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Mines of Moria

We set out on Monday for the Wieliczka salt mines just half an hour away from our Krakow hotel. Managed to catch the 11am English tour, were given radio receivers and earpieces. At first it was 94 vertical metres down into the depths. 7 steps on each flight, endlessly turning round and round until my mum got a little dizzy. Looking down through the center, or axis of the staircase, all I could see was darkness below. So I just stopped counting and checking until suddenly I was on level ground! And sincerely hoping I wouldn't have to climb back up.

Basically the tour brought us through the relatively small section of the mines that isn't still operating. It was loosely a history from really ancient times until the recent past. Nothing spectacularly interesting, we learnt about the discovery of the salt deposits and how the industry properly started, and the basic technology that they used. Technology referring to the pulley systems used to transport stuff between the surface and the mines. At first, humans turned the big wheel-pulley thing, but later when they brought horses in, they used the horses. Poor beasts, they basically spent their entire lives away from the sun! It was too difficult to bring them in repeatedly. The tour guide assured us that their lives were comfortable and suffered from no physical ailments though.

There were some exhibits of horses and people that illustrated how the horses turned the wheel. I was just looking at it, when one of the other tourists commented that the horse was real. I was shocked at first, but she meant that real horse skins had been used in the making of the horse statues, and stuffed. Which I guess is not totally surprising, I mean, it happens a lot, but still. I guess there's quite a high chance of them being the original horses that were brought down. Chilling thought.

So, as to the caves and passages themselves. Most of the walls are grey, like rock. But later I realised that pretty much everything had a shiny gleam to it. Because almost everything was 95% salt, like NaCl salt. The 5% was enough to turn the walls black-grey. The miners carved most things out of the walls, including some really spectacular halls with artwork and naves on the sides. White washed wood usually made up the structural supports and banisters and stuff. Occasionally we saw white cauliflower formations which are secondary deposits. That just means that it's brine, or salty water that eventually dried and formed the cauliflower stuff.

The moment we entered the first big hall, I couldn't help but think of the Great Hall of the mines of Moria. Obviously (despite being really big and pretty) it was nothing compared to the Great Hall, but it was awesome to imagine myself there nonetheless. And when we went into some caverns with lakes, all I could think of was Gollum, paddling his boat around silently, with eyes like the moon and his precious on his mind and fishhh in his mouth.

We had lunch in the cafeteria, 300m underground (we'd continued to go downwards at other points on the tour) which carries the distinction of being the deepest meal I've ever had hahaha. At that point we all took out our phones and began to wiki LOTR, because we couldn't agree on whether the dwarves came from the Mines of Moria or Erebor. I know, geeky family right? Anyway partly it was a confusion of terms. The dwarves' original home was Khazad-dum, in the mines of Moria, in the Misty Mountains. Later, being driven out by orcs and the balrogs, they relocated to Erebor in the Lonely Mountain. Then, as you know, came Smaug and they were driven out again until during the time of The Hobbit Dain was reinstalled as king.

We continued to explore some halls and then left via this crazy, old, crowded 4 tier lift. As we met anew with the sunshine, our eyes burned.

Drove over to Krakow altstadt, where we wandered around for a while. The main marktplatz is huge by the way, with a gigantic building in the center, housing two rows of small souvenir shops. And it's true that Krakow is a much better city to visit. Although Warsaw's altstadt is really pretty and unique, it's so small. In comparison, Krakow's altstadt provides much more walking enjoyment, and is really densely packed with churches and other pretty buildings. There's also a nice castle that you can walk into for free (with an awesome central courtyard, I felt like a princess/knight). And a Jewish quarter to the south east of the altstadt, but we didn't have time for that, unfortunately.

After that was just dinner and packing. The next day was a relatively unremarkable day, except for the 1200km drive from Krakow to Hamburg via Warsaw and Berlin. MAD DRIVE. My butt died from the 14h. I survived, but with Joan only partly read, because I wasn't feeling too well and reading in the car for long periods makes me carsick.

It must also be said that I spent Monday evening and the next day just reading up on LOTR hahahaha. So I understand everything much better. I've only gotten through the first part of the Silmarilion so far, but hopefully the background knowledge will help me to get through the rest now.

OKAY so anyway I can't wait to read LOTR again when I get back! And even though I've read the Hobbit twice in 2 years, I totally wouldn't mind giving it another shot. And I'll try the Silmarilion again, and then to round Middle Earth off I'll read the Children of Hurin again hahahaha. Assuming I have time. FYP here I come :(

Posted by seaskimmer 02:12 Archived in Poland Tagged travel poland drive read lotr krakow

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