Monday, August 25, 2014

A World of Salt and Back Up North

26 June
Those who have been to Wieliczka, Poland know what I'm referring to. It's one of Poland's official national Historic Monuments and on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Salt Mine.

We were told that a visit to Poland is not complete without seeing the Salt Mine. Hubby had been there when he was younger but we agreed to take a look at it for my sake. From Zakopane, we headed back north and straight to Wieliczka where we joined many tourists on the way to the mine. Records show that about 1.2 million people visit this site annually.

The queue to the cashier was quite long but we got our entrance tickets in time for the opening of the English group tour. By the way, the tours are conducted in several languages. Each of us was handed an fm radio earphones for listening to the guide's stories.

The tour commenced with a descent through a cramped wooden staircase with 378 steps, which seemed like a never-ending trip to the underworld. As I felt my legs start to wobble, a thought recurred on my mind: "When will we ever reach the bottom?"

At last, the flights of steps came to an end. From there, we started to get around the mine's 64-meter level, which was a 3-kilometer tour featuring corridors, chapels, statues and underground lake. What I enjoyed most are the wooden staircases that snake through the huge crevices of the cavernous rock salt. All those carved tunnels, chambers, statues, paintings, chandeliers, etc. also amazed me. Everything is made out of rock salt! For detailed information, visit this link: Wieliczka Salt Mine

The pictures I took tell the rest of my story. I know these scenes are over-exposed throughout the web, but I'm just glad to have my very own souvenirs too.

By the way, there are also stop-overs with souvenir shops for those who want to take home every imaginable product made of salt.

The tour concluded at a spacious chamber with restaurant/cafe where the exhausted ones could recharge before exiting the mine. An elevator took us back to the surface in 30 seconds.

What a journey to the "underworld" of salt in 2-3 hours! Adventurous, fascinating, mind-boggling and certainly exhausting. The fresh air and sunlight became a luxury once out of the mine and into the garden. Warning: I don't reccommend this tour to the physically weak.

Hubby was stressed out after this and had no idea what to do next. He just kept on driving. To where, no one knew. We rolled past Krakow, past Katowice to Wroclaw, skipping sightseeings in these big cities. Night started to fall, exhaustion took over. We had to find a place to sleep. Found this cute hotel somewhere in a village, took our dinner and had a restful sleep.

Morning found us in a better frame of mind. We finally had an idea where to proceed - the northern city of Szczecin, Poland's major seaport in the vicinity of the Baltic Sea and close to the German border. We started the journey right after breakfast. We drove on without GPS, just followed the road signs which were a bit confusing. The road we took led us westward to the border of Czech Republic. We were close to Prague! I've been wanting to visit that city but it would be more stressful at this time, so we retraced our way back to the main highway. At least, I have seen the mountains of Czech Rep.

We kept rolling northward through the super highway  until we finally reached Szczecin. That was quite a long and strenuous trip which sent us directly to rest at the first hotel we spotted. We passed the night in a comfortable room.

Next day was supposed to be a tour around the city but the weather turned bad, so we just stopped by a castle to take a quick glimpse. Unfortunately, it was being renovated and I coudn't capture a view of the whole building because it was blocked by other edifices around it. I just shot from within the castle.

Time to move on without plans to go home yet. We still had a week of the vacation leave remaining, so we decided to spend two more days in the camping where we started this summer journey in Poland. This time, we stayed in a "bungalow" with rooms much bigger than the regular cabins ("domek" in Polish). The sea at this time was calm but still too cold for swimming. I just watched beach scenes and took tons of photos again.

June 30 was our departure day. We traveled backt o Sassnitz, Germany and boarded the ferry to Sweden.

We slept for one night in my brother-in-law's house before driving back north. We felt safe and relaxed in his cozy house, as always.  We had one more stop-over in a "funny" camping site to rest for the night.

July 2
We took the final stretch of the journey home. After a few miles, we finally reached the best place in the world. Home. Ah, sweet home!

Summer journey over. Another gem has been stored in my treasure chest.

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