Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The Wieliczka Salt Mine
One widely-traveled Frenchman observed in the 18th century that Krakow's Wieliczka salt mine was no less magnificent than the Egyptian pyramids. "The historic Salt Mine in Wieliczka is the only site in the world where mining has continued since the Middle Ages. Lying on nine levels, its original excavations (longitudinals, traverses, chambers, lakes, as well as lesser and major shafts) stretch for the total of 300 kilometres: reaching the depth of 327 metres they illustrate all the stages of the development of the mining technology over time." The quotation comes from the justification of entering the Wieliczka Salt Mine into UNESCO's 1st World List of Cultural and Natural Heritage on 8th September, 1978 together with 11 other sites from all over the world. The mine is also notable for a long tradition of tourism: the famous, breath-taking site has been visited over the centuries by Nicolaus Copernicus, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Alexander von Humboldt, Dimitri Mendeleev, Boleslaw Prus, Ignacy Paderewski, Pope John Paul II, crowned heads, as well millions of people from all over the world. The salt mine forms an "underground town" with churches, lakes and passages.