Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Poland - Day 3

This morning was kind of nice, in that we were getting a slightly later start than I had since getting to Europe.  I think we were supposed to meet at the bus by 9:00am which meant I actually got to sleep in until 7:30!

We started off the day with a trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. I'd read up a little on the salt mine portion of this trip before leaving home, so I was kind of excited to finally get to see this place. The photos made it look very cool and I'd never been in a salt mine before so it had me really curious as to how the whole process worked and what the actual mine would look like.  If you've ever gone on a tour of any kind of mine cave system before, you have a general idea of what the tour was like, with maybe a few exceptions on this one.

I won't bore you with a step by step account of the tour, but will say that a few things stood out to me... and hopefully I have some photos that can show some of it off.  First off, this place was huge... and I mean huge with a capital E.

 Second and most impressive thing about this place, was that there were carvings, statues and cathedrals build out of Salt, by miners working in the mine there, that would rival any statue created by Michelangelo in my humble opinion.  Some of it was amazing to look at....

The tour was about a 3km walk underground if I remember right, with some chambers that were more than big enough to hold good sized buildings and homes. Even with all that we saw, we were told it was less than 1% of the actually mine which was almost hard to imagine even while standing down there looking at it all.

The 3rd and maybe freakiest thing, but coolest at the same time, was the elevator used to get us all up and out of there at the end of the tour.  We'd gone a long way down using nothing but stairs but most people would never be able to go back up the way we came down without some serious struggling. SO, they have an ingenious elevator about the size of a coat closet that actually 4 stories in it.  They took some of us up some stairs slid open this door that exposed a TINY room behind it and then attempted to squeeze 8 people into that opening.  If you've ever seen a clown car, you can picture what this must have looked like in reverse.  After greasing everyone one up they slide that door closed and the elevator drops about 6 feet where they do the process again with another layer of people. That's when we realized there were 4 levels to this thing....  once loaded, you shoot up the mine at a pretty good pace before finally being released back into the open air and being allowed to resume your previous human shape.  On the top side, they were set up to let all 4 floors of the elevator out at the same time, and my guess is they had to do that to keep people from freaking out in the two sections that would have had to wait to go last each time.

After the mine adventure, it was back to the hotel and time to get out shooting photos with my tripod.

I'd decided to skip out on dinner since I'd eaten too much at lunch inside the Salt Mine... but while wandering around taking pictures I ran across a few Brats that just happened to be directly outside of the place we were supposed to have dinner.  I have NO idea how I stumbled across that place but thought maybe it was a sign that I was meant to eat something after all.

I had put on some serious miles in walking today so I joined them for dinner and was happy I did afterward.  Turns out I was much hungrier than I thought.  After dinner, and number of us went hunting for a cool little Vodka bar that was recommended by a long-time friend and fellow Berlin Brat that had just spend some time in Krakow the month before.  We actually found the place and even though I'm not a Vodka drinker, I was talked into trying a couple of different shots and they were VERY good!

We laughed a lot and then I decided to walk back to the group's hotel where we were just going to all sit on the back patio and drink and laugh a little more since no one was ready to call it a night. Somewhere during all the laughing and joking around, we were all talking about how the WiFi was so crazy and hard to get working right there, and I mentioned something about shooting a photo with everyone trying to get a WiFi signal all at once... and next thing you know, the photo shoot was on!

It was getting late and we had a SUPER early morning ahead of us.... so everyone headed off to bed and I started back to my hotel. But as seems to happen to me so often when I travel, I wanted to check out side streets and neighborhoods on my way back, so I went up and down every side street I could find, even passing my hotel at one point and didn't stop walking for almost 2 hours before deciding I should try to get some sleep before having to get up at 5:00am.  Yikes... was it really already 3:00am?
Yeppers!  LOL

Tomorrow is one of those days I was both looking forward to and dreading at the same time.  We were going to visit Aushwitz I and II before heading back to Berlin.  It was going to be a long and emotional day .... it was time to say good night.

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