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Wieliczka Salt Mine Poland

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Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine ,located in the town of Wieliczka in southern Poland, lies within the Kraków metropolitan area.

Wieliczka Salt Mine opened in the 13th century and produced table salt continuously until 2007, as one of the world’s oldest salt mines in operation.

Throughout, the royal mine was run by the Żupy Krakowskie Salt Mines company.

Commercial mining was discontinued in 1996 at Wieliczka Salt Mine, because of salt prices going down and also mine flooding.

The mine is currently one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments , whose attractions include dozens of statues and four chapels carved out of the rock salt by the miners, as well as supplemental carvings made by contemporary artists.

The Wieliczka salt mine reaches a depth of 327 meters and is over 287 kilometres (178 mi) long.

The rock salt is naturally grey in various shades, resembling unpolished granite rather than the white or crystalline look that many visitors may expect.

In the 13th century, rock salt was discovered in Wieliczka and the first shafts were dug.

The construction of the Saltworks Castle in Wieliczka (the central building  “The House within the Saltworks”) – head office of the mine’s board since medieval times till 1945.

The Saltworks Castle was built in the late 13th to early 14th century. Wieliczka Salt Mine is now the location of the Kraków Saltworks Museum.

Many shafts were dug throughout the time the mine was in operation.

Different technology was added such as the Hungarian-type horse treadmill and Saxon treadmills to haul the salt to the top of the surface.

During World War II, the shafts were used by the occupying Germans as an ad hoc facility for various war-related industries.

The Wieliczka salt mine features an underground lake; and the new exhibits on the history of salt mining, as well as a 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) touring route (less than 2% of the length of the mine’s passages) that includes historic statues and mythical figures carved out of rock salt in distant past.

More recent sculptures have been fashioned by contemporary artists.

The Wieliczka salt mine is often referred to as “the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland”. In 1978 it was placed on the original UNESCO list of the World Heritage Sites.

Even the crystals of the chandeliers are made from rock salt that has been dissolved and reconstituted to achieve a clear, glass-like appearance. It also houses a private rehabilitation and wellness complex.

There is a legend about Princess Kinga, associated with the Wieliczka mine. The Hungarian princess was about to be married to Bolesław V the Chaste, the Prince of Kraków.

As part of her dowry, she asked her father, Béla IV of Hungary, for a lump of salt, since salt was prizeworthy in Poland. Her father King Béla took her to a salt mine in Máramaros.

She threw her engagement ring from Bolesław in one of the shafts before leaving for Poland. On arriving in Kraków, she asked the miners to dig a deep pit until they come upon a rock.

The people found a lump of salt in there and when they split it in two, discovered the princess’s ring. Kinga had thus become the patron saint of salt miners in and around the then Polish capital.

During the Nazi occupation, several thousand Jews were transported from the forced labour camps in Plaszow and Mielec to the Wieliczka salt mine to work in the underground armament factory set up by the Germans.

However, manufacturing never began as the Soviet offensive was nearing. Some of the machines and equipment were disassembled, including an electrical hoisting machine from the Regis Shaft, and transported to Liebenau in the Sudetes mountains.

Part of the equipment was returned after the war, in autumn 1945. The Jews were transported to factories in the Czech Republic and Austria.

The mine is one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments (Pomniki historii), as designated in the first round, 16 September 1994. Wieliczka salt mine listing is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland.

In 2010 it was successfully proposed that the nearby historic Bochnia Salt Mine (Poland’s oldest salt mine) be added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The two sister salt mines now appear together in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites as the “Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines”.
In 2013 the UNESCO World Heritage Site was expanded by the addition of the Żupny Castle.

Notable visitors to the Wieliczka salt mine have included Nicolaus Copernicus, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Alexander von Humboldt, Fryderyk Chopin, Dmitri Mendeleyev, Bolesław Prus, Ignacy Paderewski, Robert Baden-Powell, Jacob Bronowski (who filmed segments of The Ascent of Man in the mine), the von Unrug family (a prominent Polish-German royal family), Karol Wojtyła (later, Pope John Paul II), former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and many others.

There is a chapel, and a reception room that is used for private functions, including weddings.

A chamber has walls carved by miners to resemble wood, as in wooden churches built in early centuries.

