Friday, March 22, 2013

Krakow, inside out


Sample the salt of the earth

executive summary by darmansjah

There are no elevators going down into the Wieliczka Salt Mine (nine miles southeast of Kraków city centre;, no soothing mechanised whir to ease my journey into its cavernous depths. Instead, I walk down several hundred wooden steps that twist and turn inwards like an Escher print, burrowing 135m into the coolness of the earth. Inside lies an eerie subterranean world of labyrinthine passages, lakes and cavere sns. Although the temperature is kept at a constant 14-16°C, the draughts that whistle through the shafts, and the lack of natural light, make it feel much cooler.

The salt mine has been producing salt for more than 700 years, and dates back to an era when salt was as valuable a commodity as oil is today. Through the centuries, the salt miners have carved out chapels and religious statuettes as they work, many of which survive intact as an extraordinary testament to their ingenuity. The Chapel of The Blessed Kinga is a vast, echoing space lined with detailed carvings in the salt walls, including a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. Intricate chandeliers hang from the ceilings, lighting up the gloom with crystals made from glittering shards of translucent rock salt.

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