Kiri and


The salt’s all mine!

June 2nd, 2014 (by Steve)

Parking appears to be big business in the south of Poland; at Auschwitz we (nay, I) blindly followed the directions of the first person in a hi-viz jacket to a car park before thinking “hang on, we want to be somewhere else”, then going there. Wise to this ploy though, in Wieliczka we passed the hoards of hi-viz-jacket-wearing touts and hung on for the official car park. I swear that this town’s main income (after the salt mine) is car/coach/motorhome parking!

Once tucked away in the corner of the official car park, we assessed our surroundings. We had a parking space, a 24 hour guard, free municipal wifi, and access to a toilet block for our 30 zloty, but nowhere to fill up with water (unless we tapped a fire hydrant… now there’s a thought!). We also needed to empty our toilet… but weren’t sure whether we’d be allowed to in the shiny-looking toilet block. Commence operation flush! After monitoring the guard’s movements (no, not like that) for about 15 minutes, we realised he occasionally left his post, which would give us time to heft our cassette across to the block without him noticing. Timing and subtlety would be everything. The guard moved… we stirred… but then he was back at his post. Too slow. He moved again, and we were off. Apparently my nonchalant swagger whilst carrying a Thetford toilet cassette across a car park coupled with whistling isn’t particularly subtle, but it was enough to fool the guard. Mission accomplished! Ah, the joys of motorhoming; doing stuff that you would never think about in normal life!

Anyway, enough about loos… we were at the salt mines; one of the greatest attractions near Krakow, with over 1 million visitors a year. Our guide for the day was Magdalena; without whom the tour would have been as boring as walking around a mine for 3 hours talking about salt. The injection of her dry wit and humour throughout really brought the tour to life though, and we found ourselves rather captivated by the tiny fraction of the 300km of underground tunnels, chambers and lakes we saw. We also learned that Magdalena is allowed to lose up to 5 tourists a month in the mines and that you shouldn’t talk to strangers underground. 2 hours into the tour, we were shown a map with 3 queues to join; 2 would take you to the surface and the third would take you on the remainder of the tour. As we joined the third one, we were warned by another guide that it would take another hour and be another 2km of walking. We said that was ok. Another guide then checked that we were sure that we wanted to continue, rather than return to the surface. These dissuasion tactics didn’t work on us (thanks Ju + Jay for the advice!), but they must have on some; our group now consisted of us and a Japanese lady, rather than the 40 who started with us. We’re definitely glad we stayed; the second part was just as engaging as the first.


As our eyes adjusted to the sunlight once we were above ground again, our quest was to find water (all of that salt makes you thirsty!). The local supermarket had 5 litre bottles for 1.55 zloty each (approximately 30p), so we grabbed a couple of those and topped up Bertha’s fresh water tank, before proceeding to consume Paluski… a very tasty, but salty snack!

The following morning, we paid a rather bemused guard for another night in the car park (it’s cheaper than a campsite for visiting Krakow) then headed for the 304 bus stop. We had an hour and a half to spare until the start of a church service we wanted to attend in Krakow, so plenty of time. We waited. No bus. Half an hour later, no bus. So we headed to the train station… next train in an hour and a half. We tried another 304 bus stop… this one had a red line through it, which is a pretty universal sign for “not in use” (maybe it should have said “404 – not found”?). Doh. As we arrived at the 204 bus stop, we saw a temporary “304” sign on it, so caught the 304 bus into town, arriving exactly 10 minutes too late for church. Maybe God didn’t want us to go? So, instead we watched some people defying physics with bikes.


We could have watched the flying magicians all day, but we realised that we would miss out on the rest of Krakow, so we ventured into the old town, where we found a procession of children, dragons and drums in the main square. As you do. All this surrealism works up an appetite and the street food we sought was the zapiekanka… a cross between a Subway and a pizza. The way to enjoy it is best described with a picture I think:


Having consumed our body weight in cheesy bready tastiness next to a purple Trabant, we returned once more to the centre of Krakow, where once again we encountered people in strange costumes. We also encountered a protest (not sure what it was about) and hoards of people trying to push city tours in our faces as we tried to find suitable postcards to send back to the UK. Having narrowed the choices down to two (which we named “trippy” and “creepy”… we’re all about the unique postcards!), we decided that we’d maybe had too much excitement for one day, so retreated to Bertha back by the salt mines.

As we woke on our 3rd morning at the mines, Bertha’s fresh water warning light was flashing ominously. We passed the guard on our way to get another few bottles of water from the supermarket, who kindly charged us only 20 PLN for our final night here (“maybe if I reduce the price, these crazy people will leave?”). With 20 more litres of water in Bertha (and plenty more than that falling from the skies), we set off for Krakow again; finding it rather more subdued and rather less surreal than the previous day. We dutifully wandered around Wawel Castle, but we weren’t really “feeling it” as we were both feeling a little under the weather (in more ways than one). So, we found shelter in the Milk Bar and had our first proper meal out of the trip (with real crockery and knives and forks!); 2 courses and drinks for under a tenner for us both. You can’t say fairer than that. At least not in Polish. Actually, we can’t say much in Polish…


Having selected “creepy” over “trippy”, we bought stamps, then returned to the salt mines on a very crowded bus. I’ll give you a clue where we’re off to next, with a story that one of my friends told me. He’d been looking for a cleaner for his flat for a while, and finally selected a very friendly Polish girl. On her first day, he headed out to work, leaving a note asking her to hoover his flat. He returned after work to find that she’d only managed half of one room. It turns out she wasn’t a Pole after all; she was a Slovak. Slow-vac. Get it? As in slow at vacuuming… play on words…? I’ll get my coat.

All posts about Poland

The salt’s all mine!

A trying few days

3 Responses

It soooo nice to read that you liked Mine 🙂
And also that you didn’t get lost as I told you it was the end of a month 🙂

You are having amazing adventure, it is a pleasure to be a part of it,

I have to smile at your adventures!Good to read. It is pouring with rain here which is probably why I am sitting at a computer instead of being out in the garden or walking. But we are off to the Picos mountains on Friday and I am getting quite excited.I wonder where you are now!
All the best………Jean xx

Thanks again Magdalena for a great tour 🙂

I’m sorry to hear that it’s raining, Jean; if it’s any consolation we’ve been rained on quite a bit on this second loop. At least you’ve got the Picos to look forward to, and they should be (I guess) fairly sunny? I hope that you have a great time. We’re now in Slovakia; the pull of mountains was too much for us, so we succumbed!

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