Monday, July 25, 2011

A Salty Affair

Before we went to Poland, a Polish friend highly recommended that we visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine, which is 17 km from Krakow. This salt mine is one of the world's oldest operating salt mines. This historical site is listed as one of Unesco's Cultural and Natural Heritage sites and salt production started in the Middle Ages and has not stopped since. It was considered a privilege to work in the salt mines and over time, many sculptures were made purely out of salt. In fact, there is a whole chapel in the mine that is made out of salt! There are apparently around 200 km of passages and tourists start their salty adventure 64 metres deep and end their journey 135 metres below sea level! The Nazi occupation of Poland did not stop the workers from mining salt and it continued till today.

We took a bus from Krakow and the ride took about 30 minutes. Be sure to get there early because it can get quickly crowded. There are group tours in different languages conducted by professional guides who are very smartly dressed. Our guide was a young Polish lady who very nicely explained the history of the mine and escorted us all the way through!

Here's the entrance of the mine. Check out the flights of stairs we had to take to go down!

Check out all this salt!

I loved these beautiful salt statues!

What a beautiful salt chapel! Even the chandeliers are made out of salt!

And wouldn't Leonardo da Vinci be proud to see his Last Supper in salt? :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Polish Encounter

Poland has been one of the countries I wanted to visit for a long time and a few months back, I was finally able to make a trip there. Poland is not the typical relax and feel good type destination mainly because of its history. The country was greatly affected by the Nazi occupation and suffered many losses. Poland also has a history of communism and has produced great religious leaders such as Pope John Paul II and renowned musicians such as Frederick Chopin. During my history classes in high school, I was drawn into Poland's unique history and culture and am glad I got to get a glimpse of it!

We flew into Warsaw with Poland's national airline, LOT, which provided good service. We spent the night in Warsaw to sleep and left for Krakow by train early next morning. The journey lasted about 3 hours and was very comfortable.

Upon our arrival in Poland's historical city, we made our way to our rented studio. Perfectly located in the heart of the old town and close to the Rynek Główny, this studio is probably the nicest one I have stayed in. So tastefully decorated as you can see for yourself!

After checking in, we immediately set out to explore the old town. Most of the main sites are in the old town and the best way to explore these is just by walking around the cobble-stoned streets. I loved the architecture of the buildings and was very amused by this statue!

We roamed around the old town and couldn't stop taking photos as everything was just so pretty!

It looked like the locals are very proud of Chopin's world renowned music and have pianos scattered around!

I loved this wall full of colorful paintings by the talented locals!

Anything traditional catches my eye and so I was thrilled to see this Polish lady in her traditional clothes! Such a rare sight in Europe these days!

We went into St Mary's Basilica and the interiors were so beautifully decorated in bright colors.

We then visited Krakow's most visited attraction, the Wawel Castle.

Finally, the beautiful city by night. Looked truly magical!

After this brief introduction to Krakow, I'll write about different aspects of the city in my upcoming posts! Keep reading!


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