Wieliczka Salt Mines – only visit if you have nothing better to do

The Salt Mines are pretty disappointing. It’s expensive to get in and you have to pay an extra 10 zloty to be able to take photos. If you’re in Krakow and this is suggested as a worthwhile day trip – I’d strongly advise you to walk away now. It’s an OK place to go, but I can’t see how people have rated it excellent on Trip Advisor, especially after paying 70 zloty alone on entry (about £14). Clearly they’re eager to waste money and not bothered about seeing actual Poland. I was stupid enough to be sucked in too.

Julie, the girl I’d met on the Jewish walking tour of Krakow, joined me for the Salt Mines – we both thought it would be a really good day trip as lots of people had recommended it to us.

We made our own way there – having caught a (thankfully) cheap bus from Krakow to Wieliczka. After paying the extortionate entrance fee we queued up for the overcrowded English tour – mainly filled with people who couldn’t even speak English, but who knew (slightly) more of it than Polish. We were given a ridiculously crap headset so we could hear the guide. This didn’t work most of the time though, and with only one ear piece that was pretty uncomfortable when it managed to fit in my ear, and the screaming children that accompanied our tour, it meant that we could hear very little of the guide’s words – except when we invaded her personal space and stood right next to her.
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The ‘tourist route’ through the mine is exactly that – you don’t see much of the mine, but you see huge cave-like rooms with an abundance of statues carved out of salt. They are pretty cool, as the miners did them, but it’s not exactly the most interesting of trips. One of the most impressive rooms is the large Church, which has been fully carved out of the rock salt. It features lots of events from the life of Jesus Christ – including his birth, preaching in synagogues as a young boy, and the last supper. These are rather impressive. We only had a few minutes to quickly photograph these and look around though, as the guides seem to be on quite a tight schedule.

After the main tour, we were told there was an optional hour long tour of the museum. We decided to do this also, as we wanted to get our money’s worth. If anything, this was the best part of the day. There were only 6 people in our group, as most people had decided to leave, and they don’t really advertise the museum tour. The tour takes you around more of the mine, so there is quite a lot of walking involved. You see how the men worked in the mine and the machinery they used. You also see archaeological finds, the clothes the miners wore and a model showing the town in medieval times. Our guide was very good and it was an interesting end to a rather adequate day out.

On returning to Krakow, Julie and I found a place to try some Polish cheesecake. She’d been pretty excited about finding it and trying some, but it was actually rather disgusting. Maybe it was that particular place, but I can’t rate it much. The portion was huge and it was very dry, even the fruit sauce that smothered it couldn’t take away the blandness. To get rid of the powdery feeling in our mouths we headed to our favourite Israeli cafe where we relaxed with some delicious tea.

Despite the disappointing salt mines, it had been great spending some time with Julie – and we’d managed to have an enjoyable day anyway.

After we’d departed ways I headed back to the hostel to think about where to go next. Instead of heading straight to Bratislava or Vienna I decided to work my way over the Tatra Mountains instead and enjoy some beautiful countryside – a nice break after manic city to city hopping.

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