I found a pastry shop today and bought some filled doughnut looking things. They had a strange filling in them that was fruit but there was another odd taste. We’d find out later from another baker that spoke 4 english words (which was 4 more than the first one) and she pointed to the pastries and said “alcohol” when I tried to buy them. I’m guessing that strange flavor was alcohol of some sort. Weird, beer in doughnuts.
Our plan was to take the train or bus to Wiliczka (via-leech-ka) to see the salt mines. As we were standing in the train station a man came up to us soliciting his services. I saw his accomplice near the door when I came in. You can always tell these people because their the only ones in the train station not moving. Everyone else is trying to buy a ticket or get to a platform, they just stand trying to make eye contact. Anyway his deal was he’d drive us to Wieliczka for 160 zloty ($55). This seemed a bit steep to me but the train schedules weren’t making any sense and both guidebooks were really vague about what to do once I got there so I told the man it was a deal and we followed him out of the station. He drove a early 90s Mercedes and the whole experience reminded me somewhat of Fernando in Mexico City driving us around. On the way out of town he started pointing out various places of interest and telling me history that I’d already read. We stopped at Schindlers factory and went in. Even though there isn’t much to see but a movie with Schindler in it and the stairs and office in the movie it was still neat going there and knowing it was the real factory that saved so many people. I’m sure they’ll make it into a museum some day. Back on the road for about 20 minutes and we arrived. Our driver started earning his keep fast. The line to get in was about 1 hr long and our English tour started in 30 minutes so he put us in line and took off somewhere. In about 10 minutes he came back with tickets. Apparently he does this a lot and knows the ticket sellers. He says sometimes they let him barge in line and sometimes not. Today they did. He didn’t have enough money to pay for the tickets so he had to wander around to find someone that would convert Euros to Zloty. He really went out of his way to get us in. We made our tour which started out with a 360 stair decent into the earth. Thoughs of Jules Verns “Journey to the center of the Earth” came to mind. Our guide spoke English but her accent was really strained. Polish people sound like chihauhas when speaking English. Maybe the sounds are hard to say but they sound very tense.
The salt mines were actually very neat. They were also very expensive. It cost us about $60 to go down. We decended 500 feet underground and walked 2km. The miners spent so much time in there that they carved in their spare time. There is a three story cathedral, the 7 dwarves, gnomes, miners and all kinds of other stuff in there. The tunnels go on for about 250 miles. The air was really clean since nothing really grows on salt. They have a medical ward down there for people that have asma. They also showed a model of a horse that ran a machine. There were 100 horses down there at the peak. They never saw the surface because they spent their whole lives in the mine. Everyone in the crowd sighed when the found that out. They didn’t think anything of a human spending his whole life down there but a horse doing the same is sad. People are weird.
After we were done we were hearded to a gift shop and was lifted out of the mine in a tiny contraption that resembled an elevator. People scared of small confined spaces shouldn’t do this. There were so many people in it that everyone was touching everyone and there was no light either so we zipped straight up for 500 feet largely in a pitch dark vertical cavern; fun.