Underground Art at the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Kraków in Poland, but now that I’ve been there myself I can do another one using my own photographs. The mine is one of the great man-made wonders of the world, and has been a tourist attraction for centuries. One reason for this is its sheer scale – it consists of over 200 kilometres of tunnels on nine levels linking around 3000 artificial caverns or “chambers” with a total volume of ~7,500,000 cubic metres. Unfortunately none of this comes across very well in photographs, which make everything look much smaller than it actually is.
The picture at the top shows the chapel of Saint Kinga, which is the only one I took that gives a reasonable impression of scale. The chapel is 54 metres long, 15 metres wide and 10 metres high (180×50×33 feet). There are half a dozen other chambers on the tourist route of a similar volume, although most of them are taller and narrower (the tourist route covers a mere 3% of the whole complex – just 2 kilometres of tunnels on the uppermost three levels).
Easier to capture in photographs are the various images carved out of salt that can be found along the tourist route. These are relatively recent, most of them dating from the last hundred years – during which time the mine’s main source of income gradually shifted from salt extraction to tourism. Here is a famous carving I mentioned in my earlier post, based on Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (with my cousin and myself standing in front of it, just to prove I really was there).