The salt mine in Wieliczka is the only mining site in the world functioning continuously since the Middle Ages. To acknowledge its importance in world's history in 1978 it was put on UNESCO's First World List of Cultural and Natural Heritage, together with 11 other sites from around the world (other ones being: Cracow Old City, Poland; Yellowstone NP, USA; Mesa Verde NP, USA; Simien NP, Ethiopia; Lalibela rock churches, Ethiopia; Aachen Cathedral, Germany; Goree Island, Senegal; City of Quito, Ecuador; Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; L'Anse aux Meadows NP, Canada; Nahanni NP, Canada).
I visited Wieliczka long time ago on a school trip, but the only thing that I remember from that visit was licking the mine walls... That's why I was very happy that on our trip back from the mountains my parents also wanted to stop in Wieliczka. All of us found the salt mine spectacular, even though this time around nobody was licking its walls ;)
Wieliczka Salt Mine's excavations are located on nine levels and extend for the total of about 300 km reaching the depth of 327 metres. Only around 1% of the mine chambers and corridors are accessible to tourists and the deepest you can get is 136 m. Still it takes around 3h to see even that. Those 3 hours pass extremely fast and in the end you still feel like seeing more. I would definitely not mind going for a full day trip to the mine if such was offered.
I was taking a lot of photos in the mine, but not many of them are of decent quality. The ones presented here I consider to be acceptable, but I would definitely wish for them to be better.
The Urszula Chamber (Level I, 64 m underground):
One of the corridors:
The Saint John Chapel (Level III, 135m underground) is considered to be the mine’s most beautiful wooden chapel:
Yet another corridor:
The Saint Kinga's Chapel (Lower Level II, 101 m underground) was fully carved in salt and its ornamentation has been created over a period of more than a hundred years. It is the most impressive of the underground temples and it has been a place of worship since 1896:
Even chandeliers are made from salt crystals:
St Kinga's Chapel Altar:
Statue of John Paul II:
In the salt mine there are also many exhibitions showing life of the miners. For example in the King Casimir the Great Chamber(Level I, 63.3 m underground) one can see a horse-drawn Saxon tread wheel, which could transport salt rolls up to 2 tones in weigh:
The Sielec Chamber (Level I, 64.5 m underground) contains a collection of authentic devices used to transport salt underground:
The Spalone Chamber (Level I, 64.3 m underground) is dedicated to the miners, known as the Penitents who, dressed in wet clothes, with torches on long poles, crawled on the floor of the excavations to look for methane:
The Janowice Chamber (Level I, 63.8 m underground) contains life-size salt statues that illustrate one of the oldest legends of the Wieliczka Mine. Apparently when the Hungarian Princess Kinga married the Polish Prince Boleslaus the Chaste, she threw her engagement ring to one of the salt mines in the Marmaros region. According to the legend this ring was found in the salt deposits at the Wieliczka:
The Warszawa Chamber (Kazanów mid-level, 122.5 m underground) serves as a ball room. E.g. you could get married there if you would like to: