Monday, April 25, 2005

Krakow & Wieliczka Salt Mine

Damn, 2 A.M. wake up calls by the border patrol SUCK. Not that either of us slept much on the train with the constant starting and stopping. Went back to bed for a few hours, the conductor woke us up around 5:15 for our arrival into Krakow. *yawn*

Salt Gnome
We stumbled off the train into Krakow and headed straight for an ATM to get some cashish. We found out hotel, the Hotel Polonia and dropped off our bags since we can't check in for a few more hours. Thankfully it was very close to the train station, so we didn't have too far to go with our packs this morning. We tried our best to find some food by wandering into the Old Town and Rynek Glowny, the main square. Nothing was open yet except for a tiny little grocery/pastry shop, so we grabbed some pastries and headed back to the bus station for a ride to Wieliczka (Vee-lish-ka). The bus dropped us off, unfortunately, we were at least a mile from the Wieliczka salt mine which was our intended destination. Thankfully it was all downhill!

Chapel of Saint Kinga
Arrived at the Wieliczka Salt Mine, it was crowded with lots of tourists! We paid the entry fee for an English tour — $16.50 each!! — and felt like we were majorly ripped off! While waiting for the tour we met two Americans from NYC, a mother and daughter who wer extremely trashy and very annoying. When the tour began we headed down into the mine, 356 steps down to be exact! The two hour tour covered approximately 3.5Km of the 300Km that are part of the mine complex between 64 and 135 meters below the surface. What a beautiful place! This is the longest running industrial site in Poland, it has been in operation for around 700 years! The mine is full of hand carved salt sculptures and numerous underground cathedrals, it was truly amazing to be there and see the art of the miners. This was way beyond our imagination and made the entry fee worthwhile. Being the klutz that I am, I put my foot down on an uneven floor and twisted my knee as we were headed out of the mine. OUCH! The tour ended with a very tightly packed mine shaft elevator ride to the top, I thought Steph was going to toss her cookies.

Salt Statue
We took a minibus back to Krakow. The traffic and roads suck in Poland, it took over an hour for us to travel only 15Km. Checked into the hotel, Steph did some laundry and I took some Advil and laid down to rest my knee. I was limping pretty badly by this point. We both took some much needed showers and changed the clothes we had on for the past 36 hours.

The Barbican
Left the hotel and walked across the street to the Barbican, one of the few remaining fortifications surrounding Krakow's old town. Except for the Barbican and the Florian Gate, all of the town fortifications were dismantled during "modernization" in the 19th century. This wasn't all bad, the entire old town is now surrounded by a green space called the Planty. Of course, the Barbican was closed, so we walked around the Planty and through Florian Gate and explored the Old Town in the grey, rainy afternoon. We stopped in for a drink at one of the bars that was recommended to us, Faust, that is located in one of the old cellars beneath the houses surrounding the main square.

Florian Gate
Left Faust and headed to Chospkie Jadlo, a restaurant serving traditional Polish peasant food, for dinner. While extremely expensive by Polish standards ($24 for two courses and beers!), it was very good and filling.

We're headed to Auschwitz in the morning with much trepidation. Its been a long day, so we're headed to bed.

Rynek Glowny
P.S. I found the WORST W.C. ever in the Krakow train station, it reminded me of the schene in Trainspotting where the guy drops his dope in the toilet. YUCK! And to think I had to pay 2 zloty ($.66) for the privilege!

Town Hall Tower
Rynek Glowny

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