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Poland's Wieliczka Salt Mine (1:51)

Kraków, Poland

Go 1,000 feet underground in the vast Wieliczka Salt Mine, near Kraków, to tour the inactive mine and see the statues and chapels the religious miners carved out of the black salt over the centuries.

Complete Video Script

The remarkable Wieliczka Salt Mine — just outside of Kraków — has been producing salt for eight centuries. Today it’s busy not with miners, but with tourists.

After descending 200 feet below the surface, you follow your guide on a mile-long downhill stroll, getting a memorable peek at life in the mine. It’s vast: nine levels…1000 feet deep…over a hundred miles of tunnels. For centuries, generations of Wieliczka miners spent their daylight hours underground, rarely seeing the sun.

Proud miners carved figures of great Poles out of the salt. You’ll see legends from the days of King Kazimierz, when one-third of Poland’s income came from these precious deposits: the famous astronomer Copernicus, and even the region’s favorite son, Pope John Paul II.

Guide: The total number of chapels in this mine is over 20. This is the oldest chapel in this part of the salt mine, Saint Anthony chapel from 17th century. Everything here around us is made of salt — even the chandelier is salt crystal.

Guide: Visitors expect salt white, but it’s black, but it’s salt. If you don’t trust me you can taste it. And salt preserves everything. Take me as example, I’m 65 years old and I’m still fresh, still young.

The mine’s enormous underground church, carved in the early 20th century, is still used for Mass. Everything here, including the ornate altar and the grand chandelier, is hewn from this underworld of salt.

When the tour’s over a small but industrial-strength lift beams you up.

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