up in the next village. It took us quite a while to even find a restaurant for lunch. They are big on cafes with just drinks and desserts. After a nice lunch and directions back to the bus stop we headed back to Krakow. At this point it is threatening to rain, so we decided to try one of the numerous golf cart tours to the Jewish and Ghetto districts and Schindler's factory. Now that we wanted one, it took us a while to find one. But a nice young man from the Ukraine took just us around, pointed out the sights, and occasionally stopped for us to take photos. One particularly picturesque site in the Jewish District was St. Stanislaus Church at Skalka. The ghetto area and Schindler's factory, are heartbreaking especially since there is still so much religious violence. There were 65,000 Jews in Krakow at the beginning of the war of whom only a few thousand survived. We stopped at the Ghetto Heroe's Square which is marked by 33 empty chair-statues to commemorate the Jews lost in WWII and also the site of the Pharmacy Under the Eagle which was run by the only non-jew in the ghetto and he provided aid and comfort to the ghetto residents. Now, it is time for happy hour and to rest our feet before going out to dinner. We ended up at another Polish cuisine restaurant after walking all over trying to find fish and not Italian (which are all over). A very nice couple from Reno sat next to us. She was Polish and he was American and they were here to visit her mother. We had a very lively discussion of Polish food and places to visit in Poland--a fun time. We ended the evening with the chocolate cherry ice cream that we had in the freezer. We need to finish it off before we leave for Warsaw. JB

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