Wieliczka Salt mine
I visited Wieliczka on a guided tour conveniently in the evening a few hours after arrived from Opole. A 900 year old mine it was once the world’s biggest and at a time when salt was an expensive and precious commodity. These day although some salt is still extracted it appears to be more of a tourist attraction. The site draws a lot of praise from visitors and is a world heritage site. The wife of friend (a Polish couple) recommend the place strongly. I had heard of it but had no definite plans to visit due to my limited time but as circumstance would have it, an available tour that fitted my schedule perfectly was available and so I joined a rare (for me) tour excursion.
The tour goes to a depth of 135 metres. The actual mine much deeper and has been visited by dignitaries such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Fredrich Chopin and others.
Queen Kinga, the birth of the mine and the ‘shy’ king.
The story is that as daughter of the King of Hungry she was betrothed to Boleslaus the Bashful also known as the shy, or the chaste (the reason why will be explained later)..
The exact story differs according to source but her father tried to find a suitable wedding gift The princess did not desire gold or jewelry but wanted to something that would actually benefit the people. She asked for salt. She dropped her engagement ring into a mine. Then later after marriage she came to Wieliczka where she commanded workers to dig. There they found pure salt with the Queen’s engagement ring miraculously inside. And so Wieliczka mine was born.
As for Boris the Shy, some say he is named so because his marriage is believed never to be consummated. With Queen Kinga believing that keeping her virginity yo be a pious act. And after his death she spent the rest of her life as a nun. She was later canonised.
The mine itself has a chapel dedicated to the Roman Catholic saint Queen Kinga who founded the mine (and therefore unsurprisingly deemed the patron saint of mines). Statues of John Paul II and scenes such as the last supper. It also has very impressive salt chandeliers and a floor of salt too.
It is the place that probably dazzles visitors the most. We were fortunate to have an upbeat tour guide that despite his busy and loaded schedule (the place gets a lot of visitors) did not show any form of tiredness or boredom.