There’s something mystifying about things that are underground.
There’s an element of danger to these places that make them so popular. Like, will the roof collapse? What happens if the lights go out? Who would be the first to get eaten if we’re stuck down here?!
Europe is full of these hidden hidey holes; particularly the Eastern region.
One of the most famous is the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, a 1,700-year-old underground city steeped in history and legend:
— David Blakely (@Acliffe) November 9, 2017
This 13th century monument is massive. It features 286km corridors, chapels, statues and even a got dang lake.
It originally opened up as a mine producing table salt way back in the day, and continued to do so up until as recently as 2007. In 1978, it was placed on the original UNESCO list of the World Heritage Sites.
Wieliczka salt mine, 178 mile corridors length, is 1700 yo and one of the most beautiful salt monuments in the world. Poland. a must-see. pic.twitter.com/04kT0JwAp2
— Slavic Mythology (@slavicmyths) August 30, 2017
Not only is it useful, it’s also beautiful. Huge chandeliers hand-crafted out of salt hang in the main quarters:
FLASHBACK: The incredible underground Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, with huge caverns dug out of the salt. pic.twitter.com/kraIp2GswT
— Time Travel Turtle (@michaelturtle) May 26, 2016
And visitors are even treated to hectic light shows featuring Chopin bangers:
— Kristiina Vahvaselkä (@TravelWithXtina) November 21, 2017
You can see the enormity of this national treasure here, in this astonishing ant-hill-lookin’ map that shows it goes way down to 135M below ground:
— mapmania (@_mapmania) November 23, 2017
The rock salt is naturally grey in various shades, resembling unpolished granite rather than the white or crystalline look that many visitors may expect.
Got a taste for Eastern Europe? Contiki’s Eastern Road trip is a 13-day collision of the history and modernity that makes Eastern Europe so awe-inspiring. It kicks off in Berlin, and snakes through Prague, Vienna and Budapest, amongst others. The trip even includes an option to visit the very salt mine mentioned above. Don’t be salty on yourself for not booking, get on it.
Image: Getty Images / DEA / W. BUSS / Contributor