A wooden staircase provides access to the mine’s 64-metre (210-foot) level. A 3-kilometre (1.9-mile) tour features corridors, chapels, statues, and underground lake, 135 metres (443 ft) underground.

An elevator (lift) returns visitors to the surface; the elevator holds 36 persons (nine per car) and takes some 30 seconds to make the trip.

Long queues reflect the popularity of Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, meaning when visiting you will have to wait in advance of one hour.

Save time with skip-the-line entry to the mines, which are comprised of more than 2,400 chambers featuring art galleries, a cathedral, and mining technology.

During a guided tour, you’ll learn about the rich history of the subterranean wonderland.

If you want to book your tickets to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, click here.

Address: Daniłowicza 10, 32-020 Wieliczka, Poland

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DESTINATIONS

Brexit: How will it affect my holidays to Europe?

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Poland Holidays

While political uncertainty over Brexit continues, life must go on as normal for British families – and that includes making plans for holidays to Europe.

The UK is due to leave the EU next month, right before the Easter holidays.

We still don’t know how Britain will leave the EU – with a deal, or without.

If the UK leaves with Theresa May’s deal, then there will be a transition period until the end of 2020, in which little will actually change.

If not, then there will be even more questions about what’s happening after 29 March.

Here’s what we currently know about how holidays abroad might be affected by Brexit.

Am I OK to book a holiday in the EU?

You might be wondering if it is safe to book at all, given the dire warnings from some about what could happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), which offers advice to travellers and represents travel agents and tour operators, advises: “There is nothing to suggest that you will not be able to continue with your holiday plans after 29 March. Even in a no-deal scenario, the European Commission has said flights to and from the UK will still be able to operate.”

It says that those who book a package holiday with a UK-based travel company will have “the most comprehensive consumer protection” as they will continue to be covered by Package Travel Regulations, which entitle them to a full refund if the holiday cannot be provided.

“The best way to protect your holiday is to book a package. It is the travel provider’s responsibility to make sure your holiday is provided and to offer an alternative or refund if it cannot be delivered,” Abta says.

And as for travelling by plane, the government has said that “flights should continue” as they do today, if there is no deal, adding: “Both the UK and EU want flights to continue without any disruption.”

What documents will I need?

The main question most people want to know is whether or not they will need a visa to get to Europe.

You can breathe a sigh of relief – to some extent – as the European Commission has said UK travellers won’t need a visa even if there’s no deal, Abta said.

But British people will need to apply for – and buy – a visa waiver to travel to member states after Brexit whether there’s a deal or not.

The ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System), which will cost €7 (£6.30) and be valid for three years, won’t come into force until 2021 though. It’s not just for the UK but many non-EU countries.

If there is a Brexit deal, EU citizens and UK nationals will continue to be able to travel freely with a passport or identity card until the end of the transition period in 2020.

When that ends, the European Commission has offered visa-free travel for UK nationals coming to the EU for a short stay, as long as the UK offers the same in return.

But nothing changes in terms of travel to and from the Republic of Ireland. British and Irish citizens will be able to continue to travel freely within the Common Travel Area – the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey, the government says.

Will there be bigger queues at the airport?

It might be a bit too soon to say “without knowing whether it’s a deal or no deal”, says Abta.

The government says from 29 March, if there’s no deal, most people won’t experience any difference to security screening at airports.

The European Commission has proposed measures to avoid there being any extra security or screening of passengers from the UK when they’re transferring to onward flights at EU airports.

Do I have to get a new passport?

No deal? If the UK leaves without a deal, then new rules will apply. You’ll have to check if your current passport meets those rules and renew it if not.

Basically, British passport holders will be considered third-country nationals as part of the Schengen agreement. Other third country nationals are those from places that aren’t in the EU or European Economic Area, like the US and Australia.

So according to the Schengen Border Code, passports from these countries have to have been issued within the previous 10 years and be valid for another three months from the date you plan to depart the Schengen area, which makes up 26 European states.

But because you’re allowed to stay in the Schengen area for up to 90 days, the government is advising you to make sure your passport is valid for at least another six months after your arrival.

Abta advises people to check their passports now to see how long they’re valid for.

If there’s a deal, your passport will be valid until its date of expiry for anywhere within the EU.

What about the European Health Insurance Card – Ehic?

