Spring is a season of the year which encourages us to travel, no matter whether we plan to have near or far trips. During long May weekend I had a chance to visit the oldest salt mine in Poland, which is situated in Bochnia – a city located in the southern part of our country, namely in the Lesser Poland voivodship.
Our visit to the mine was started with buying the tickets, one should remember that it’s possible to purchase tickets for different routes with various attractions, which will definitely make your stay under the ground more fun. We chose the tourist route with the underground ferry crossing, which lasted for about 4 hours. The waiting time for going down to the mine was made more pleasant by a cafeteria located in front of the main building.
When the time came we lined up to the lifts, which were supposed to take us into the earth. The ride turned out to be short, however the speed at which we went down, made it difficult for me to keep my balance in the crowded cabin without the possibility to hold anything else besides the accompanying me person. After clambering out of this tin of sardines, we were welcomed by a very friendly and charismatic guide, who made us familiar with the safety rules, as well as general itinerary of the excursion.
The next exciting experience was going to some more remote areas of the mine by an extraordinary tourist train, which we sat astride. During this short ride we had a chance to admire beautiful parts of the main, which we could have a closer look at while having a walking tour. When we reached the right place, the guide started showing us around the oldest salt mine in Poland, whose beginnings in the form of extractive plant, as we know it now, is dated back to 1248. It’s worth remembering that salt mining in the area of Bochnia took place as long ago as 3500 years B.C., when the salt was obtained by evaporating water from brine.
The oldest Bochnia mining shafts are the Sutoris and Gazaris shafts. The first one is related to a legend about st. Kinga’s ring, which is really worth listening to while sightseeing this extraordinary facility. The tales of the guide were embellished with underground multimedia exposition shows, thanks to which we had a possibility to get to know not only some of the Polish kings, such as Bolesław V the Chaste or Casimir the Great, but also salt mine owners from Genoa and a ghost of Cistercian – a monk whose order helped in the training of the first miners working in the area of Bochnia salt mine.
The whole mining complex was entered into the register of historic buildings in 1981, and it was made available for the tourists in 1990’s. While sightseeing this historic mine, we had a chance to see the most beautiful excavations including the August and Sienkiewicz Levels, as well as the Dobosz Inter-Level. During the whole tour we could admire breathtaking salt chambers, underground chapels, salt sculptures, as well as tools and equipment used in the past by the miners of this particular mine, which created a truly interesting and unique underground town.
As I’ve already mentioned we not only walked, but we also used a tourist train and a boat to complete the route. Making use of the last means of transport was pretty exciting. We had to put on helmets preventing us from getting hurt and we had to get on a shaky boat, which couldn’t have been done without shouts of terror accompanied by my great excitement. The boat tour through filled with brine chamber was rather short, as the whole route wasn’t longer than 120 m, but it abounded in a range of sensations. What’s more, everything was accompanied by vivid and humorous stories whose authors were two raftsmen, who steered the boat.
Our sightseeing came to an end in the largest chamber available for the visitors – called the Ważyn. In this place we had a possibility to have a delicious meal in the Ważynek restaurant. In the vicinity of this venue one could also find a souvenir shop, playing field and playground for kids. It’s worth mentioning that tourists can spend a night in the Ważyn chamber – which is undoubtedly an unforgettable experience for all the daredevils, and besides this, such a sleepover has a beneficial influence on the organism thanks to the microclimate, which has a positive impact on the respiratory system, it also reduces the symptoms of allergy and improves the immune system as such.
The whole trip was real fun. I think it’s worth visiting Bochnia Salt Mine, not only to get familiar with its rich history, but also to experience new unforgettable sensations and to spend your free time in a more active way out of your hometown.
See you around!