I thought Wieliczka would be just a salt mine. Kilometers upon kilometers with dark passages. Dirt floors and railways and pickaxes and helmets. Little did I know that there would be chapels underground, with huge statues of kings and religious motifs. Little did I know there would be lakes with bridges over, and boats ferrying guests into underground grottos. I had no idea that royalty held balls underground, 300 years ago. And that you could make crystal chandeliers out of rock salt.Wieliczka salt mine is not a salt mine but a crazy work of art, carved by people throughout its 700 years of existence. Some people were bored (and loved to make gnome statues and pigs). Many were afraid, and made chapels with altars and religious reliefs in which to pray. And the royalty wanted to show off, so they arranged excursions and dances and dinners 130 meters underground, on floors that looked like they were tiled but were in fact rock salt carved to look like floor tiles.
Beside the heydays, there were gas leaks. Explosions. Cavings-in. Accidents with heavy lifting. People died. Horses spent 20 years deep down and died without seeing the sunlight again. There is a reason for the chapels and religious statues. But we got out of there in a wink of an eye, with a tiny, unlit, modern mine elevator. So many before us were not that lucky.(Wieliczka, Poland; July 2015)