About 27 million people in the UK have Ehics – which entitles the holder to state-provided medical treatment in the EU and other countries which have reciprocal healthcare agreements with Brussels. They cover pre-existing medical conditions and emergency care.

The scheme will continue during the transition period if the withdrawal agreement is ratified.
If there is no deal, then, in theory, the cover provided by an Ehic would cease to exist.

If there is no deal, the advice for those travelling on or after 29 March 2019 to EU countries as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, is to buy travel insurance to cover health care “just as you would if visiting a non-EU country”.

But there could be attempts to put emergency measures in place for UK citizens, or for there to be reciprocal arrangements with individual EU countries. It’s unclear at the moment what the outcome might be.

Are there any changes to insurance?

ABTA says it’s worth making sure what your travel insurance covers and checking the terms and conditions.

For any trips to the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein after 29 March, travellers should make sure their insurance policy covers any possible disruption, the government says. If you already have insurance sorted, then your insurer should let you know if there are any changes that might affect you after the UK leaves the EU.

What will happen with compensation for airline delays?

That’s set to be the same as it is now once the UK leaves the EU – so passengers will be entitled to assistance or compensation if there are boarding problems, delays or cancellations.

What about ferries and Eurostar?

Ferries are covered by international maritime convention so there won’t be any changes, says Abta.

And it’s the same for Eurostar – you’ll still be protected by EU regulation on rail passengers’ rights, as that’s being brought into UK law.

Are mobile phone charges changing?

There’s currently a system in place so you can travel in the EU and won’t be charged extra for roaming – so you can use your mobile for calls, text and data like you would in the UK.

If there’s no deal, that wouldn’t be guaranteed any more – so we could see the return of roaming charges.

The government has said it would introduce a law to cap charges at £45 a month.

If there is a deal, that would be on hold until the start of 2021 and it would then be up to the networks to decide what to do next.

What happens if I want to drive abroad – will I need a new licence?

If there’s no deal, your licence might not be valid by itself when driving in the EU. It means you might need to get hold of an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well, which costs £5.50. You might also need one of those to hire a vehicle. You will need to carry your UK driving licence as well.

Spain, Malta and Cyprus require a different type of IDP – the one governed by the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic – which lasts 12 months. All other EU countries, as well as Norway and Switzerland, recognise the 1968 convention IDP, which is valid for three years.

For those British nationals living in the EU, it’s a bit more complex.

They’ve been urged to swap their licence for a local one as soon as possible in case there’s no deal. If they don’t do that, they might have to pass a new test in the country where they’re living if there’s no deal.

Is anything changing with duty-free?

Duty-free shopping within the EU came to an end in 1999.

There will be no immediate return of duty-free sales if the UK leaves with a deal because, under the arrangement, customs rules will continue to apply during the planned 21-month transition period.

After that period, duty-free sales could return as part of a future trade deal with the EU.

Duty-free sales could also make a comeback if there is not a deal.

What about my pets?

Any pet passports issued in the UK will not be valid for travel to the EU if there’s no deal.

If you want your pet to come with you, whether in a deal or no-deal scenario, you will have to contact your vet at least four months before you plan to travel, so you can get the latest advice.

In short, the rules will change if the UK leaves with no deal. You would have to get your cat, dog or ferret microchipped and vaccinated against rabies before it can travel – it would then need a blood sample to be taken at least 30 days after having the vaccination.

This test is basically to make sure the vaccine has worked. You’d then have to wait another three months before you could travel.
BBC

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10 Things To Do In Lodz

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Lodz Poland

Lodz knows the transformative power of a lick of paint and a little imagination. A textile manufacturing hub in the 19th century, the Polish city fell into a period of post-WW2 decline known as “Grey Lodz”.

But rather than shuffling off in a moth-eaten shawl, it has spent the past decade dusting itself off and filling in the cracks. Buildings once dressed drably in flaky paint and crumbling plaster are now adorned with bold murals. Mills and factories have been reinvented as lively neighborhoods with apartments, restaurants, shopping, and nightlife.

So its nickname, “Polish Manchester”, makes perfect sense – unlike its actual name. Pronounced “woodge”, Lodz translates as “boat” (something of a misnomer for a landlocked, urban sprawl in the center of Poland). Once you’ve wrapped your brain – and your tongue – around that, here’s what to do in this charming city.

