Friday, 21 October 2011

79 The Salt Mines and Zakopane

Tuesday 18th Oct.
We had today intended to visit the Salt mines at Wieliczka (near Krakow) but I needed to get some oil and filters and to service Gromit. He needs this about every 6000 miles but as the travelling we are doing does not represent normal usage (i.e we do not do stop start – 5 miles to work and back like most people) we could stretch it a bit and Gromit had now done about 8000 since the last oil change. We found a dealer and he only had one of them and referred us to a Land rover specialist about 2km from the salt mines – bonus. When we found the place they agreed to service Gromit there and then – try that in the UK !
They also went over her with a fine toothed comb and found a few things that needed sorting. They fixed them there and then including a new alternator and a leaking fuel pipe. They sorted out a steering problem and a loose rear axle support. I was very impressed with the work and the whole lot came to about £300 including the parts (£200) and 4 hours work.  Gromit drove a lot better after it and we then found a small hotel next to the salt mine as it was too late in the day to do the tour. 
At £41, the evening meal at the hotel was one of the most expensive we had encountered so far in Poland, however it did include bed and breakfast !
The next morning we drove across the square and parked outside the Salt Mines. The tour was incredible and started with a 378 step downward staircase. Everthing in the mine was made of either salt or timber. The walls were salt, the floor tiles ware salt, the statues were salt – everything. Well almost, the models weren’t. If you wet your finger and rubbed anything it tasted of....yes guessed it..salt. The mine ran from about 1635 right up till 1996 where water flooding and economics made the mine non viable. Since then they have about a million visitors each year.
The carvings, made by the working miners were amazing. The following photos speak for themselves.
Blocks of cylindrical salt were cut so they could be pushed along the floor prior to being winched up to the surface.
One the hand operated winches.
The first carving we saw. Salt floor tiles, bricks, ceiling etc
A monument to the opening of the cave following the finding of the source.  A miner presenting it to the current Queen of Poland at the time.
Methane was a problem and these poor sods had to light it - ...king dangerous.
All the seams and chambers had names. This is an early one.
Horses were later taken into the mines to power larger winches and lived permanently underground. Their life expectancy was the same as on the surface.
 A carving on one of the Polish Kings.
Even the seven dwarves got a look in.
The Holy Cross Chapel. There are 22 chapels in the caves.
And one enormous church. This is a working church, 135m underground and has a mass every Sunday.
The church walls are adorned with religious carvings. This is the nativity (Look closely for the statues)
This a carving depicting the painting  “The Last Supper”. It is only 17cm deep.
The church altar.

The church dias.

A modern sculpture of Pope John Paul the 2nd (The Polish one).

Roof cave ins did happen but fortunately rarely and due to salt being soft, they usually had plenty of warning. This however is a masterpiece of shoring up.

The water in the mine bottom is at saturation, 36 % salt. You cannot sink in it at all but in this small tunnel a group of Austrian visitors were in a small boat singing along to the piped music and decided to get up and dance. The boat capsized and 7 died. Not from drowning but from suffocation. They could not dive to get out from the upturned boat and when the air ran out they died.

 Fortunately the way out was via the original miners lift. It took 36 people at a time in groups of 9, the lift being 4 storeys high itself. These people a laughing as it was hilarious that we were all jammed in so close.
The lift gear for the mine shaft (the one we had just rode up in)

After the mine we jumped back in Gromit and headed South for Zakopane. Zakopane is a(the) Polish ski resort that nestles on the North side of the Tatry mountains. It is in a very beautiful setting but unfortunately we neglected to take any photos while the sun was out and decided to take the the next day.
We found our campsite and  sorted ourselves out a small log cabin. The cost was a £21 per night including bedding,  electric, TV etc tec. In the UK a single night on a campsite on a pitch was more than that.

Wednesday 19th Oct.
We intended to go into the Town today till we saw the sleet and snow building up on the roof light window. We stayed in bed till about 11 waiting for it to finish and read our books.
The sleet cleared about 2 pm so we set off for the 4km drive into town. The hills all around us had fresh snow on them but fortunately not the town. It was about 2 deg C. The town itself was very pretty.
Zakopane main church.

The snow only just missed us.

The main street.
We found a small restaurant and dug in. It was very quant – as they all are.

They even had a log fire..

And halfway through dinner, the band showed up.
Tomorrow we set off for Slovakia.

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