Wieliczka is the Salt Mine, which for years has been one of the most visited tourist destinations in Poland and still ranks in the TOP 10 facilities that must be seen in our country. Do you know that since 1945 one of its tourist routes has been visited by 45 million people? We were the third time but this time we went for the whole weekend. And it turned out that the mine surprised us again because the chambers and corridors that had been renovated and renovated had just been opened. And this is another reason that it is worth coming back to the most beautiful, previously known places.
History of the Wieliczka Salt Mine and
Wieliczka salt deposits were formed about 13.5 million years ago. It was then that the Carpathians were formed, before which there was a great sea. And in it deposits of rock salt were forming. Later, tectonic plate movements shifted salt masses upwards. Today, the deposits are at a depth of 30 to 330 meters.
Before the mine was established, brine was brewed in this area, from which salt was brewed. And over 700 years ago, official extraction of rock salt began, and thus the oldest Polish enterprise was established – the Salt Mine in Wieliczka. It is now a world-class monument, entered in 1978 as one of the first twelve sites on the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.
Salt was mined here continuously until 1996. There were on-board deposits in the mine, but the most valuable were solid deposits, because the largest and most beautiful chambers were hollowed out in them. It was the lumps that were the basic product of the mine.
The history of miners from the Wieliczka Mine
Saint Kinga is the patron of the salt miners from Wieliczka. Legend has it that the Hungarian princess Kunegunda, better known just as Saint. Kinga received from her future husband – Bolesław the Chaste, an engagement ring. From my father, the mine in what is now Romania, which was not particularly delighted with this gift. She threw an engagement ring into it, which meant to take possession of the mine. When she came to Poland and passed near Cracow, the miner handed her a ring hidden in a lump of salt. In this way salt was discovered in Wieliczka and its extraction began.
The miners from Wieliczka were free and proud of their work although it was very difficult. Workplaces were hereditary and the inhabitants of Wieliczka could apply for them first.
In 1368, King Casimir the Great created the first mining law, or the Statute of Cracow Salt Saltworks. According to him, miners deserved one hot meal with a meat insert during the work day. Once a week, she was entitled to a quarter of beer at the inn, at the king’s expense. Once a week, the miner could take out as much salt as he could hold.
That is why boys with big hands enjoyed the greatest popularity among Wieliczka maidens. Salt in ancient times was worth as much as gold. And for a salt snowman you could buy a village with its inhabitants.
However, it happened that attempts were made to circumvent this custom and hide the salt. That is why the macaques checked their pockets thoroughly and the thieves caught in this way lost their jobs. Miners faced another punishment for swearing and making each other unpleasant. It was a donkey wrap on a market day so that the miner would eat the shame and point it out with his fingers. It was believed that unpleasant behavior could have brought disaster to the mine.
Wieliczka welcomed us with beautiful, sunny weather. We arrived at the charming Grand Sal hotel, which we will tell you about. Without losing time, we took warmer clothes with us because below there are temperatures ranging from 16 to 19 degrees Celsius, solid shoes and we went to the Regis Shaft, where the Mining Route, which we did not know before, begins.
Regis is located about 500 meters from the Daniłowicz Shaft and is located just behind the beautiful, historic and one of the oldest churches in Wieliczka – the church of St. Clement.
In the former lamp room, we collect mining lamps, methane absorbers, clothing and red helmets, which distinguish us “śleprów” or novices in the mining profession from the forefront.
We go to the elevator to go down to level I located 57 meters underground. The biggest surprise is when you get out of the corridor into the first chamber. There is complete darkness here and it is already known that the mining lamps we received in the lamp room are not a dummy but an extremely needed piece of equipment.
Photo by NH53