May 2011

Salt mines close to Krakow (Kopalina Soli, Wieliczka)

It is very old, very big, very interesting. This is not just a mine, but like an underground city. They had many, many chapels, some of them still in tact. Being a salt mine, almost everything is made of salt. E.g. The statues, the crystals of the candelabra, the dwarfs etc, etc. A few of the many salty objects are actually made by salt from different mines, because of the different colors. This mine has no iron in the salt. So when they wanted to have some red, they have used salt from other mines.


The mine is not directly in Krakow, but in Wieliczka (Pronunciation: In German, I would write it like Wilitschka. In Turkish, like Wiliçka). This is a rather small town. It is easy to find the mines once you are there by car. You can also come by Bus from Krakow. There are guided tours inside and only guided tours. Imagine, only a few percent of the whole complex is accessible for the tourists and that takes 3 hours. You can choose between Polish, English and German.

The mine is not active as a mine any more, because they have to dig deeper and deeper, which is more and more expensive. But the amount of tourists coming here is impressive. I read somewhere that it is comparable with the pyramids in Egypt. That might be true. Since I was there on a Monday, the place was flooded by school children. That is quite noisy I must say, so I had sometimes trouble to hear our own guide although there were no children in our group. We were about 13 people, but our guide told us that in worst case she had a group of 70 people.

Well, here comes my recommendation. Do not come here in the high season, but in May like me seems to be OK. You can exit after two hours if you wish, what most people did or continue for one more hour in the museum part within the mine. Our group was reduced to 4 people incl. the guide, so it felt like a private tour. There were no other groups, certainly no more children there and I must say, it is for sure worth to see that part too.

The first surprise I had inside was the quality of the air. It was really, really fresh! Lot’s of oxygen. And they have even patients here who spend some time down there to breathe the good salty air. No joke! The temperature is about 14 to 16 deg. Celsius.

The former director of the mines was an artist. He made many models of various things in the mine. They are very beautiful and made with love to the detail. Here are two pictures. One of them shows how the town looked like as the old wooden houses were still there and the other shows scenes from the mine itself.

DSC00153DSC00154 (1)

The mine is very old as I said at the beginning, but I don’t want to repeat the information that you can also find in official sources. I just show you what I didn’t see in my tiny guide book or internet pages after looking at the first few ones. Here are the dwarfs that I mentioned before. That was a contribution from the times this area belonged to Austria. They are cute, aren’t they?


Here is a salt lake. It is so salty that you can’t be drowned. There was even a part, where the tourists passed a certain part by a ferry within the mines. But even though you cannot get drown, there was an accident with that ferry such that some people died because they couldn’t breath.. SInce then the ferry is suspended.

The mines have a very long tradition of tourism. From Kepler to Goethe, you will find sculptures of many famous people here. In a salt lake similar to the one below you can listen to some famous tunes from Frédéric Chopin (who was of course also here) together with a nice light show.


As a tourist, you are always walking along safe paths. But the miner didn’t have always safe passages and stairs. The picture below shows how dark and dangerous it could be as well:


Still reading? Very good, since here comes the highlight that you can also see on other websites. So I spare you the details about the history, but it is simply wonderful to see. As with many other guided tours, there is simply not enough time to digest this beauty and to take good pictures too. I wish I could spend like half an hour here in Saint Kinga’s chapel, but the guide has to follow a program... I would say it is worthwhile to go down again just to see this hall once more.


Note that everything here, including the floor is made of salt stone. You are not allowed to lick the sculpturesWinking No joke, but that has happened too often so that you hear that more often that you can taste the walls, but please don’t touch the sculptures. By the way, these reliefs? are indeed 3D. about 20cm deep? Very beautiful.

There were many chapels, because the mines are just huge. But the above is the biggest attraction.

In all these centuries, it was not only people working here, but also horses. They stayed here their entire life and got blind. Although they had a lot of workers here, to be able to bring all the heavy stones up, pump the water up all the time and bring lots of wood down, they obviously couldn’t do without horse power. The horses were lifted up once when there was a major fire. It lasted months and they simply had to wait until all the wood burned.


The mining is a dangerous business as we all know. Not only inside the mine, but due to the holes they made under ground, there was also holes created on the surface and some buildings collapsed into it... There is also the flammable or even explosive methane gas that gives the miners a hard time. The picture below shows how they have burned the gas from time to time to avoid explosions later on.


That concludes my contribution to this UNESCO World heritage. A must see!

More caravan pictures in Krakow

Some friends asked for more pictures. Here they are saying more than 1000 words. The camping place is about 5km south east of the city centre. Beautiful, clean and with WIFI!


