7.15.2005

home sweet ship

Phew, I can’t believe we made it back to the ship! Getting back from Krakow was even more chaotic than getting to Krakow. We initially almost missed our train because a morning tour we were on was running late… so then we got to the train but Randy and Melissa were nowhere to be found. Slightly concerning, but we figured they either missed the train or had come back sooner for some reason. We settled in with our assigned reading on Russia for Global Perspectives and shortly thereafter both conked out, snuggling with out textbooks instead of reading them. Everything was fine until we went through the central station in Warsaw, and a load more of people got on the train. We’re thinking okay, no problem, we paid for reserved seats… of course there was the minor detail that Randy and Melissa had our seat reservation slip with them! People started rushing into our compartment, telling us that they had tickets for our seats even though we were sitting in the numbered seats we had paid for. But considering that the girls had our seating assignment slip, we couldn’t prove the seats were ours (seems like they were double booked, actually) and got kicked out! So for the rest of the train ride (three more hours) to Krakow, we were out in the narrow hallway standing or sitting on our luggage as people dodged us going from carriage to carriage. We got to see a lot of beautiful country scenery out the window though! We also saw a guy, Will, from the ship we recognized (but didn’t really know), who was on the same train… though he had a reserved seat that he wasn’t booted from. It was nice, though, to meet someone (it always is) and we were able to split a cab fare with him on the way back to avoid waiting for the bus and hauling our bags on it. The cab was really cheap (for a change), even though our pier is out in the boonies. Our cabbie almost accidentally drove off with our luggage, another potential disaster, but when he realized it he stopped and was laughing just as hard as we were.

Anyhow, before that whole train debacle, we had a really fun day visiting the Wielzcka Salt Mines! We also had breakfast at out hostel before that, though it isn’t much worth mentioning – they don’t seem too into the breakfast thing in Poland. We ended up heading to a bakery to pick up more substantial food there. Regardless, everyone has just been focused on Auschwitz, so I’m not sure many other folks from the ship went to the mines (but we saw Matthew from the hostel there!) I’ll admit, my first inclination was “why would I want to go see a salt mine?!”, but my mum’s friend highly recommended the mines (and their website looked spectacular). I am so glad we went! I am still glad that we went to Auschwitz, but anyone who didn’t go to the mines really did miss out. The mines are so incredible because they are so vast and elaborate (the two hour tour only covers about 1% of the mines!) There is even a sanatorium inside of the mines, where respiratory and other such illnesses are treated, because the air is such a pleasant quality down there (hmm... maybe my asthma could get me in for a visit?)

We started by walking down about 300 steps in a narrow stairway shaft to the third level of the mine, temperature dropping with our descent. From there, we began our walking tour through beautiful large chambers filled with intricately carved sculptures representing famous people, scenes, and spirituality – all made by the miners! There were a few chapels, a couple of saltwater underground lakes, a brass band playing for visitors (that has been doing so for the past hundred years)… it was phenomenal. There were some comical bits as well, such as our guide encouraging us to taste the walls to verify their saltiness (or to taste the salt water flowing out of the mine)… and the two chambers that had song and light shows in them. We walked down through two more levels of the mine, finally ending near their underground restaurant and large ballroom/hall. We then had to wait in line for a good bit for another guide to take us through loads more passageways to get to the lift to take us back up. My mum’s friend had warned me about the lift, and it was about what she described- but I thought it was fun! You’re crammed into a real mining-type lift with several other people, shut in by a rickety door, and then hoisted up through pitch black (with short bouts of light) until you reach the surface again. I suppose I can see how some visitors to the mines might freak out during that part.

I definitely had an absolute ball in Krakow, though it was really nice to come back “home” to the ship, take a nice hot shower, and be back in my room to sleep in my bed tonight... ZzZzZZzzz…..

the brass band playing inside of the mines for us!

salt water, on its way out of the mines (to the surface)

great room inside of the mines, with an altar at the front

in case you didn’t believe me when i mentioned the name of our hostel...!

me, stuck out in the hall on the train

amy, showing equal enthusiasm for our situation

1 Comments:

At 3:19 PM, Anonymous Ed said...

Hey Emme. My comment is the uniquely insightful observation that your friend Amy looks like Björk in that photo. Which is certainly a good thing. But that's all I got. :) Hope you're doing well wherever you are.
Ed

 

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