A cold wind is blowing, yet my body is warm, haing already walked for over two hours that day. The air is fresh and I am breathing well, my sinuses open and clear. Yet, I am 135m below the Earth's surface. Welcome to the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
Worked on for around 900 years, there is over 200km of passage and over 2,000 caverns in this underground labyrinth. I was unsure about going since its pretty pricey (compared to other museums in Poland, you also have to pay en extra 10zlotys/ 2.50e for a camera permit if you want to take photo) and also its not so clear how to get there, yet it was worth it in the end. There was plenty to see, and the tour guide spoke English well and she had a great sense of humour so we laughed a lot.
With large statues of saints, kings, and philosophers carved into solid salt crystal, complete with a display of coloured lights and Chopin playing int he background, this was a completely new experience for me.
The salt mine is actually so huge that you may also find an entire church underground, complete with a statue of Pope John Paul II which they put there after he visited the place. If anyone is looking for something unique for your wedding, you can also book your ceremony there, they even have several large halls (complete with salt crystal chandeliers) which would easily fit a reception of 200 people.
Definitely worth it. Go there if you're in Poland. Nuff said.
There are many more things to do in Poland (particularly Kraków), for example visit the streets of the old town, Sukiennice (a Renaissance icon, see photo)...but unfortunately, you cannot fit in everything! The last thing I would like to write about: the gastronomic Polish experience...
Polish food is a strange, yet delightful phenomenon. Something which fascinated me was the presence of milk bars, which made me think of the film 'A Clockwork Orange'. Known as 'Bar Mleczny', these little curiosities are remnant from when Poland was a Communist state, serving as a way to provide cheap yet nourishing food to the working population.
Typical Polish food includes pierogi, which are are dumplings made from unleavened dough and filled with just about everything - from spinach, to chicken, to apples and ricotta cheese. My dear friend took me (along with the Australian and another friend I made along the way, photojournalist from Mexico) to a typical Polish restaurant with home-made pierogis which had more than 200 different types of pierogi! They were pretty good, especially the spniach ones, and for dessert I tried pancakes stuffed wih ricotta, and served with some kind of vanilla sauce...it was actually kind of disgusting! The pancake was soaked in oil and cheese had a really strange texture, I was glad I only order half a portion! (yes it is possible to do that in Poland).
Anyways, dear readers - I hope you all enjoyed Poland :) Tune in next week - where you'll hear about floating Christmas trees, an opera house made from glass, and a street full of sex shops rivalling the Red Light District,
my first official Couchsurfing experience in Hamburg, coming to a blog near you.
Bis dann ;-)
(Blog dedicated with special thanks to my dear friends Justyna and Łukasz, who hosted me during my stay in Poland and made all this possible - missing you both very much!)