Photo day in Wroclaw

The old town in the centre is very beautiful. It is full of cafes, restaurants etc. It has a student city flair. The most efficient way to get from A to B is by bicycle. The city obviously made some effort to make the centre bicycle friendly and with success. However, it seems that only very few people make use of it. Maybe because the centre is not that big and it is also easy to get to the centre by tram. Keep your car far away from the centre.

The pictures say more than thousand words, don’t they?

What do caravans and camels have in common?

On the way from Prague to Wroclaw (Breslau) had again a flat tire of the caravan and spent more than an hour to replace it... OK, now I don’t have any old tires anymore. I hope that’s it to that topic.

Several roads were closed and my GPS navigated me through little roads and towns. I didn’t expect that, because I had chosen the option to use easy ways for trucks. Maybe there are no easier roads? Anyway, together with the flat tire, the whole trip took me a whole day although the distance is not that big. The A4 in Poland is in very good condition with very little traffic.

Arriving in Wroclaw, I must say the centre, the old town is quite beautiful and full of life! The only problem is the quality of the roads in the old town. They seem to be just as old as the town and the driving in first gear through it felt like riding a camel... I think it is still OK for a normal car and is also OK for my bicycle, but with a caravan, it is shaking wildlyWinking


I arrived at a caravan camping place almost in the city on an island in the river a bit south of the city. From here, it was easy to get to the centre by bicycle. With this sunny weather, a pleasure. Prague has so many beautiful buildings, charming cafe’s and relaxing parks that it must be a pleasure to live here. The public transport works great and everything is quite clean. Even the first Turkish kebab place I tried was delicious! The only thing that I disliked is the fact that everybody is smoking everywhere. I appreciate it so much that it is forbidden in many countries now, but here the smokers seem to have the majority.

I realized that I am still not ready for any visits in a museum. So I just enjoyed a lot of sightseeing. As you can see, the tulips made their way to Prague too!

SInce I arrived on a Monday and will leave on the Saturday morning, I can’t say much about night life at the weekend. But during the week, most cafes are closing latest at midnight. Even at the very centre. So, it is still not a match to Berlin or Amsterdam from that point of view.

Of course I visited several milongas. I ended up dancing with more tourists than locals. Well, what do you expect in such a touristic cityWinking


An old Caravan is like an old house. Charming, but repairs, repairs and repairs..

Here are some lessons learned after a week of spending quality time with my caravan:
The water pump: It needs to be under water all times. After refilling the canister I found that the pump was working from an electrical point of view, but not pumping any water. The guy next door told me that it has to have a screw that I need to open and fill with water. Well, mine doesn’t have a screw, so I had to put it first in a different water bath where I could turn it upside down under water. Indeed I could see a lot of air bubbles coming out and then it worked fine again. Now I will refill the canister without moving it out of the caravan.

Parking: Last day in Würzburg I had parked it AND disconnected from the car uphill. Bad idea. The handbreak of the caravan barely kept it stable. That was almost OK, but putting it back on the hook of the car... Well I am certainly not strong enough to move it around in that situation. I had to move the car
precisely to the spot to get the two married again..

An old caravan with lots of screws has many loose screws..

It is a good idea to have spare lamps, just like the car. When the cars behind you can’t see you blinking left or right, you might end up in exciting situations...

The water-tap: Well, normally, a water-tap is either blocking the water or allows some water to flow all mechanically right? In a caravan, you don’t have that water pressure. So you need a pump to be switched on and off at the moment you turn the water-tap. So there is also a switch. Exactly that switch was not working anymore. Luckily, I had my multimeter with me and I could find that the problem was indeed with the tap and not with the wiring anywhere else. So it is good to have one of these multimeters with you too. And an other tip: Do not try to repair it. It took me 1,5 days of improvisation. One solution lead to an other problem. Just buy a new one and replace the whole thing...

I hope that is the end of repairs.

One last word about the tires: New tires are really, really good. After I had them replaced, I had not only a better feeling, but also realized that the car was pulling the caravan much easier!

Kağan in Würzburg

I had a sunny day at the castle. Cute little town about the size of Darmstadt or Leiden. But with hills!!!
Additionally, I had my first night in the caravan! That means: Commissioning phase started. But not yet finished as I haven’t used the liquid gas systemWinking



After months of preparation, finally, today is the day and writing this blog entry is the last action in my House. First destination Würzburg!

Packing & Cleaning

Today, I realize that I am a true space engineer. My launch gets delayed several times due to unexpected problems and I have almost daily new launch attemptsWinking

Well, after two full days of intensive packing (and all my muscles feel it), I managed to bring a car load of trash away. Today I will have the second car load of trash. And I am sure today will not be the end of it...

So, latest plan is to leave on Thursday. That is aligned with people I want to visit on my way.