Wieliczka Salt Mines
September 20, 2004
Just southeast of Krakow, Poland is Wieliczka (veel-EACH-ka), which is one of UNESCO’s World Cultural and Natural Heritage sites (1978). Salt deposits were discovered here as early as the 11th Century. Hundreds of years ago, salt accounted for almost a third of the royal revenues in Poland. Salt continues to be mined here as it's an important commodity still today. Some shafts now extend to over 327 m in depth, with approximately 300 km of tunnels over an area some 10 km wide. Over the centuries, miners have established a tradition of carving sculptures out of the native rock salt. As a result, some mine contains entire underground churches, altars, and dozens of life-size or larger statues. The photo above shows one of many chandeliers that can be seen as one tours these mines -- over one million people tour the mines each year. Note the salt crystals leaching through the ceiling.