The archaeological museum in Krakow

We'll visit the Wieliczka salt mine in the afternoon, and before the archaeological museum opens at ten we go for a walk in the old town and look at houses, people and shop windows. It is a quiet Sunday morning and early mass does not attract many.

The archaeological museum is in ul. Poselska and a ticket costs but 5 PLN, which is a quarter of the usual price in e.g. Italy. The cloak-room is free and the kind attendant asks for my camera too.

There is a small Egyptian exhibition and also a room with Chinese stuff, but we are here to learn about local history and find the Polish department with help from a kind custodian.

The exhibition is fine and there are finds from the time before Denmark was last turned into an ice cube. A display case with big bones and a tusk shows that mammoth was once on the menu. Routes of trade and influence are marked on maps, and dozens of computer screens show animations of how flint was dug or how houses were built. Kind custodians show the way, but only a few speak English. The lady in the ticket kiosk waves kindly when I nod and smile goodbye.

Sign in ul. Poselska. Signs in ul. Poselska.
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From the museum we go to café Zakatek for a rest before we continue to the art museum or the pharmaceutical museum. It starts to rain, and like yesterday this boosts the turnover. However it ceases quickly.

Ticket to the pharmaceutical museum

The pharmaceutical museum

Arrogantly I had imagined that the pharmaceutical museum in ul. Florianska's fashion street would be a couple of rooms with mortars, jars and a poison cabinet for tourist thrill, but I was very wrong.

The museum is a house with several floors. There is lots of furniture, paintings, pictures, tools and jars from pharmacies way back. At the entrance to each room there are fact sheets in several languages. It is very well organized and impressive.

If I had paid more attention in the chemistry and Latin classes I would probably have understood more, but as it is I am content I don't have to dust the place!

Woman selling bread in Florianska. Manhole cover
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We have a light lunch at Zakatek before going home. There are many at the Irish pub as we pass. They probably share hangovers from St. Patrick's Day. It is time to relax before the visit to the salt mine.

The Wieliczka salt mine

There must be cheaper ways of seeing the salt mine than ours. You can probably go by public bus, and you can probably find out when there is a guided tour in your preferred language. However we gladly pay 120 PLN each for the lazy comfort of being picked up at the hotel and being members of a small group with an English speaking guide.

The minibus picks us up at 4 and after four additional hotel-stops we go to the mine. Our tour starts at 16:45, and there is time for a leak and to buy a photo ticket (10 PLN).

The tour begins by descending 300 and some steps down a staircase. Then you are some 60 metres below ground and slightly dizzy. From here the tour continues from chamber to chamber through mine tunnels. In many places the pious workers have worked in their spare time to build churches and chapels and to carve sculptures in the salt rock.

Glowing stairs. Chandelier. Mine tunnel.
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The salt in this mine is rock salt, which is a bit harder than marble. The salt was found in pockets and when it had been quarried the pockets were left as huge chambers. The whole mine is like a giant Swiss cheese with mine tunnels connecting the chambers.

Tourists only get to see about 1 % of the mine and do not get more than ca. 150 metres down. The deepest galleries are more than 300 metres below the surface. The rock salt contains iodine, which makes life hard for bacteria, and it is a good place to stay for people with respiratory problems.

The salt also preserves the supporting wooden constructions, and that is comforting knowledge when you hear that some are more than 150 years old.

Sculptures in rock salt. The mine's biggest chapel. Relief with the last supper.
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Salt is not quarried anymore, but some is still extracted from the huge amount of water that is pumped away. It is an impressive and interesting tour, and after about two hours lifts take us back to the surface.


Supper at Aqua e Vino

After a short rest at the hotel we change from mine dress to something a bit less casual and walk to Aqua e Vino. It is raining lightly, but it isn't far.

We have not made a reservation, but that is no problem. That is one of the good things about coming out of season. The staff recognizes us from the other day and we feel welcome. I immediately order two prosecco for our menu studies.

The girl recites what they have today, which is not on the printed menu. One of these dishes is ravioli with tartar sauce and - not a sheep - but an animal from the forest, and according to the girls arms and pantomime it has horns. Our unqualified guess is a goat or a wild sheep of some kind.

We order octopus Carpaccio for starters. Helle wants ravioli with the unknown species, and I order Fegato alla Venezia con polenta (liver with maize porridge). With this a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2005 "Pasqua" and water with gas.

The Carpaccio is succulent, and the unknown species in the ravioli turns out to be venison. The fegato is delicious, but I am a bit grumpy that it is served with potatoes and not polenta as the menu said. It is deliciously edible, but none the less I drop a word to the waitress. I know that the real culprit is the cook, but he is out of my reach.

Two Italian guests arrive. They do not want the menu, but compose the meal in a dialogue with the host Roberto. They want mixed bruschette and then fish. They also want beer, and Roberto is interrogated about the quality of the local Zywiec. As if it was a negotiation they come to an agreement, and the guests do not conceal their satisfaction as the meal progresses.

We order tiramisu and lemon sorbet for dessert. The tiramisu is huge and Helle is ecstatic. The final chord is played with a creamy espresso and a grappa on the house. The bill is 264 PLN, which (at least with Danish eyes) is cheap for a feast like that.

We stagger home and make a stop at the Irish pub. The few guests seem tired and you can smell the toilets. A few Irishmen however are in high spirits. Home to bed!