Day 55-56 - Rest days not in Krakow: I spent my days off working in a salt mine - No More Taxi Drivers - CycleBlaze

March 12, 2015

Day 55-56 - Rest days not in Krakow: I spent my days off working in a salt mine

I have no desire to go to Krakow. I was there once and I didn't care for the masses of tourists. Being a generally sunny person, I was there mainly because I wanted to see Auschwitz. And now, once again, I find myself in the Krakow area in order to not see Krakow.

On the recommendation of a Polish friend, I came here to see the salt mine. 700 years old, over 300 metres deep, 250km of tunnels: to think that all this was done by hand (and horse), without the exploration and drilling technology that we have today. Reflect on that for a minute; it's insane. Explosions, fires, and generally dying were common, as you might expect. But salt--or Polish diamonds, as I call it--was precious and human lives were apparently not, so they kept digging.

There are two main tours available: the Tourist Route and the Miners' Route. I did both. The Tourist Route is as horrifying as it sounds: crowded, rushed, noisy Scottish people complaining that they couldn't understand the guide's accent (oh, the irony), cheesy sound and light shows. Not to mention they try to extract more money at several stops along the way. Too many people. It's a mine; they should be familiar with the concept of production capacity.

The Miners' Route, on the other hand, was a gem. The group was smaller and not surrounded by other groups, the tunnels were lit only by our miners' lamps, and you get to feel a bit like Indiana Jones. Safety equipment is provided, the tunnels and chambers are rawer, and we saw corridors that had caved in, wooden support pillars that were broken, and generally got a sense of being in a mine, 100m below the surface. We sat in total darkness and total silence, the absence of traffic very welcome to my ears. We walked across clear plastic panels over a 27 metre high chamber, our guide reminding the nervous among us that opaque ground wasn't necessarily solid ground. I had an easier time with this part than some of the others, probably due to where I live.

So yes, it was a worthwhile visit. Onward plans? I initially thought I'd go to Slovakia. I plotted a route that shouldn't be too busy, a schedule that would work, and then I checked the weather forecast. Snow, lots of snow, many days of snow. I can't cope with that, not on this bike, anyway. Reluctantly, I accepted that I would have to skip Slovakia, take a raincheque--or should I say snowcheque (so sorry, the propensity for terrible jokes runs in my family, on both sides, so I was doomed from the start).

I checked the forecast again. It looked a little better, maybe even manageable. I reflected; I reinstated Plan A, then decided against it once more.

Will I go to Slovakia after all? Will I survive the snowstorm? Will I make it over the pass? How will I cope with having lost one of my insulated cycling gloves? Why do I keep losing gloves on this trip?

Stay tuned...

Salt sculptures on the tourist route
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Polish diamonds crystallizing on the support structure
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