Walk Poland’s longest street

At 4.2km, Piotrkowska is the longest commercial street in the country – and probably the most eclectic. From its northern tip at Plac Wolnosci (Liberty Square) to the junction with Pilsudskiego, you’ll find a hotchpotch of architectural styles from the neo-baroque House of Schiebler to Wilhelm Landau’s Bank House, adding some art nouveau into the mix.

Then there’s “Holly-Lodz”, the city’s take on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame (it makes more sense if you remember how to correctly pronounce Lodz). Pavement stars honour Roman Polanski, a graduate of the city’s film school, and pianist Arthur Rubinstein.

Off Piotrkowska is so-named because it’s, well, off Piotrkowska Street – and because it represents the independent and offbeat side of the city. The grounds of an old cotton mill factory have been taken over by barbershops, artisanal ice-cream, irresistible boutiques, food trucks, restaurants and cafes. Mitmi Restobar is a cool spot for lunch, dinner or a prosecco cocktail with lychee and grapefruit liqueur, and has tables spilling out onto the square.

Stroll around street art

Edgy and eye-catching murals are plastered around Lodz, a reminder of its determined reinvention. The city-approved Urban Forms Foundation launched in 2009 with the mission of brightening up the post-industrial landscape. And it certainly worked.

Around 40 creations by local and global street artists have transformed beige buildings into canvases and car parks into galleries. Look out for the weasels on Ogrodowa Street and blue flying elephant on Uniwersytecka Street.

The largest of the lot, featuring Lodz landmarks and a wooden sailboat, is on the corner of Piotrkowska and Pilsudskiego.

Dine on dumplings

Traditional Polish food is hearty, rich and satisfying, cut through with tangy pickles and brightened with ingredients like beetroot and spring onion. In other words, it’s delicious. And, in Lodz at least, it’s also a great value.

Try Delight for dishes like smoked goose breast, herrings, pork knuckle braised in beer, and pierogi – dumplings filled with wild mushrooms or spiced ground pork. Koperek Bistro is where locals go when they can’t be bothered to cook, with a daily changing menu of dishes like borscht and breaded pork chop.

Peek inside a palace

The 19th century Izrael Poznanski Palace is next to the Manufaktura complex, where the textile magnate built his factory (and fortune). Now, the former home of Lodz’s second-richest citizen is a lavish example of the city’s eclectic architecture.

When you’re that moneyed, why settle for one style? The vast, vaulted-ceilinged rooms house the Museum of the City of Lodz with exhibits on famous residents, including Arthur Rubinstein and resistance fighter Jan Karski.

Even the most niche interests should be satisfied in Lodz. There’s the Museum of the Factory, which tells the story of the city’s textile manufacturing boom.

The Central Museum of Textiles, in the classicist buildings of the White Factory, gets down to the intricate stitches, while the Museum of Cinematography celebrates Polish cinema with original film posters, props, and filming equipment. There’s even a Museum of the Sewer, a restored red-brick subterranean reservoir accessed from Plac Wolnosci.

Visit the Jewish cemetery

One of Europe’s largest Jewish necropolises covers more than 100 acres with around 180,000 graves, including the imposing Poznanski’s Mausoleum.

Many of the more modest plots are tangled with greenery and shaded by trees, lending an eerie beauty. In the “Ghetto Field”, many plots are marked with cement posts and rusty bed frames – gravestones were forbidden for those who died under Nazi occupation.

Park up

Lodz has 40 urban parks, gardens and green squares. Zdrowie (meaning “health”) has gorgeous botanical gardens and stalls selling beer and street food. The prettiest, though, is Zrodliska. Founded in 1840 as a meeting spot for cotton mill workers, the original bandstand remains a focal point on the lawns, while the Palm House has paths winding between 140-year-old trees. The roof is occasionally raised to accommodate them as they grow taller.

Party on Piotrkowska

It’s easy to find the party in Lodz – pretty much all the clubs and bars spill out onto the wide promenade of Piotrkowska Street. Most have outside seating for people-watching (in summer, at least) while ducking down a cobbled alleyway often reveals courtyards with a handful of drinking spots.

Lodz Kaliska is a labyrinthine pub/club with a chilled-out terrace and a terrifying loo with a one-way mirror (don’t worry, they can’t see you pee). Just off the main stretch, Piwoteka pours small-batch local beers from IPAs to sours.

