Sunday was the last day of official Steemfest activities. I think every Steemian there was gearing up to grieve, because we knew we had a few hours left with each other, but at the end of that, nothing more. @roelandp had arranged tours of the Wieliczka Salt Mine with our closing dinner to be held right there in the mine. By then it was easy to trust his judgment, but I confess a moment of head-scratching at the idea of fine dining underground. I’m from Coal Country in the U.S. and have my own ideas about the connotation of “mine.” Boy, was I in for a surprise.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located just outside Krakow proper and was in continuous operation from the 13th Century until 2007. Greater than 1,000 feet at depth, the mine is a network of tunnels and chambers that total more than 178 miles.
Roeland knew that the Cane Crew, including @GMuxx, @soyrosa, and myself, would not be able to navigate the 380 steps down to Level One. Overall, the official tour includes approximately 800 steps altogether. So he arranged a special tour for us with a phenomenal tour guide. We took the tiny elevator down and proceeded from there. This meant we missed the first part of the tour, but I don’t believe we missed the best part. I failed to catch our tour guide’s name, but he constantly amused and amazed us with good humor and stunning facts. For instance, he’s worked at that mine for seventeen years and still has not seen all of it.
Some of the carvings inside the mine were made by workers throughout its centuries of operation. Others were done by commissioned artists to supplement the originals. There’s an overtly religious theme, with statues of Pope John Paul II and The Crucifixion, among others. Wall carvings depict scenes from the Gospels and there are four separate chapels in the mine with altars and chandeliers carved directly from the rock salt.
The walls are made of actual salt. Many people in our Steemfest group confessed to licking the walls, and reported that they are indeed quite salty. I did not engage in this practice, for the simple reason that I felt sure if the thought had crossed my mind, it had crossed other minds as well, and danged if I wanted to go lapping all over a communal salt lick. Yuck. But I did find a discreet little corner and scratched at it with one finger, and yep– the little flakes in my palm tasted like salt.
Nearly every chamber of the mine had a different pattern of stone flooring carved directly from the rock salt floor of the mine. This was one of the most intricate. You can see where the “tiles” are worn smooth by millions of feet passing over them through the years.
In one of the caverns is a gift shop and several large display cases. I have no idea what all the minerals collected in those cases are, but I presume they’re somehow related to salt.
Directly overhead in this chamber, the ceiling seems to stretch to infinity, with several overlooks and blocked passages from different levels of the mine.
In many mine tunnels, the old cart tracks still exist. My thoughts naturally went to the horses who lived and worked there over the centuries. Our tour guide said they actually lived there underground, and years could pass before they saw even a glimmer of daylight or touched a blade of fresh grass.
I saw two of the four chapels on my abbreviated tour. Everything but the wooden furniture is carved in place directly from the rock, including the chandelier frames.I can only imagine what archaeologists will think millions of years from now when they discover this place with all of these ornate furnishings and decorations. Since a single catastrophic event could wipe out all signs of internet, communication technology, electrical and nuclear power sources, and every written word above ground, would they see all this and marvel that we had the ability to create such sophisticated things with our rudimentary chisels and hammers?
All throughout the public areas of the mine, ornate wall carvings are graven into door posts and lintels and the walls themselves.
And then there’s the beautiful underground lake, so high in salt content that, like the Dead Sea, the only way it can support life is by disallowing any living thing to sink.
After the tour, we all settled into the main banquet hall for dinner. Remember my skepticism about dining underground? Pfft. Yeah–silly of me, wasn’t it?
I finally got a picture of @ura-soul. He’s an elusive bugger, let me tell ya. But one of my favorite witnesses, hands down. Hence my stalking him with my camera. Oh wait. He was sitting with us at dinner. No stalking involved. LOL
On my immediate left was the fabulous Mooxxy, and on my right was the lovely @elizacheng and @soyrosa. If you haven’t figured this out from my previous SF3 posts, I became a huge fan of Eliza during this event. I believe it’s her mission in life to bring joy to people and make them smile. It’s a gift, and she certainly has it.
Eliza and I got matching snow globes as keepsakes from Enginewitty. We had fun shaking them up so they’d have exactly the right amount of snow for this picture.
Another keepsake for me from this event was the following photo I have of Yidneth and me. See the warmth in her eyes? That’s real, folks. She’s beautiful inside and out.
@enginewitty and @katrina-ariel are smiling like they have a secret. 🙂
Poor even Yidneth found herself upstaged by a clown act. Lord have mercy. @enginewitty and @arcange–good grief. I don’t think a serious photo can be taken of the two of them together. I finally just settled for getting one where Yidneth was smiling. Good enough for me. LOL
Speaking of Yidneth, she was there with her long-term partner @hedac. At one point during dinner, hilarious names for phone wi-fi hotspots kept popping up. Most had to do with Ned or Roeland, but then one appeared that had Yidneth oohing and aahing on her side of the table. Yup–hedac sent her a love note over the wifi hotspot list. I promised her I wouldn’t post the photo that I took of her showing him how much it meant to her (it’s very sweet, and I hope she posts it herself) but I will show you what the phone screen looked like that prompted her spontaneous display of affection.
From the dinner, we headed back to the buses and back to the Qubus for closing drinks. That’s when things got a bit iffy for me. Somehow, @gmuxx and I both fell down the alkohole .I guess this is what happens when the event coordinators put out a table full of all-you-can-drink wine and beer with enough variety to suit everyone’s taste. It just kept pouring. Yep, all by itself–it jumped from the bottle to my glass more than once. Really! It did. I don’t remember certain portions of that party, but those in attendance assure me that I didn’t fall down, dance on a table, start a fight, or die. So I think I can call that a win.
GMuxx, Enginewitty, Mrs. Blocktrades (I don’t know if she wants me to mention her by name, so I’ll err on the side of caution,) and moi.
Here’s GMuxx with the lovely Yidneth. I prefer the photo above I have with her. But I’m biased, of course.
@vladivostock tried to out-tacky Roeland with his money suit. I think he might have actually succeeded. . . .
Then, as the alkohole became increasingly deeper, I had some issues taking photographs. Let me demonstrate.
Muxxy and @revisesociology, Take One:
Hmm. Let me try that again.
Not the best photography, but it’ll do.
Then things got just downright ridiculous.
“Come meet @abh12345,” says Mooxxy.
“Abh1234 is here?” I say back.
“No,” says Mooxxy. “ABH one-two-three-four-five is here. Come meet him.”
“Asher,” I say. “I’ll just call him Asher.” So I stagger after Mooxxy, wondering where my cane got off to.
These were supposed to be photographs of Arcange and Asher (abh one-two-three-four-five.) I don’t blame Asher for not looking up for the last one. I wouldn’t have either. LOLOL!
Yes, we all had a great time that night. I’ll never forget it. Or maybe I’ll never remember it. Whatever the case, I’m very much looking forward to Steemfest 4, wherever in the world that journey might take us.
Just for fun, here’s a snippet of odds and ends that I captured on video that night at the salt mine and closing drinks. We have @yidneth and the fufunchis, @arcange doing a jig, and even @gtg gets some face time.