Sleep in a factory

Sprawled across a site the size of 54 football pitches, Manufaktura is huge in scale and ambition. Shops, bars, restaurants and museums occupy the tangerine-brick buildings and grounds of a former textile factory.

Vienna House Andel’s Lodz occupies the weaving mill, and is widely considered the city’s best hotel. The painstaking, thoughtful renovation has resulted in chic, cosy rooms and quirky design details. Look out for tiny faces stencilled on walls around the building. Each represents a figure involved in the building’s history, from original owner Izrael Poznanski to hotel staff.

Travel essentials

Getting to Lodz

Wizz Air (wizzair.com) has several daily departures from Luton and regional airports to Warsaw Chopin, about an hour from Lodz. Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies direct to Lodz Wladyslaw Reymont airport six days a week from London Stansted from £17.49 one way.
The Independent

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St. Mary’s Basilica, Kraków

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Saint Mary's Basilica Krakow

St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków also known as The Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven is a Brick Gothic church adjacent to the Main Market Square in Kraków, Poland.

St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków was built in the 14th century, its foundations date back to the early 13th century and serve as one of the best examples of Polish Gothic architecture.

Standing 80 m (262 ft) tall, St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków is particularly famous for its wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss.

On every hour, a trumpet signal—called the Hejnał mariacki—is played from the top of the taller of Saint Mary’s two towers.

The plaintive tune breaks off in mid-stream, to commemorate the famous 13th-century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city.

The noon-time hejnał is heard across Poland and abroad broadcast live by the Polish national Radio 1 Station.

St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków also served as an architectural model for many of the churches that were built by the Polish diaspora abroad, particularly those like Saint Michael’s and Saint John Cantius in Chicago, designed in the Polish Cathedral style.

The church is familiar to many English-speaking readers from the 1929 book The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly.

According to chronicler Jan Długosz, Saint Mary’s Basilica in the Main Square in Kraków was founded in 1221–22 by the Bishop of Kraków, Iwo Odrowąż.

The building was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Poland.

Between 1290–1300 the new early Gothic church was built on the remaining foundations. It was consecrated twenty years later, in 1320.

St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków was completely rebuilt during the reign of Casimir III the Great between 1355 and 1365 with substantial contributions from wealthy restaurateur Mikołaj Wierzynek.

The presbytery was elongated and tall windows added.

The main body of the church was completed in 1395–97 with the new vault constructed by master Nicholas Wernher from Prague.

However, the vault over the presbytery collapsed in 1442 due to a possible earthquake, which has never happened before nor since in Kraków.
In the first half of the 15th century, the side chapels were added.

Most of them were the work of master Franciszek Wiechoń. At the same time, the northern tower was raised and designed to serve as the watchtower for the entire city.

In 1478 carpenter Maciej Heringh (or Heringk funded a helmet for the tower.

A gilded crown was placed on it in 1666, which is still present today.

At the end of the 15th century, Saint Mary’s Basilica Krakow was enriched with a sculptural masterpiece, an Altarpiece of Veit Stoss (Ołtarz Mariacki Wita Stwosza) of late Gothic design.

In 1536/37, King Sigismund I. declared that the sermons in the church should be changed from German to Polish.

The large German community of Kraków was relocating their place of worship to the smaller Saint Barbara’s church.

In the 18th century, by the decision of vicar Jacek Augustyn Łopacki, the interior was rebuilt in the late Baroque style.

The author of this work was Francesco Placidi. All 26 altars, equipment, furniture, benches and paintings were replaced and the walls were decorated with polychrome, the work of Andrzej Radwański.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the city decided that a cemetery near the Basilica was to be shut down and replaced by a public square. Today, it is known as Plac Mariacki (Marian Square).

In the years 1887–1891, under the direction of Tadeusz Stryjeński, the neo-Gothic design was introduced into the Basilica.

The temple gained a new design and murals painted and funded by Jan Matejko, who worked with Stanislaw Wyspianski and Józef Mehoffer – the authors of stained glass in the presbytery.

On 18 April 2010 in St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków a funeral ceremony for Polish President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria was held. The coffins were later transported and buried in one of the crypts of Wawel Cathedral.

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